Academic Affairs Administration

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: John Delaney, President University of North Florida

The current Academic Affairs administration has been particularly non-consultative and lacking in transparency. A graduate dean was appointed without faculty consultation. An undergraduate dean was appointed without faculty consultation. A formula for reallocation of faculty lines – justifying the removal of 18 lines from Arts and Sciences – was created and implemented without faculty consultation and without transparency. A formula for compression and inversion raises was implemented without any explanation; even if the formula was created by the union, the faculty at large had a right to know – from AA — what the formula was before it was implemented and mass confusion and frustration ensued. There are strong rumors that UNF may create a College of Honors and a College of Nursing – and that both of these new units are borne on potential gifts to the university — yet no faculty consultation and no transparency about these major academic changes have been forthcoming. Question: how long will we have to endure this trend?

Response from John Delaney, UNF President:

Dear President Klostermeyer,
Before I begin my answer to the anonymous question asked at the last Faculty Association meeting, I would pose a question to the author of the letter: Have you made an appointment to sit with the Provost to explain all of your concerns? Have you expressed your concerns to a chair or dean asking them to convey these concerns to Academic Affairs?

In an email with another faculty colleague, I equated the idea of shared governance to due process: the more important the issue, the more process that is due. For example, contesting a parking ticket involves minimal due process, facing incarceration for life, or even death, triggers a far higher degree of due process. For trivial things, I doubt most faculty care to be consulted. On the other hand, for the search for a provost, the faculty makes up the majority of the search committee.

But for matters in between, sometimes we don’t appropriately engage—we need to collectively work on that. Earl’s and my door are wide open to make sure that faculty is comfortable with their level of involvement.

In a meeting with the chairs some years ago, several people brought up a recurring IT problem that had gone on for some time. I asked the chairs who they had told about the problem so I could see where things broke down. There was a pause, and the chairs looked at each other. Then Bill Slaughter looked at me and said with a laugh: “We mostly just bitch about it amongst ourselves!”

I ask the original question above for this reason: several years ago I failed to widely engage faculty in a discussion of mandatory freshman housing. I, wrongly, considered it a clerical decision that would not interest or concern faculty. Of late, I have begun meeting with the Faculty Affairs and Executive Committees of the Faculty Association. The idea is to talk about issues and hear where more engagement is necessary. But the conversation should go both ways. I often say that if I don’t know about a problem, I can’t fix it.

Historically, I try to have availability to faculty via “Coffees with the Presidents” with the Union, or department or college visits. In addition to my door being open, I respond to every email. As best as I know, the Provost follows the same practice.

I imagine that the questioner may desire to remain anonymous so as to not risk any fear of retaliation. For a non-tenured faculty member, this is completely understandable. In saying that I often joke with a Faculty Association President that I have such little power to retaliate against a faculty member beyond perhaps moving their office, but even that I could not do! Even the tenure process has a level of protection in it as the applicant moves through the stages. As a former President of the Faculty Association once told me, the anonymous question gives the faculty power to balance against the Administration. That is fair enough, though I still wince at the tone of the occasional snarky personal attacks some questioners use. Of course, the vast majority of the questions are fair and constructive.

During the search for a provost, the search committee formulated a question that was essentially: What is the correct balance between confidentiality and transparency and how does an administrator navigate through those sometimes blurry lines.

Had I been asked this question in an interview, one example I might have offered is the necessity to maintain confidentiality when a university is negotiating with a major donor. Until all the figures are locked down and agreed upon, it would be imprudent for any college administrator to talk about the gift publicly. Having said this, I would also state that when all of the details are lined up, the administrator(s) involved in soliciting the gift have an obligation to ensure that the faculty and campus community knows about the gift and are given a realistic time period to review any and all changes to the university, most especially if they involve changes in the curriculum or the structure of the institution. Despite any agreement with a donor, all such changes would need to be vetted using all standing university policies and practices, including approval of the Faculty Association.

For a gift that involves curricular or structural changes within the purview of the Faculty Association, acceptance of the gift is contingent on faculty approval.

Turning to information about the recent raises negotiated with the union, the process of developing the formula and the formula itself are covered under open records and public meeting laws. All faculty members who were concerned about the formula were invited to all of the meetings on the development of the formula. In fact, a few faculty members asked to see copies of the formula prior to issuing the raises and were freely given copies. The process was open and completely transparent. The Union, which represents the faculty directly, did a good job of updating faculty frequently via a set of all-faculty emails as to the status of the discussions, and in inviting people to the sessions. Any individual or collective group had access to the entire process and could have asked for copies of any related documents at any point in time. Not trying to throw the Union under the bus, but I am wondering why the finger of guilt is being pointed at AA and not elsewhere? Without knowing more facts, I will refrain from speculating.

There are an infinite number of ways to run a model to distribute raises. Historically the Board of Trustees would like to see all funding go toward merit pay. In any event, the final agreement is a result of months of compromises with the Union representing faculty.

In a recent email chain with a faculty member who I consider a friend, the faculty member criticized the distribution model. I asked him if he had a better idea, and where was he during this process?

The author of the anonymous letter points to two administrative positions that she or he feels were made without faculty consultation. One of these was essentially a reassignment of duties, something that frankly happens all the time.

As Len Roberson’s role with distance learning expanded, AA moved the position and responsibilities of graduate dean from Len and reassigned this role and these responsibilities to John Kantner.

The decision to move the graduate dean’s responsibilities to John Kantner without a search is not without precedence. UNF’s first graduate dean was a sitting associate vice president in Academic Affairs who was asked to add the position of graduate dean to his portfolio. That action was taken for the same reason Earle used in making the decision to reassign the responsibilities to John Kantner – to avoid adding one more administrator for budgetary reasons. The combining of these duties is consistent with patterns seen across the country where graduate deans hold other administrative positions in Academic Affairs. This same shuffle of responsibilities occurred with UNF’s second graduate dean. Tom Serwatka was asked to assume Jim Collom’s role as director of Sponsored Research upon Jim’s retirement. Tom held both positions for a two year period.

UNF has had five graduate deans. Including John Kantner, two have assumed this role as part of their load as an assistant or associate vice president. A third graduate dean assumed the leadership in sponsored research while serving as graduate dean.

Three of our five graduate deans were selected through what we consider a “formalized” search process. Two assumed the role of graduate dean as a means keeping administrative costs down.

While the position of undergraduate dean did not follow a formalized search committee, it certainly did involve faculty consultation. A campus wide notice was sent out announcing the opening for the undergraduate dean’s position and four faculty members applied. Each of the candidates was interviewed by faculty members in each of the units that would report to the undergraduate dean. The candidates were also interviewed by the college deans with whom the successful candidate would be working closely. My assumption is that the deans likewise received input from within their respective colleges. Earle used this input to inform his decision in selecting Dan Moon. Albeit without using a formal search committee, Earle received input from faculty and others through a search process.

This issue was raised to me in a recent meeting with the Faculty Affairs Committees. Several active faculty members said that they were unaware of these steps listed above. For that, we have to take responsibility for not communicating more widely.

The final example described in the anonymous letter focused on the proposed formula for reallocating faculty lines. The formula was developed as a way of better understanding which colleges had more and which colleges had fewer faculty lines when compared to enrollment figures. After AA came up with the first draft, it was introduced to the Deans Council. In Deans Council there were spirited debates over how the formula failed to account for several variables. Based on these discussions, the formula was modified to incorporate many of the suggested variables, making it somewhat more complicated. After these changes were made, the formula was presented to the Faculty Association’s Budget Committee. Jay Coleman also made himself available to any faculty group that wanted to discuss the model.

When the model was first presented and throughout the entire process of laying out the model, it was made clear that it was not a formula to be used for final decision making. Instead the formula was one data point to be considered in the overall reallocation process.

While I don’t fully buy into the model myself and I regret the unnecessary impact on COAS faculty morale, I am certain that there were opportunities for colleges to give their input. Regrettably the story of the model morphed as it was translated from one person to the next, in much the same way as the message gets distorted in the proverbial telephone game. I suspect that any plan we develop for reallocation of faculty lines will be heralded by the colleges who gain faculty lines and quickly dismissed as flawed by those colleges who will have to give up lines. I am certainly not surprised by these reactions having been on both losing and winning sides in similar situations. In fact, I have the same reaction to the Board of Governors metric formula. But in that case, there are real and direct monetary consequences as opposed to creating one of many tools used to assess line allocation.

Let me close by answering the stated question: “How long will we have to endure this trend?” I don’t believe we have the trend the author of the question sees. However if there is such a trend, when the next decision pops up I would suggest that the person who asked this question makes an appointment with the Provost, or me, to openly and without prejudice ask questions about the decision. That course of action will go a lot further then the anonymous question in strengthening the open dialogue we all seek.

For our part, we continue to look for ways to open dialogue and to seek input for decisions. If anyone has suggestions about techniques or ways to open things up more, please let me know. I do believe that frequent meetings with both the Faculty Association Executive and Faculty Affairs Committees is one such way. A personal open door policy, frequent and consistent meeting with the chairs and deans (pretty uncommon at other universities) should also help.
John

 

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