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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Faculty shares policy qualms

While the UA’s Shared Governance Memorandum of Understanding aims to collaborate on university decision making and planning with both the faculty and administration, some question its effectiveness.

Last semester, the tenure review of Physiology Department Head Nick Delamere was abruptly terminated for reasons unbeknownst to many physiology faculty members and to Delamere himself. The dean of the College of Medicine, Dr. Steven Goldschmid , had reappointed Delamere each year since 2006, and Delamere’s notice of his nonrenewal as department head occurred immediately prior to when his mandated five-year review was supposed to occur.

The memorandum states that UA administration and faculty should work together before making significant policy changes, which includes the selection and retention of department heads.

Timothy Secomb, a physiology professor and member of the Faculty Senate, said he thinks that if he and his departmental colleagues had not stated their concern about the issue in a letter to Wanda Howell, chair of the faculty and a nutritional sciences professor, Delamere may have never been reappointed.

“The credibility of shared governance was on the line in this incident, and it was only through strenuous efforts by many people that it proved effective and that a satisfactory outcome was reached,” Secomb said.

Delamere said although he never found out why his original review was terminated, he was more concerned about how the situation affected the physiology faculty.

“The faculty, with good reason, felt their ability to give input was interrupted,” he said. “Whether their input was good or bad, there was a feeling that people’s voices had been silenced.”

UA President Eugene Sander said that while some features of the initial review “were not done appropriately,” reinstating the review eventually honored he spirit of the memorandum.

“Either party (the faculty or the administration) can ignore the memorandum if they care to, but the tradition here at the UA is to make it work,” Sander said. “By being a dean and going through department reviews, it’s important to do our darndest to make it work.”

Sander said giving deans the power to review their department heads does not violate the memorandum, and that if deans correctly mandate reviews, they can decide whether or not department heads maintain their positions. Reviews are meant to give UA employees constructive criticism about how they can do a better job, Sander said, and it is the job of college deans to responsibly conduct reviews in compliance with the University Handbook for Appointed Personnel.

“That wasn’t done, so we went back and did it correctly,” Sander said. “I hold it (the memorandum) in high esteem … we’ve been practicing shared governance for years around here. This is important stuff.”

The Faculty Senate originally passed the Memorandum of Understanding on April 4, 2005. Every subsequent UA president and provost has signed the memorandum for the last 10 to 12 years, according to Howell, who said that the shared governance culture at the UA is “strong.”

“It’s just expected that it (the memorandum) will be part of decision making if it is a university wide decision or policy decision,” Howell said. “Of course, there are everyday things that we (faculty) don’t get involved in, but policy issues, yes.”

Howell said the document does not guarantee faculty positions, and every issue that comes before the Shared Governance Review Committee is unique.

“There is never guarantees when you’re talking about a process. There is no language anywhere that says these decisions will be made in this way,” she said. “We have our document and can only make recommendations relative to if we believe if there’s a violation. Our recommendations may or may not be acted upon, and in this case, they were.”

Secomb said that although the process to honor the memorandum was long, he learned from the situation.

“I think people have to be aware that nothing is automatic in this business,” he said. “Faculty must be aware, vigilant and also work to keep communication lines open … It’s not something that’s hard-wired. Yes, shared governance did work, and we’re very grateful for that … but it has to be part of the culture, it’s not enough to be down on paper.”

Delamere said he is “thrilled” to be department head at the UA for a sixth year, and that shared governance is a principle that makes the university special.

“I think part of what’s made the university good and disciplinary is that ideas can be heard on this campus,” he said. “The faculty stay here for many reasons, and there seems to be a sense of ownership and pride of the faculty in the university. It generates and comes from a feeling of wanting to be part of the process in deciding where we go.”

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