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Re: “No Confidence at NEIU

This is what he President of NEIU send via email to all the staff this week...FYI

To: University Community

From: Sharon Hahs, President

Date: December 2, 2010

Re: Faculty Senate Action

Although many of you are probably aware of the action of the Faculty Senate last Tuesday, November 23, I wanted to be sure all of you were informed and to respond briefly. Simply stated the Senate passed a vote of no-confidence in me (with 12 votes for no-confidence and 7 abstentions) and in the Provost (11 votes for no-confidence, 1 for confidence and 7 abstentions). For background I have attached the Faculty Senate Input Report (spring 2010), Faculty Senate Priorities Survey (October 2010), and Concerns from faculty brought to the Faculty Senate (Received November 4, 2010). I have also attached my response to these documents, which I presented to the Senate on November 9. In it I discuss in more detail some of the issues discussed below.

The university as an institution has always been a center of free speech. I respect the right of faculty members, both individually and collectively through faculty institutions, to advocate, to criticize, and to act when in their judgment advocacy, criticism, and actions are appropriate and necessary. The university is also a forum for dialog. In that spirit, I must say that I was disappointed with this vote. Let me briefly explain why.

a) Perception of impasse. This action gives the impression that after months of good faith efforts by the Senate, all of which were rebuffed, the Senate and the administration have arrived at an impasse. This is not the case. Ostensibly, the issue is shared governance. Last year the Senate tallied its membership to determine concerns. The result was the Faculty Senate Input Report; this document summarized concerns and outlined a set of six recommendations focusing on how to strengthen shared governance. A Task Force on Shared Governance was formed; I met with the Task Force once last summer at their request. It was my sense that we had a good discussion and developed something of a plan for action. I voiced my support for all six recommendations. My notes say that we would begin from the recommendations and move forward, that we would pursue recommendations one by one, and that we would first address Recommendation 3, which deals with adherence to established procedures. My notes also say that the Faculty Senate was gathering models of Ombuds programs (part of Recommendation 5) and that the faculty were interested in learning more about academic freedom (Recommendation 6). I have more notes than that, but the point is that I thought we had a working plan. Regrettably, there has been no follow-up on any of the issues discussed at the summer meeting. Rather than pursue the six recommendations in the Report, the Senate leadership has for the last several weeks now pursued a course directed at arriving at a vote of no confidence in the Provost and myself. What all this demonstrates is not impasse but a radical change in agenda.

b) Process. I do not believe that any fair summary of the steps in this process would conclude that the Senate met the standards it sets for itself in the Faculty Constitution and By-laws. The published agendas did not indicate the topics of business. As a result, it seems likely that faculty who might be opposed to this action were unaware of what was going on. On the other hand, non-Senate members were invited, either unannounced or at the last minute, to speak in favor of the no-confidence motion at the October 26th and November 23rd meetings. Neither I, nor anybody else to my knowledge, was afforded the opportunity to invite faculty speakers to speak to the other side; in fact, it was announced at the November 9th meeting at which I spoke, that no outside speakers would be allowed even though faculty had come for that purpose. The orchestration of this vote also included an unofficial meeting (November 16th), which I was asked not to attend. The supposed reason was fear of retaliation. I did not press the issue. I have spoken at length on retaliation in my November 9th response.

c) Nature of concerns. The concerns raised to support the claim that shared governance has been violated are contained in the Faculty Senate Priorities Survey and Concerns from faculty brought to the Faculty Senate (as well as speeches of guests, which are available on the Senate webpage). Beyond the fact that most are stated in negative, prejudicial terms, many of these “concerns” focus on individual grievances. Others are vague; most are without merit.

d) Morale and the lack of a contract. The Priorities Survey lists nine so-called issues as well as the topic of a confidence/no confidence vote. Two of the nine items appear to deal with contract negotiations, one indirectly and one directly. The first item is “The administration’s failure to take responsibility for the campus climate and for declining morale on campus.” Any analysis of morale that does not acknowledge the grinding effect of the sheer length of the negotiations as central to low morale would miss a key factor in explaining the campus climate.

The second is “The refusal of the administration to take responsibility for unsuccessful contract negotiations.” The implicit demand here is that the administration take full and exclusive responsibility for unsuccessful contract negotiations. At the same time, the perception abounds that the length of the negotiations is a deliberate administrative strategy. Anyone involved in negotiations knows that this is not so. Both parties are responsible for the outcomes. Clearly, it would be preferable that negotiations had reached a mutually acceptable conclusion months ago. This did not happen. I regret this. I know the absence of a contract has undermined morale and created anxiety. I remain optimistic that we are approaching the end of negotiations and that a fair and mutually acceptable contract is within sight. Given the distress the slowness of the progress has created, it is understandable that the progress that has been made is easy to overlook. The contract has 38 articles; tentative agreement has been reached on 30. I have urged the administrative team to be responsive and flexible; the team provided a response to the two remaining language articles as well as a full proposal of the remaining six articles on workload and compensation to the UPI team Tuesday. It is my hope that the content will be widely shared.

I am troubled by what seems to be a continuing problem with misinformation about the negotiations. I recently attended a session on “Visions for Northeastern and Our Shared Future,” where one of the speakers made an eloquent plea for a basic workload no greater than “3-3” (i.e., three courses each semester) for tenure track faculty. From the initial discussion over two years ago, to the formal workload/compensation proposal made by the administrative team over a year ago, the basic workload for tenure track faculty has never been greater than a 3-3 load. (Currently the overwhelming majority of tenure track faculty already teach a 3-3 load.) Likewise, the salary proposal that complements workload adjustments—both for tenure track faculty and for instructors—does not seem to be widely understood.

e) Harm to the institution. Although it is not pleasant to see oneself the object of a no-confidence motion, misleading statements, and caricatures, I realize this comes with the job. My concern is that these actions complicate the resolution of important issues, hurt student and faculty recruitment, and project an image of NEIU as a troubled university, which, in turn, complicates efforts to win support from foundations, individual donors and the Legislature. Although some will brush this comment aside as self-serving, I am concerned that the positive reputation and real progress on student achievement that faculty, staff, students and friends of the University have worked so hard to build is undermined by the image of NEIU as fractious and uninviting.

To conclude, I have a deep commitment to shared governance; my November 9th response details my contributions in areas such as strategic planning and the University Planning and Budget Council. I have been open and available to address concerns; I will continue to be. Regardless of my disappointment in this particular action of the Faculty Senate, I remain committed to working with all the shared governance groups at NEIU. I am optimistic we can continue to work together to solve problems and strengthen the University.

0 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by thetruth on 12/06/2010 at 1:49 PM

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