Saturday, May 29, 2010

University of Texas administration subverts, silences faculty voice

Although thankfully our administration has not gone this far yet, much of what Tom Palaima describes at UT will sound familiar to Minnesota faculty--either as things that have already taken place or that are being discussed at the University of Minnesota. The part about the administrator shutting down a faculty meeting by calling a quorum is just too much.


This has been a trying year for those charged with meaningful decision-making at UT. Note: I do not include here the Faculty Council. The council makes no meaningful decisions and, by UT statutes, mainly dispenses advice that no administrator is required to take seriously.

Its role in University governance is highly circumscribed. Its every decision is, again by University statutes, subject to controls by duly appointed administrators in a chain of command stemming from the governor and Board of Regents, which appoints the president, the presidentially appointed provost, and down through college deans and departmental chairs.

Recently, a proliferation of originally ad hoc committees, dominated by administrators, has superseded the roles of many of the Faculty Council’s standing committees. These new committees virtually guarantee that decisions of the president and provost will be made within administrative silos.

There are meaningful levels of dissatisfaction about many decisions that have been made and how they have been made: the controversial changes to foreign-language requirements that took up much of the late summer and fall; the authorization of a $2 million raise for the head football coach in December; freezing of staff salaries; firings of staff and lecturers; and significant reductions in graduate assistants; $1 million of University trademark and royalty revenues spent transforming Room 212 of the Main Building into what one faculty wit called “a Victorian tart’s boudoir” at a time when educational programs were being down-sized and the Cactus Cafe was targeted for closing because of the purported loss of $66,000 per year; proceeding with a new liberal arts building project funded via the unprecedented mechanism of cuts to the instructional budget; and mandating merit pools for faculty that would likewise come from cuts, without ever asking the faculty whether they approved of such a trade-off. Nor were faculty consulted about freezing staff wages while pushing through with a merit pool that saw raises going to fewer than 40 percent of the faculty.

On all these matters and more, meaningful faculty input was rarely sought and almost never at the proper time. As later information revealed...the truth was at least shaded by administrators — or, let us say facts were “interpreted” and procedures were orchestrated in ways that subverted responsible and well-informed decision-making.


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