Faculty Senate Challenges Threats to Shared Governance

By Watching Adams Staff – 11/9/15

The November 4th Adams State University (ASU) Faculty Senate meeting proved to be an important one with approximately a dozen members in the audience, one of the largest turn-outs of the year. And two themes certainly dominated the conversation, regardless of the agenda item: lack of shared governance and frustration from unilateral, sometimes unaccountable administrative action.

Several instances of lack of shared governance, transparency, and communication came up throughout the meeting, reviving a “Threats to Shared Governance” agenda item that has not seen forward action since the end of spring 2015 semester.

Possibly the most charged discussion of the evening was in response to administration’s banning of former ASU faculty member and Watching Adams publisher Danny Ledonne, in coordination with an effort to pass a Persona Non Grata (PNG) policy. Faculty Senate expressed several concerns over the mishandling of the situation. Many agreed that the final creation of the PNG policy on campus is inevitable. However, as Senator Benjamin Waddell insisted, it is important that there be a very clearly defined and implemented appeals process; without an appeals process that is clear and gives due process to individuals who have been issued a PNG, ASU is opening itself up for ongoing legal exposure.

Senator Jeff Elison mentioned a court case with legal precedent from 1973 that was cited as recently as 2007, noting that the use of a PNG could violate the 14th Amendment based on the lack of due process.  Elison has also identified that ASU’s own proposed PNG policy has already been violated in the case of Ledonne.  The policy reads, in part: “An order by the University, either permanent or of specified duration, to not enter the grounds or buildings of the campus, after reasonable attempt to notify the individual of the basis for the order and an opportunity to be heard on the matter by a designated University official.”  In Ledonne’s case, no such notification was made in advance, nor was a hearing convened prior to the ban.

The critical press among academic publications such as Adjunct Nation, FIRE, and AAUP’s Academe that ASU is receiving as a result of the PNG and the poorly-advised campus e-mail sent by Chief of Police Paul Grohowski was also a concern. Senator Ed Crowther noted that he didn’t think it was an appropriate action that judgments about the boundaries of the First Amendment and academic freedom would be broadly overstated by a police official on campus. Senator “Beez” Schell described aspects of the Grohowski email as “disgusting.”

Senator Waddell also noted the loss of confidence in the ASU Office of Equal Opportunity for the confidential information that was disclosed. For more on this, see ASU Violates Employee Confidentiality Again… and Again…

Regarding the Compensation Committee’s process for decision making and the inequities that arose even after CUPA adjustments, faculty expressed their disappointment at the lack of transparency and lack of faculty representation. Rather than active participation in the process or an explanation when questioned, faculty were merely told that the process was “complex.”

ASU salary structure 2014-2015

RELATED: Senator Waddell’s Comments to Senate Regarding Faculty Compensation and PNG Policy.

In an attempt to establish shared governance, ASU Faculty Senate voted unanimously in favor of creating a permanent subcommittee on Faculty Senate that would sit on all future Compensation Committees. The subcommittee would be charged with producing an annual assessment of compensation on ASU’s campus. This is standard practice at many institutions.

Senate went on to discuss the stepping down, or rather the overnight removal, of School of Business Chair Mike Tomlin in August. The Chair Policy states: “The department chair position is an at-will position. The person may step down at any point in time or be asked to step down from serving as the department chair if their performance isn’t acceptable or the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) and President would like to go in a different direction.”

However, School of Business Senator Zena Buser stated that due process was ignored in this case and administration did not follow their own policy. The School of Business and Tomlin are asking for a support letter from Faculty Senate requesting administration to acknowledge their lack of protocol and an assurance that policy will be followed in the future. Senate President Christina Miller directed Senator Buser to bring a draft to the next meeting.

In some poignant remarks, Senator Waddell shared the frustration that is evident around campus over the blatant inequities that exist, citing more than a dozen conversations with students and faculty members alike that see no other recourse than to eventually leave ASU. He proposed that faculty, as leaders of this institution, take the initiative to address the inequities that exist to retain professors and staff in order to retain students.  Faculty retention issues are ultimately student retention issues.

Watching Adams will continue to follow the developments in Faculty Senate.