New handbook divides faculty

By Amanda Finnegan
December 8, 2006

Meghan Hurley

The faculty will vote on Dec. 11 on whether to approve the changes for the final draft of chapter one of the Faculty Handbook, which was mandated by The Middle States Commission for Higher Education in March 2005. However, faculty are divided about the selection process, faculty input and proposed structure of governance

The new handbook includes explicit statements of the governance responsibilities of the board of trustees, the president and the vice president of academic affairs as these responsibilities intersect with the responsibilities of the faculty, according to the executive summary of proposed changes to the Faculty Handbook and the Governance Model .

The Middle States evaluation team exit report made a very strong recommendation that the college complete its revision of the faculty handbook within an 18-month time frame with specific attention to first clarify policies and procedures for governance and secondly, to define a clear process for ongoing handbook revision, according to a memorandum from Margaret Dupree, chair of the board of trustees.

“Faculty can not judge without a handbook. The faculty is unclear about their role as a collegial operation to the college. We have been operating in kind of a limbo,” Dr. Jolyon Girard, professor of history and political science, said. Girard and Dr. Jonnie Guerra, vice president for academic affairs, who were co-chairs of the self-study committee for the Middle States evaluation, were also asked by the college president, Dr. Antoinette Iadarola, to co-chair the Steering Committee to oversee the revisions of the Faculty Handbook.

However, some faculty disagreed with the selection process of how Girard was appointed by the administration and not voted upon by faculty as well as with the selection of the committees, which also has administration-appointed faculty.

“I would have been happier if half were appointed and half were elected by the faculty senate,” Dr. Anthony Tomasco, professor of psychology, said.

According to the Organizational Structures of the Work Groups, each work group had two co-chairs and three additional members. Each co-chair was asked to recommend the appointment of one additional member and then jointly recommend a fifth member.

“It was the mechanism how the committees were chosen that faculty is concerned about. They didn’t feel they had a buy-in. They didn’t have a voice in saying, ‘I trust that person to represent my views,'” Dr. Sheryl Fuller-Espie, associate professor of biology, said.

The new governance model eliminates the Faculty Senate, the Academic Council and the President’s Faculty Meeting. It creates the Faculty Assembly, a committee of the whole, defined to include all full-time faculty members and the president, vice president for academic affairs, dean for academic affairs and dean for graduate and professional studies. This body meets monthly and is chaired by a faculty member and has four vice-chairs (three faculty members and the Vice President for Academic Affairs), and a secretary (faculty), according to the Executive Summary.

Within the new governance structure faculty will no longer have the option to speak without an administrator present at major committee meetings, making some faculty members uncomfortable. At present, the Faculty Senate has only faculty present and no administrators.

“In the old model, the president was one among equals, not a CEO,” Dr. Sharon Schwarze, professor of philosophy, said.

Some on the faculty worry that administrators have set up the current rewriting process and will continue to control each committee and that untenured faculty will not have opportunities to speak their minds on committees.

“Untenured faculty members can not say what they want because they perceive it will affect their tenure,” Fuller-Espie said.

Dr. Paul Wright, an untenured faculty member and assistant professor of English and communication, feels differently than Fuller-Espie. Wright said, “I don’t think I can speak unless I have a governance doctrine.”

“There are always people who are going to disagree with the process and the outcome. More people have been involved with the creation of these documents than ever before. We have taken every letter, every concern every question from any faculty member in any venue that was provided,” Girard said.

According to Girard, after the faculty votes on Dec.11, the results will be taken to the board of trustees.

“I do not expect the new system to be turned down,” Guerra said.

“If our vote doesn’t count it’s not shared governance,” Fuller-Espie said.

Loquitur welcomes your comments and questions on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your comments each week and make corrections if warranted.

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Amanda Finnegan

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