Following several recent meetings between the faculty and the administration, President Shirley Ann Jackson announced a new path forward that will encourage increased collaboration between the administration and faculty leadership in the ongoing faculty governance review process.
On Oct. 4, President Jackson conducted a closed meeting with members of the active tenured and tenure-track faculty, encouraging the faculty to express their views openly on the process and talk through the issues.
“I am grateful for the active participation of so many members of the faculty,” President Jackson said of the meeting in an Oct. 15 letter to the faculty and the rest of the Rensselaer community. “We had what I believe was a very productive and helpful conversation.” She said she had also met with Provost Robert Palazzo, Professor of Arts Larry Kagan, and Professor Jacob Fish, chair of the Faculty Governance Review Committee, to discuss an approach to faculty governance review.
The letter outlines new steps forward in the process that take into consideration some concerns of the faculty that were voiced during the closed-door session. In the letter, President Jackson acknowledged the support of the faculty for a faculty senate model of governance and recognized that “The Faculty Senate represents a tradition of faculty governance at Rensselaer in which many faculty members have invested significant time and energy.”
President Jackson noted that the Faculty Governance Review Committee will perform a complete review of multiple forms of university governance, including the faculty senate framework and structures that do not make use of a representative body. “The committee will visit and look at university governance strategies at the very best universities...the committee’s work will provide independent advice...as [we] review the efficacy of a faculty senate framework for faculty governance at Rensselaer,” she wrote.
The new path forward, outlined in the letter, takes into consideration the desire of the faculty for a faculty senate form of governance, and for reinstatement of the Faculty Senate. Moving forward, leaders of the Senate will more actively participate in the review process. Provost Palazzo supported this idea with a letter of his own to faculty on Oct. 16, stating, “It is my hope that by engaging the Faculty Senate leadership in the faculty governance transition process, we can unify our efforts to overcome the obstacles that have divided our community.”
Before the reinstatement of the Faculty Senate can be considered by the Board of Trustees, a review and modification of the existing Faculty Senate constitution and Faculty Handbook are needed, according to both the president and provost. Both documents need to be brought into conformance with the bylaws of the Institute and the Board of Trustees directive before the board can consider reinstatement of the Faculty Senate. Palazzo and Kagan will lead the effort to revise the guiding documents.
Once complete, these documents will be discussed and voted on by the active tenured and tenure-track faculty. They will then be reviewed by President Jackson and sent to the Board of Trustees for consideration. The board will take into account the opinions of the faculty as well as the final outcomes of the Faculty Governance Review Committee’s work.
President Jackson said the Board of Trustees remains firm on suspension of the Faculty Senate while the review takes place by the independent Faculty Governance Review Committee. Palazzo’s letter notes that although the board remains resolute about seeing the process through, it has not reached any conclusions about the future of the faculty senate form of governance, writing, “...at no time was there any barrier to a Faculty Governance Review Committee recommendation for a return to the original, or slightly modified, faculty
Both the president and the provost stress that the final outcomes of the process will involve a majority vote of the tenured and tenured-track faculty and the approval of the administration and the board.
President Jackson also addressed concerns regarding the role of clinical faculty. In her letter, she explains that the faculty governance review also will consider opportunities for involvement of the clinical faculty in the governance of their academic departments and programs. Provost Palazzo has formed an advisory committee of clinical faculty to help address and raise issues of importance to the clinical faculty during the review process.
“[All of] 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,” President Jackson concluded in her letter. “We have come a long way together, and I look forward to our achieving even greater distinction in the future.”
A Web site titled “Faculty Governance Review” has been developed to keep the community informed as the review process moves forward. Check the site for new actions and updates regularly. Go to www.rpi.edu/about/governance/index.html.
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