UW abolishes shared governance

AAUP ICON thumbDear UW faculty colleagues,

The following message has been approved by the AAUP executive board for distribution to faculty.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce circulated an email to faculty, staff and students (14th April) stating the current interim Provost Baldasty has performed in his role for the last 13 months.

In February, President Cauce organized an 11-person advisory committee, chaired by Dean Jim Jiambalvo and Professor Kate O’Neill, “to advise her on whether to appoint him provost and executive VP for a term of up to three years.” She has invited the campus community to “hear a presentation” by Dr. Baldasty on Tuesday 26th April at 2:30pm in the Henry Art Gallery. We are then invited to “provide feedback” by 30th April via Catalyst.

We have been here before. In 2011, when President Young announced a preferred candidate for Provost, AAUP’s national organization sent a letter reminding President Young of AAUP’s opposition to secretive searches. In addition, the UW Faculty Senate passed the following Class C resolution (12 Dec 2011, attached):

Senate resolution, 12/1/11:  “WHEREAS, the recent search for Provost did not provide the tri-campus community with an opportunity to learn of the names of the finalists for the position nor to meet the finalists publicly before a “preferred candidate” was identified; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate expresses its clear expectation that future searches for academic administrators will again include open public forums with finalists as a means of gathering broad faculty input before a decision is made.”

Once again, only one “preferred candidate” for Provost has been identified, with an appointment for up to three years.  It is unclear in this case whether any search has been conducted that involves more than a single candidate. The committee tasked to evaluate the preferred candidate —the Advisory Selection Review Committee— indicates that there was no formal internal search process.

Among the many reasons that open searches are important, another key issue is that open searches allow the discovery of candidates who might bring more diversity to our campus administration. Indeed, UW’s own Handbook of Best Practices for Faculty Hiring informs us of the importance of striving to “attract a highly qualified and diverse pool of candidates” for faculty searches. President Cauce’s race and equity update on 19 April 2016 stated, “we are 100% committed to listening to your concerns and making changes for the better. Together, we can make progress toward equity and inclusion and toward building the kind of university and world that will allow ALL of us the opportunity to realize our human potential.” It is difficult to see how foregoing an open search for Provost, the top academic officer of the university, is consistent with the UW’s own diversity goals.

In some ways, the current situation is even worse than that in 2011, because:

  1. Unlike 2011, there appears in this case to not have been even a formal (if secret) internal search process with Senate/faculty involvement, but simply a presidential selection handed down for (advisory) “review”;
  2. The lack of a search blatantly goes against a Senate resolution (12/1/11) formulating shared governance expectations in future Provost searches;
  3. The current process threatens to formalize, through precedent, a Provost selection process that eviscerates shared governance and unilaterally increases presidential powers.

The provost is the chief academic officer of the campus, and it is therefore of utmost importance that there be a broad search that involves faculty involvement in the selection process. The resolution passed by the Faculty Senate in 2011 should be adhered to, triggering an open search. We urge the Senate to consider this as soon as is possible, and we remain committed to the belief that no appointment should be made without an open search.

AAUP-UW Executive Committee, 20th April 2016

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