American Association of University Professors

Higher Ground

Newsletter of the ISU-AAUP
Number 1, Fall 2006

Why a Newsletter?

For many years, the Indiana State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has defended academic freedom, tenure, due process, and shared governance as well as professional standards in the treatment of non-tenure track faculty. Nonetheless, the AAUP is not very well known to many faculty, and a broader awareness of its advocacy work is necessary to expand our chapter's active membership. A strong and visible AAUP presence at ISU is needed more than ever at the present time, when questions of shared governance and administrative accountability have reached a boiling point on this campus. By applying AAUP's core values to important developments at ISU, we hope to generate an enlightened campus-wide dialogue on the real policy choices facing this university. Comments and contributions are most welcome. Send them to Paul Burkett, ISU-AAUP Newsletter Editor, c/o Department of Economics (campus mail) or by email to pburkette@isugw.indstate.edu

The Governance Crisis at ISU
Although the immediate impetus for the University Senate's vote of no confidence in President Benjamin's leadership was his acceptance of a major salary increase immediately after his public statement that no ISU employees would be receiving pay raises, this was merely the last ounce that tipped the scales. Nor was it only that the President had made several public and semi-private remarks showing an unacceptable disdain for students and other ISU stakeholders, although this too contributed to the no confidence vote. The main faculty grievance was the demonstrated tendency of the President and Provost to bypass and/or manipulate shared- governance bodies, including the Senate and its Executive Committees, so as to pursue a unilateralist mode of administration, attempting to conceive and implement major initiatives in substantively autocratic fashion. Examples abound: from the folding of the Center for Teaching and Learning into the Office of Information Technology, to the proposed merging of the Nursing School into the College of Health and Human Performance, to the Notebook Computer Initiative, to the costly evaluation of prospects for a Law School, we see a recurring pattern of reliance on administratively appointed external consultants, ad hoc committees, selected faculty and faculty-administrative fellows, and on peremptory pronouncements to narrow the menu of policy options prior to the involvement of established faculty governance institutions. Any faculty or student opposition to the administration's initiatives is then countered with scare tactics ("if we don't do this, bad things will happen" or "we don't want to miss this opportunity") and labeled obstructionist.

Several actions and outcomes subsequent to the no confidence vote have made it clear that the administration does not intend to seriously modify this pattern of unilateralist and poorly justified management decisions. We have witnessed the apparently forced resignation of a popular and respected Business School Dean (with no real explanation), and the continued top-down pursuit of the Nursing - Health and Human Performance merger in the face of strong grassroots opposition among nursing faculty and students.

However, an additional feature of this unilateralist management style has now become much more clear: the lack of administrative accountability. The Board of Trustees responded to the Senate's no confidence vote not only by refusing to cancel President Benjamin's salary increase, but also by giving him a rousing vote of confidence (and use of a new Lincoln Town Car). Moreover, to date no administrator has been held accountable for the estimated $1.5 million loss incurred on a purchased building for lack of a simple inspection. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent on consultants for initiatives like the proposed Law School (apparently now archived), without any evaluation of the costs and benefits of these expenditures.

Perhaps most troubling is the apparent spread of administrative unilateralism downward to the college level. A prime illustration is the September 2006 announcement by the Dean of Arts and Sciences of a wholesale reorganization initiative involving the merger of all departments having less than ten faculty into larger departments. This proposal, complete with various interdepartmental merger scenarios constructed by the Dean, was distributed without any prior input from, or discussion among, the departments involved. It was accompanied by a statement from the Dean suggesting that the "status quo" (i.e., maintaining the current department structure of the college) was unacceptable.

The ISU-AAUP supported the Spring-2006 Senate vote of no confidence in the current President. Nonetheless, given ensuing developments, it seems appropriate to ask whether it is possible to maintain any viable form of faculty governance at ISU under the current set of institutional circumstances. It may be that the traditional governance bodies - University Senate, College Councils, etc. - need to be supplemented with a more autonomous and solidaristic form of organization by and for the faculty. This issue was the focus of the ISU-AAUP's Fall Forum.

Report on Fall Forum
The theme of the ISU-AAUP's Fall Forum on October 18 was "Collective Bargaining at ISU: What If? Why Not?". Featured guests were Patrick Shaw, Esq., Associate Secretary of the national AAUP, and K. Vinodgopal, President of the Indiana Conference of the AAUP. The program began with a brief discussion by Dr. Vinodgopal of the potential advantages of collective bargaining, and of recent efforts by the state AAUP to improve faculty representation especially through the appointment of faculty to university boards of trustees. Mr. Shaw then led a more extended discussion of unionization and collective bargaining in higher education. The AAUP's position is that collective bargaining can be a useful complement to shared governance institutions such as university senates. Collective bargaining can increase the effectiveness of faculty governance by extending its area of competence, defining its autonomous institutional authority, and strengthening the faculty's voice in areas of shared authority and responsibility. So far as public universities are concerned, approximately 30 states have enacted laws sanctioning faculty collective bargaining, and more than 300,000 faculty at public institutions are currently represented in collective bargaining nationwide. The AAUP is one of several organizations that acts as a collective bargaining agent - sometimes jointly with other organizations such as the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association. AAUP collective bargaining chapters include ten colleges and universities in Ohio and seven in Michigan. There was some discussion of prospects and strategies for the legal sanctioning of collective bargaining in Indiana, but Mr. Shaw emphasized that such legislation is not necessary for collective bargaining. Shaw's presentation included two accounts of faculty unionization in states that did not at the time have public employee bargaining laws: Eastern Washington University and the University of Cincinnati. Some of the discussion following Shaw's presentation contrasted the institutional power of collective bargaining with the largely advisory role of shared governance alone, the latter being illustrated by the lack of constructive administrative response to the ISU University Senate's Spring 2006 vote of no confidence in President Benjamin.

The Erosion of Faculty Salaries at ISU

One reason why many faculty, and the ISU-AAUP, have begun to consider collective bargaining options is the recent trend in faculty salaries at this university. As the accompanying table shows, annual changes in ISU faculty pay have declined from an already low 2.0% in 2004-2005 to zero in 2006- 2007. When one allows for annual increases in the cost of living of between 3% and 4% (conservatively estimated), plus increases in faculty medical insurance costs, it becomes apparent that the real, inflation- adjusted salaries of ISU faculty have declined by a cumulative 10% or more over the last three academic years. Meanwhile, faculty at the four other institutions shown in the table have at least been granted salary increases that come much closer to offsetting recent rises in the cost of living. The recently announced $1000 one-time payment (before taxes) for ISU faculty and staff does not counteract these trends significantly.
 

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