MPC Academic Senate
March 29, 2007
The Faculty Position Prioritization Process and the 3/28/07 AAAG Meeting
A Note from John Anderson
March 27, 2007
I am writing in response to Fred’s request, voiced at our last AAAG meeting, for input to the Senate from AAAG members directly. I regret that I am unable to be present at this week’s Senate meeting. I will also own up to being responsible for requesting, last Thursday, that the COC not approve hiring committees at all until the situation with AAAG and the faculty prioritization process was clarified, and for asking Jamie to present our Division’s concerns at your last meeting.
The situation with AAAG, as I now understand it, is that AAAG voted to prioritize 5 positions. One previous position had already been approved, for a total of six relatively recent approvals. Last Wednesday afternoon AAAG members were informed by John Gonzales that:
“After careful consideration of the faculty replacement recommendations from the Academic Affairs Advisory Group and a review of the information associated with the 13 faculty positions that were reviewed by the group, I have recommended to Dr. Garrison, and he has approved, the following faculty positions for 2007-08:
§ English Basic Skills
§ English Basic Skills
§ English Composition and Creative Writing, and
§ Women’s Programs/Women’s Studies/Re-Entry and Multicultural Resources Center Director/Instructor
The CSIS and Library Director requests are being placed on hold pending further discussions.
This made it seem, at the time, that John had in some way recommended against the two positions placed “on-hold.” Doug has subsequently assured us that the decision was his. In any case, the members of AAAG were, and remain, very disturbed by this development. We realize, of course, that AAAG is an advisory group and that John and Doug have every legal right not follow our advice. We would hope, however, that everyone would realize that the recommendations we developed and officially approved were the product of a very long process of program reviews, data gathering, long debate, plus our collective experience and, hopefully, wisdom. To be blunt, we do not expect these recommendations to be disregarded casually, and if they are not followed, we would expect a thorough, timely, and very convincing explanation. This was not forthcoming in John’s memo, as quoted above. Suspicion was exacerbated by the fact that at the AAAG proceedings John Gonzales had Michael Gilmartin present labor market data which seemed to be prejudicial to the CSIS position. Some members questioned the validity of the data, and I believe that most felt that this constituted an inappropriate denigration of the advocating Division Chair’s presentation. Similar data was not presented about any of the other positions. While it has subsequently come to light that the administration may be about to propose changes in the structure of the Library Director’s position, no mention was made of that at AAAG. When rumors of a possible change in the Library Director’s position from faculty to administration were brought up or clarification at AAAG, no comment was made. In fact, AAAG rated the Library Director as our number one priority as a faculty replacement. Finally, it was not completely clear to us, from John’s message, which English positions were being recommended. For these reasons I appealed to the COC Chair to not approve any committees until we had a very clear picture of what was transpiring. Under the circumstances of the moment I did not have confidence that the faculty prioritization and hiring process had not been violated in some way, and I did not think that the Senate would want to proceed until we were sure it had not been.
At this juncture, and having talked to Doug, I am willing to write this whole thing off to some really poor communication between AAAG and the Administration. I do not want to assume poor motives on the part of our administrators. In fact, all of us at AAAG want them to succeed. This bump in the road does, however, open up a vital discussion about the role of the Senate and AAAG in adjudicating the balance of the faculty’s composition and the resulting academic integrity of the curriculum as a whole. In an earlier email which Fred wrote to me, he summarized the problem eloquently:
“The deeper, underlying issue is qualitative vs quantitative ways to value the breadth or integrity of the curriculum. How do we compare high enrollment, money making classes or disciplines versus those classes or disciplines that might not bring in as many students and as much money but offer a breadth of endeavor and improve our quality of life by showing the multitude of ways we can investigate the world around us and be creative? How do we protect this cornerstone of liberal arts education if we don't have enrollment and other quantitative data to show that it is cost effective?”
A utopian administration would, assumedly, desire to strike the perfect balance between these poles. But, as we all know, times, values and administrators change. In a system of checks and balances, who should advocate for intellectual balance in the curriculum if not the Senate and AAAG? The Division Chairs in AAAG are elected representatives of our Divisions. I believe that the democratic vote of AAAG members, arrived at in all fairness at our last meeting, should be taken by all as the will of the Faculty. We in AAAG would sincerely hope that the Academic VP would be a strong advocate for the cause of comprehensive breadth in the curriculum as presented by AAAG’s recommendations. But if that is not the case and that person does not bring forward AAAG’s best judgment, who is left? I believe that the answer is the Senate, and the one potent tool that the Senate has at its disposal is the power to approve, or fail to approve hiring committees. In a hypothetical situation wherein the Administration choose to advance only faculty positions which served utilitarian profit-making ends, the Senate’s refusal to approve hiring committees could stop that process and force change to a pattern of academic degradation.
The scenario I pose is certainly a worst-case one, but I believe that the principal remains; the onus of safeguarding the academic integrity of the curriculum rests solely with the faculty. We cannot assume that anyone else will do this job for us, and if we do so, it is at our peril. I believe that the Senate, informed by its colleagues in AAAG, is the faculty’s best and highest voice in so doing. Should the Senate and COC, therefore, narrowly construe its mission of approving faculty hiring committees, or should that mission extend to include advocacy of balance in the composition of the faculty, and hence the curriculum? If the Senate, COC and AAAG do not assume these roles, then where is the system’s check against the potential of egregious abuse? I presume that these questions will be lively topics of your discussion today.
Best Wishes – John Anderson