Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Thursday, November 17, 2016 10:01 pm

Academic support

Faculty members unhappy with proposed program and governance changes at IPFW have complained for months that their voices were left out of the decision-making process, leading to contentious changes in academic programs. Now, their voices are joined by faculty leaders beyond Fort Wayne:

• The Indiana University-Bloomington Faculty Council passed a resolution Tuesday stating "...faculty governance bodies at IPFW have protested the implementation of restructuring proposals, including the elimination of degree programs, on their campus as failing to abide by procedures for shared governance; Be it resolved that the Bloomington Faculty Council expresses its regret and concern about this apparent breach of the principles of shared governance at IPFW."

• The American Association of University Professors, the leading membership association for university faculty, sent a letter Wednesday to Chancellor Vicky Carwein. Citing a 50-year agreement between AAUP, the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, AAUP’s Hans-Joerg Tiede writes, "The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty." AAUP concurs with some IPFW faculty leaders in concluding governance procedures were violated and asks for the program changes to be rescinded, with any further changes made in accordance with recognized practices.

• David Sanders, chairman of the Purdue University Senate at West Lafayette, visited Fort Wayne Nov. 10 to meet with administrators and faculty. In an interview following his meetings, he said the disagreement here is "a matter of a somewhat defective process and inadequate communication."

"Committees should be established through representative organizations of the faculty," Sanders said, noting that all ad hoc committees or task forces at Purdue-West Lafayette are established through the University Senate. "It shouldn’t be selected individuals of the administration for participation in these processes, but it should be the faculty themselves selecting through the senatorial process. That is the way faculty shared governance should occur, and it didn’t happen in this example."

Sanders offered another important observation in noting the accelerated deadline given to IPFW faculty for responding to proposed changes, fueling suspicion the changes are tied to the Legislative Services Agency report recommending the campus be split into separately managed IU and Purdue programs.

"It seems as if the rules of the game changed in the middle of the process," Sanders said. "And it appears to correlate with the intervention of the (Purdue) Board of Trustees."

"One of the problems with the board of trustees is that nothing really happens at board of trustees meetings – everything happens in their executive session, which is not open to the public. I’munder the impression that what happened at IPFW was once again heard in executive session," he said. "I’m concerned about that. I’m deeply concerned about having almost all of the actions of the board of trustees, in fact, occur in secret and only a facade of open public meetings."

Sanders said academic changes should not be rushed.

"There’s no advantage to making it happen in a short period of time just so you can say it happened. ... The rush (in implementing budget cuts and the LSA recommendation) is creating a lot of anxiety that a more considered process would obviate."

He also makes this point about the role of faculty:

"Both parties think they have the interests of IPFW in mind," Sanders said. "But I have to say the faculty are the ones who have the most at stake here and they are most attuned to the long-term interests of the university and are most attuned to students."

No one disputes the need to implement cost-saving measures at IPFW. But the manner in which those measures were advanced created upheaval and uncertainty.

The trustees should step back and review whether long accepted governance procedures were allowed to work as designed. The faculty strongly argues they were not.