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Released: UA faculty poll executive summary and comments

Click here for notable faculty comments

To:       General Faculty

From:  Wanda H Howell, Chair of the Faculty

Lynn Nadel, Chair of the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee

Robert P Mitchell, Vice Chair of the Faculty and Presiding Officer of the Faculty Senate

J C Mutchler, Secretary of the Faculty

Michael A Cusanovich, Chair, Committee of Eleven

Javier Duran, Vice Chair, Committee of Eleven

Re:      Faculty Poll Comments Summary


In addition to answering specific questions, over 700 respondents to the Poll offered thoughts in the Comments section.  We have tried to capture the main themes expressed in these comments in the Summary below.  All the Comments are posted, un-edited, at the Faculty Governance URL at


We understand that the Poll was not perfect, that there were many other questions that could have been asked, but weren’t, and that the mechanics of carrying it out fell somewhat short.  Nonetheless we believe the response was substantial and the Poll valid, and that the message was clear:  there is amongst faculty much discontent at multiple levels.  A lack of transparency and honest open communication has resulted in a loss of trust.  The absence of a clearly articulated vision of what this university can and must be has left faculty frustrated and scared.  Decisions have been made without adequate involvement of the faculty and indeed the entire campus community.  These are but some of the things that must change if we are to heal the rift and move forward together.  As Faculty Leaders we will do our best to insist on those changes, and to make certain that the message of this Poll is heard and understood.

President Robert Shelton

President Shelton came in for a good deal of criticism in the comments, some of which cited him individually, and others which combined criticism of the President with the Provost, and/or high level administrators generally. 

Some poll respondents simply recommended that the President be fired.  Those who fleshed out their comments had concerns in these areas:

·        Better (not more) communication; less spin and more frank talk about the challenges we face and decisions made to address those challenges; clearer articulation of short-term (tactical) and long-term (strategic) vision.

·        Lack of transparency in decision making; lack of consultation with faculty prior to making decisions; inadequate explanation/justification of decisions once they are made.

·        Better representation of the UA’s mission and needs to the Arizona Board of Regents and to the Legislature.

·        Better leadership in generating financial support , both from the Legislature and from alternate revenue sources.

·        Bias towards science to the detriment of other core liberal arts disciplines.

·        Need to reduce the number of senior administrators.

Provost Meredith Hay

Provost Meredith Hay has clearly become the lightning rod for faculty discontent with the University’s Transformation and budget reduction processes.  This discontent was clear in the numerical voting, and was reinforced in the comments that accompanied the votes.  Approximately one third of all of the comments mentioned some aspect of the Provost’s performance, and very few of those comments were supportive.

Many of the comments simply stated that the Provost should resign, or be fired.  Faculty who fleshed out their criticism of Dr. Hay focused primarily on these themes:


·        Lack of transparency in decision making; lack of consultation with faculty prior to making decisions; inadequate explanation/justification of decisions once they have been made;

·        Poor communication, which relates to the transparency issue but also includes a personal interactions which struck faculty commenters as “”divisive,”” “”rude,”” “”acerbic,”” and/or “”disrespectful;””

·        Lack of respect for faculty, including a failure to understand their contributions and concerns, in addition to the communication issues listed above;

·        Poor leadership, as a result of the confluence of the above issues; and

·        A bias towards science, to the detriment of other core liberal arts disciplines, in the allocation of budget cuts.

Communication and Transparency

Many comments were directed at the issues of transparency and communication.  Most of these expressed frustration at the lack of transparency in all areas of university life.  Respondents expressed the need for not just more communication, but more honest communication.  A perceived lack of respect for input from all sectors of the campus, faculty, staff and students, was a common theme.  The following concerns were expressed often:

  • Decision-making at the highest levels needs to be transparent, to clearly spell out the reasons why specific decisions were taken, and the budgetary consequences of these decisions
  • Input from faculty should be solicited, listened to, and respected.  It should be sought before, not after, decisions are taken.
  • The vision of what the UA should be needs to be clearly articulated, and the unique role of universities needs to be better communicated to the public, and legislature
  • Better communication is needed, involving more direct contact between administrators and the rest of the campus.  Messages need to be clear and honest, with a lot less spin. Such changes are critical to improve morale, which is harmed by a lack of transparency, poor communication and a corporate management style

Central Administration

There was pervasive criticism of the role of central administration and how this affected the lives and economies of the faculty. Moreover, commentary questioned the size and the cost of the administrative machine wondering if this structure was going to be “”transformed””. Thematic lines here also included:

·        Downsize/transform the administration’s structure

·        Cut the number of VP positions/reduce salaries at that level, that will help to save funds for academic related activities

·        Perceived unilateral decision making= better communication and more input from faculty

·        Perceived lack of clear vision from the administration, short and long term

·        Change profile of administrative apparatus: fire mediocre professional managers, promote faculty members to engage in these functions

·        Perceived culture of fear and intimidation in the administration dealings with faculty and staff

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