|< Faculty Governance Review
Letter from President Shirley Ann Jackson to Active Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty
I write to apprise you of our progress toward resolving issues related to the Faculty Senate, and our approach to faculty governance review. I have been in regular contact with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and with a number of faculty, as I have sought to fashion a pathway for us to move forward within Board of Trustees constraints.
The Trustees are firm in their resolve that the faculty governance review be conducted by the Faculty Governance Review Committee, as earlier delineated. They will not reinstate the Faculty Senate, or consider creation of a new representative body, until this faculty governance review is complete.
The Board is equally resolute that there be strong and effective faculty involvement in academic governance of the Institute. To that end I have met with Provost Robert Palazzo, Professor Larry Kagan, and Professor Jacob Fish, Chair of the Faculty Governance Review Committee, to discuss an approach.
As you know, I also met with the active tenured and tenure-track faculty last week to discuss the status of our faculty governance review in general, and the outcome of the recent faculty referendum calling for the reinstatement of the Faculty Senate. I am grateful for the active participation of so many members of the faculty. We had what I believe was a very productive and helpful conversation.
I emerged from the meeting convinced of two truths: one, that, as a community, we have not been able to reach agreement on matters of importance to all of us in our academic community, and two, that there is a way forward that will enable us to overcome that. I reach that conclusion on the basis of the ideas expressed at the meeting, the candor with which people spoke that day, and the expressions of good will I observed then and have received since then.
I know that the majority of the faculty has expressed support for the Faculty Senate as a model of governance that is appropriate for Rensselaer, and for the reinstatement of the Faculty Senate. I also recognize that the Faculty Senate represents a tradition of faculty governance at Rensselaer in which many faculty members have invested significant time and energy. At the same time, I know that the Board of Trustees suspended the Faculty Senate for legitimate reasons, including the Faculty Senate’s rejection of the Board’s directive on the definition of the faculty.
In consultation with the Board of Trustees, Provost Palazzo, Professor Kagan, and Professor Fish, I have arrived at an approach that, I believe, enables us to move forward. We will proceed with the faculty governance review process that has already begun, while moving in a direction that will enable the Board to fully recognize faculty governance at Rensselaer. As a first step, we will need to implement changes in the Faculty Senate constitution and the Faculty Handbook to assure their alignment with the Bylaws of the Institute, and with the Board of Trustees’ directive on the definition of the faculty.
Our next steps present opportunities for the productive engagement of the faculty and senior administrators:
- The Faculty Governance Review Committee will continue as an independent body to review and benchmark best practices of selected peer universities. In its work, the Faculty Governance Review Committee will visit and look at university governance strategies at the very best universities. The committee will review publications of higher education associations, including the Association of American Universities, and review the Institute Bylaws, with a goal of producing templates for alternative forms of faculty governance, incorporating key lessons learned from their work. I also have asked that the committee add to its duties the drafting of a code of conduct for faculty, and for those participating in faculty governance. They will be assisted in their work by external advisers. The committee’s work will provide independent advice to the President and the Board of Trustees as they review the efficacy of a faculty senate framework for faculty governance at Rensselaer.
- I have asked the Provost to work with Professor Kagan to fashion a joint effort to work together on revisions of the Faculty Senate constitution and the Faculty Handbook, to bring these documents into conformance with the Institute’s Bylaws and the Board of Trustees’ definition of the faculty. Upon completion of these tasks, I will convene a meeting of the active tenured and tenure-track faculty to discuss outcomes of these efforts, and the results of the work of the Faculty Governance Review Committee. Following that discussion, and any final revisions to the Faculty Senate constitution and the Faculty Handbook, and a majority vote by the active tenured and tenure-track faculty to approve the Faculty Senate constitution and Faculty Handbook, I will review these documents for conformance with Institute Bylaws and the Board of Trustees directive. Once I have reviewed them, I will refer both groups’ work to the Board of Trustees for its consideration.
- We will continue with our analysis of the role of the clinical faculty. During the faculty governance review period, the clinical faculty will receive a full compensation review, a clear statement of benefits, an analysis of the appointment process, a review of teaching loads, and a review of the opportunities for involvement in academic programming and faculty governance in the academic departments and programs in which they are appointed. In addition, a clinical faculty advisory committee recently has been established by the Provost on matters of relevance to the clinical faculty.
To assure new levels of clear connection between the faculty and administration, I am intensifying my meetings with individual faculty, small groups of faculty, and academic departments to understand their needs and concerns, to share views on the future of Rensselaer, and to resolve misunderstandings.
These steps, I believe, will clarify roles and responsibilities, and will enable us to resolve the differences that have prevented us from reaching agreement on our approach to faculty governance. My experience at the recent meeting of the active tenured and tenure-track faculty reminded me that we are a community of intelligent and deeply committed individuals who share the goal of building the Institute’s stature among the leading research universities in the world. We have come a long way together, and I look forward to our achieving even greater distinction in the future.
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.