New leadership and the pursuit of excellence

President Schill’s May 12 email “New leadership and the pursuit of excellence” lays out a new vision for the roles of various bodies in university governance. While it is refreshing to see President Schill share his ideas with the campus community, a few of the issues he raised are being viewed with some concern by faculty.

Diversity in Leadership? Leadership in Diversity?

Immediately after lauding our slate of five new–mostly white–men in leadership roles, President Schill admits that both he and Provost Coltrane “recognize that we need to work much more effectively in the future to hire women and underrepresented minorities for these important leadership posts” (our emphasis). Despite this proclamation, however, the May 12 email celebrates that the positions were offered to the “first choices,” a fairly homogeneous group of candidates not at all representative of the diversity that should inform our selections. Diversifying our leadership is a matter of present urgency, not a future project. The administration needs to model the commitment to diversity they expect departments to show in their hiring, and pursue it energetically now.

Senatorial Prerogatives

As President Schill congratulates various offices and institutions for providing leadership during the years immediately before his hire, he simultaneously admonishes the Senate for overstepping its bounds. Citing the Constitution, Schill says that the Senate should restrict itself to the consideration of “academic matters as commonly understood.” While the power of the Senate and the academic committee system is concentrated around academic matters, the constitution also stipulates that “…the University Senate express its views on University issues through appropriate Legislation, Policy Proposals and Resolutions” and that “Resolutions shall be unrestricted in scope.” The Senate’s purview is wide-ranging and must retain autonomy from the central administration. Rather than implying overreach by the Senate, perhaps President Schill could clarify the instances where he or other administrators think the Senate exceeded its constitutional role. Robust shared governance necessarily includes the Senate’s right to consider any matter pertinent to the campus community, though input from Johnson Hall is always welcomed.
While the phrase “academic matters as commonly understood” attempts to define the scope of Senate legislation and policy proposals, it also provides an opportunity for faculty to seize the initiative on academic matters. “Commonly understood” means “as understood by the university community”, and not just top administration. It is the obligation of the faculty to lead on all academic issues, and there are pressing curricular, budgetary, and academic policy matters requiring attention in the Senate. The Senate need not hesitate in challenging Johnson Hall’s current unilateral control over budgeting decisions, particularly those that affect faculty hiring and determine what programs remain solvent and which courses can be taught.

The Senate and United Academics

The Senate and United Academics share a common goal, indeed the same goal as President Schill with respect to academic excellence at the University of Oregon. As our relatively new union works with a new president and the Senate adapts to new university leadership structures handed down from the state, all parties are trying to clarify and claim ground on what falls under their purview. We respect President Schill’s attempt to stake ground for the administration, but we do not take it as a fait accompli. United Academics is in favor of a cooperative system of shared governance whereby the university is led by the president and the faculty.

Sincerely,

United Academics Executive Council

 

Request to Postpone Board Resolution on Policies

Dear President Coltrane,

We very much appreciated your taking the time to engaged with the Senate Executive Committee and other faculty yesterday evening.

Attached please find a request and analysis of how we can move forward — and the reasons why it is essential to ask for the Board resolution to be withdrawn, in favor of engaging in a collaborative process to improve policy-making at the University.

We feel it is important to draw attention to one thing that seems not to have been part of discussions — that UO Policies 01.00.01 and 01.00.02 contain within them specific provisions for making changes even to themselves (that is, to the policy process at the University) on an interim or emergency basis.  Given this flexibility, it is even more apparent that there is no need to have this matter of university procedures elevated to the level of the Board of Trustees at this time.

The Senate and other faculty leaders stand ready to work with you within that flexible authority to make any needed changes to the policy development process on a short-term basis and to work to enshrine needed changes into the UO policy process on a longer term basis.  We have of course discussed this with Senate President Kyr and you already know of his willingness to drive changes forward.

Given that, there is no need whatsoever to have the policy process taken up to the Board level at the present time.

Request to Postpone Board Resolution on Policies

Best regards,

John E. Bonine, B.B. Kliks Professor of Law

Michael Dreiling, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, President of United Academics

Jennifer Freyd, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology

BOARD OF TRUSTEES: PLEASE ATTEND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD, DEC. 11, 8:00AM, FORD ALUMNI CENTER, GIUSTINA BALLROOM

The Board of Trustees will hear public comments on Thursday, December 11, 2014, between 8:00-9:30 a.m. University Senate President Robert Kyr and United Academics President Michael Dreiling agree that it is imperative for faculty to express their concern about a proposed policy that would alter radically shared governance at the University of Oregon. Your presence at the Board meeting will express your concern.

If approved, the motion before the Board of Trustees will introduce a new way of developing policies that will transform fundamentally the role of the Senate and shared governance as we know it.

Specifically, the proposal would create a new centralized administrative body—the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC)—with sold authority over setting university policy. Appointments to this new body would not involve an election by faculty or other constituencies, as is the current case with the Senate, but would be appointed by the university president.

For the full text of the proposed policy, click here.

Among other things, the new policy could:

1. Remove the Senate Executive Council from its role in determining whether a policy is an academic matter and therefore must go to the full Senate for deliberation;

2. Remove the requirement that the university president respond within a constitutionally-mandated period to policy statements made by the Senate and that the university president make a public accounting to the Senate when s/he rejects a policy;

3. Remove the provision that, in case of a presidential veto, the Faculty Assembly can be invoked; and

4. Require the president to develop a new policy-making process with some requirements, all of which the Board can choose to not follow.

Please join the university community in asking members of the Board to delay consideration of this motion and instead to advise the university president consult the University Senate on the following: a collaborative and transparent process that is consistent with University Constitution; an open discussion that identifies and explains what problems the Board is trying to solve by this repeal; and why the actual process called for by the University Constitution was bypassed in this motion.

 

Important Advance for Academic Freedom at UO

Protecting academic freedom is central to the mission of United Academics. From our contract negotiations adding strong speech protections in our CBA (Article 5) to collaborative work with the University Senate, students and other campus unions, United Academics has provided critical impetus for advancing what is now among the strongest Academic Freedom policy frameworks in the country. The new University Senate policy affirms that “members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.” Notably, the policy applies not only to the teaching, research, and service activities of faculty, but also to undergraduate and graduate students, classified staff, and visitors to campus, permitting free debate and expression without fear of institutional reprisal.

On May we were delighted that President Gottfredson signed the Academic Freedom policy adopted unanimously by the University Senate in April [http://senate.uoregon.edu/content/academic-freedom-policy]. This particular policy was developed over the course of many months, including numerous meetings between President Gottfredson and the Senate ad hoc workgroup, chaired by Senator Dreiling (UA President).

 

Links:

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2013/09/university_of_oregon_administr.html

http://registerguard.com/rg/opinion/31474925-60/policy-university-freedom-academic-speech.html.csp

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/04/university_of_oregon_faculty_s.html

http://www.eugeneweekly.com/20140508/news-briefs/gottfredson-yet-sign-academic-freedom

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/05/university_of_oregon_president_12.html

http://chronicle.com/article/U-of-Oregon-s-New/146837/

Academic Freedom at the UO

The Senate unanimously passed an Academic Freedom Policy last week. Now it needs to be signed by president Gottfredson within 60 days.

In order to make this happen, our brothers and sisters in SEIU are encouraging people to contact the president directly and encourage him to  sign it.

We [SEIU] are encouraging our campus community to write to President Gottfredson regarding how meaningful and important it is to sign this policy that was unanimously passed by our UO Senate, why this policy matters to you, and all others in to campus community.

Also, the presidents of three of the four unions at the UO, including our own Michael Dreiling, wrote an op-ed in the Register Guard encouraging President Gottfredson to sign the policy.

UO Senate unanimously passes Academic Freedom Policy for faculty, staff, and students

Today the UO Senate unanimously passed an academic freedom policy that, if signed by UO President Gottfredson, will be among the strongest in the country.

The new policy gives free-speech protection to all UO faculty, students, and non-faculty employees for the purposes of teaching, research, shared governance, and public service, and states that “The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal.”

The Senate’s “Ad Hoc Academic Freedom Committee” was chaired by United Academics union President Michael Dreiling (Sociology). Securing a robust academic freedom policy has been a top priority for UAUO, and we applaud the Senate for what it accomplished today, after many months of work.

The motion is posted on the Senate website here, currently in draft form. Under UO’s Constitution the president has 60 days to either sign the policy, or trigger a veto or revision process that could lead to an assembly of the entire faculty.

The draft policy would have allowed the UO administration to weaken the shared governance free speech protections for students and non-faculty employees. But after a discussion of the importance of  the role of these groups in the university’s shared governance, the Senate voted unanimously to change the language so as to be clear that all “members of the university community”, i.e. students and non-faculty employees such as staff and administrators, would also “have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice”.

The final language approved by the Senate is as follows:

Policy on Academic Freedom

The University of Oregon encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community. The University of Oregon protects free speech through Policy No. 01.00.16. This policy on Academic Freedom builds on these existing commitments by recognizing the special contexts of scholarship, teaching, governance, and public service.

SECTION 1

a. SCHOLARSHIP.  The University’s research mission requires that members of the UO community have autonomous freedom to conduct research and produce creative work, and to publish and disseminate that work, limited only by the standards and methods of accountability established by their profession and their individual disciplines.

b. TEACHING. The University’s responsibility to help students to think critically and independently requires that members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint.  Matters brought up in class should be related to the subject of courses or otherwise be educationally relevant, as determined primarily by the faculty member in charge of the class.

c. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.

d. PUBLIC SERVICE. Public service requires that members of the university community have freedom to participate in public debate, both within and beyond their areas of expertise, and to address both the university community and the larger society with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, cultural, or other interest. In their exercise of this freedom, university community members have the right to identify their association or title, but should not claim to be acting or speaking on behalf of the University unless authorized to do so.

SECTION 2

These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences.  Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.