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The UW Senate Needs Open Discussion of the Next President

This is my response to an email from JW Harrington, incoming Chair of the UW Faculty Senate.

He wrote:

On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 1:33 AM, <senate@uw.edu> wrote:
Dear UW Faculty Member,

This is a reminder that you have not yet completed the UW faculty Presidential Search Survey. Please take a moment to complete the survey. Your input is important.

Thanks,
JW Harrington, Vice Chair, Faculty Senate

JW

I have not responded to the request to fill out the survey form because a “survey” or poll is not likely to produce the sort of focus that is needed.

Moreover, after reading the questions, I have a difficult time believing answers to so many open-ended questions and vaguely defined terms can do more than provide a feeling about what the minority who do respond actually want.

Here is one example for those who have not yet taken their poll:

Please select the 5 items below that you feel are the most important University challenges during the next 3-5 years. Please mark each of those 5 items with a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, with 5 denoting the very highest priority for the next Administration.

hiring more faculty and teaching assistants
Select one…
improving organization and support for the university’s missions (support staffing, hardware or software systems, and/or organizational changes)
Select one…
improving shared governance at the college, school, and campus level
Select one…
improving shared governance at the university level
Select one…
increasing ethnic and gender diversity among faculty and senior staff
Select one…
increasing ethnic and socioeconomic diversity among the students
Select one…
increasing financial support from the state
Select one…
maintaining educational quality
Select one…
reducing the size of annual tuition increases
Select one…
restoring broad-based, merit-based salary adjustments for faculty, librarians, and staff
Select one…
retaining faculty who are being recruited by other institutions
Select one…
streamlining curricula or reducing the number of programs to conserve resources
Select one…

There is an obvious solution in the year 2010.  The Senate could conduct a much more open process for discussion.  Forgive my hyperbole, but we do have the Internet.

I believe the way to have a discussion amongst our divers faculty  is  to create a forum where public discussion, presumably led by the elected Senators, can take place. The software tools for creating such a forum are and now have been long available to us.

What is needed?  We need a commitment to open discussion!

Steve

Professor of Pathology
faculty for 40 years
editor, The-Ave.US


3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Steve Hauschka #
    1

    Good points regarding the Presidential Selection survey.

    I reluctantly filled out the form because I thought at least some input was better than none, but you are nevertheless correct in urging an extensive open discussion. Hopefully, that’s precisely what JW has in mind once the preliminary survey input is assessed.

    A key point for me is assurance that the Regents-Centered selection process involves the Regents and President Selection Committee actually reading candidates written answers to a set of prioritized questions of the type you’ve suggested below.

    Candidate answers would then be “on record,” thereby permitting the Regents and President Selection Committee to truly get into the nitty gritty during candidate evaluations, without just vague recollections and presumptions about how different candidates would prioritize and handle critical UW issues.

    A reasonable goal for UW faculty, students, & staff who will not be directly involved in the President selection process would be:

    (1.) to obtain the candidate questions that the Regents and President Selection Committee will already, or very soon, have established. (Draft versions of these should clearly be public knowledge at the earliest possible date, as this is the best mechanism for assuring that important problems have not been overlooked.)

    (2.) to discuss nuances and additional questions that should be part of the formalized candidate selection process;

    (3.) to provide the modified/additional questions to the Regents and Selection Committee.

    Since the Presidential Selection process has its own timeline, and since the UW persons ultimately affected by the presidential choice are Students, Staff and Administration, as well as Faculty, it may be sensible to establish an internet forum where all constituent groups could be exchanging ideas regarding an optimal set of Presidential candidate questions.

    In this regard, it would be beneficial if Student, Staff, Administration, and Faculty representatives on the Presidential Selection Committee each set up internet discussion groups, and/or public meetings where these issues could be addressed by their constituents and other interested parties.

    For starters though, what questions will the Regents and Presidential Selection Committee be seeking answers to, and will the answers be written?

  2. LukeSitt #
    2

    I attempted the presidential search survey and it did not even work well enought to actually accept any input, so let me add my input to the discussion here. In particular, I would like to see 2 main things: faculty/student involvement in all phases of the search (any list coming from a headhunter is likely to miss qualified candidates that do not exactly fit their “mold”) and really abiding by the administrative standards of our accreditation board.

    In case you have not seen the administrative standards before, here they are:

    Standard 6.C – Leadership and Management
    The chief executive officer provides leadership through the definition of institutional goals, establishment of priorities, and the development of plans. The administration and staff are organized to support the teaching and learning environment which results in the achievement of the institution’s mission and goals.

    6.C.1 The chief executive officer’s full-time responsibility is to the institution.

    6.C.2 The duties, responsibilities, and ethical conduct requirements of the institution’s administrators are clearly defined and published. Administrators act in a manner consistent with them.

    6.C.3 Administrators are qualified to provide effective educational leadership and management. The chief executive officer is responsible for implementing appropriate procedures to evaluate administrators regularly.

    6.C.4 Institutional advancement activities (which may include development and fund raising, institutional relations, alumni and parent programs) are clearly and directly related to the mission and goals of the institution.

    6.C.5 Administrators ensure that the institutional decision-making process is timely.

    6.C.6 Administrators facilitate cooperative working relationships, promote coordination within and among organizational units, and encourage open communication and goal attainment.

    6.C.7 Administrators responsible for institutional research ensure that the results are widely distributed to inform planning and subsequent decisions that contribute to the improvement of the teaching-learning process.

    6.C.8 Policies, procedures, and criteria for administrative and staff appointment, evaluation, retention, promotion, and/or termination are published, accessible, and periodically reviewed.

    6.C.9 Administrators’ and staff salaries and benefits are adequate to attract and retain competent personnel consistent with the mission and goals of the institution.

    I hope that the search will aim to make real improvements, especially on items 1 (which bears directly on the corporate board issue), 2, 3, and 5.

    That’s my 2 cents. — Luke Sitt

  3. Liberal_Dose #
    3

    Regarding Luke Sitt’s observations,

    (a) one of the members of the search committee is Madeleine McKenna, the incoming ASUW president. So I think you could argue that the student voice is included, at least in principle.

    (b) I’d have to go look at the search committee again, but I’d be surprised if none of the committee were (tenure-track) faculty at the UW. I could be wrong; I have been before. Of course, some of those tenure-track faculty might have gone over to The Dark Side, i.e. they might have become Deans.

    (c) it is interesting to get out the accreditation club to wax superior about how to choose a president, but reaching for accreditation to spec out a president reminds me of the aphorism, “even the Devil can quote scripture to his purpose.”

    Accreditation is interesting, but it’s not everything. The Engineering accreditation board, ABET, is clearly well-intentioned. The accreditation standards for Electrical Engineering make exactly zero mention of “electromagnetism,” which is, arguably, the absolute heart of Electrical Engineering.

    I’m also reminded of the dedication in the frontispiece to Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance”:

    “And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good… Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

    I’m not suggesting that we should ignore accreditation bodies, but that we should consider the possibility that, informed by our own experiences, and that of our peers, we might know what we are doing.

    Regarding our accreditation community, let me point out that we have not a single peer among the colleges and universities represented. Our accreditation community includes several community colleges, and several private liberal arts colleges … and not a single additional R-1 university.

    Maybe another accreditation body would have the same statements that Luke quoted above. But also, maybe not.



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