The Gustavian Weekly

What we have here, is a failure to communicate | The Gustavian Weekly

By Lindsay Lelivelt Editor-in-Chief | July 8, 2010 | News

In early May, President Jack Ohle gave a presentation to Gustavus faculty outlining plans to change and amend the College’s bylaws. Voting on the changes was scheduled to occur in early June. This gave faculty little to no time to voice an opinion.

“The excerpts were revealed,” Professor of Physics Steve Mellema said, “[causing] many concerns among the faculty. The changes seemed to be fundamentally altering the nature of governance at Gustavus.”

According to Mellema, Ohle refused to let faculty see the final proposed draft of changes until the following week. The faculty was concerned.

In the draft, “the faculty manual status was unclear, the way Board of Trustee members were elected was proposed to change, taking away power from Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations (GACAC). There were blurred lines between board and faculty member duties,” Mellema said.

The faculty manual “is the literal embodiment of shared governance at Gustavus,” Mellema said. “The Faculty Manual states that, in order to amend the Faculty Manual, both the Board and Faculty must agree to the amendment … [but] the Board has the sole power to change the bylaws.” Since the Faculty Manual’s status was uncertain, concerns were raised.

According to Mellema, “Ohle said that if we [the faculty] had questions about the changes, we could contact him and the provost, and they would convey our concerns to the board.” But Ohle would not be able to gives the faculty feedback from the board, nor would he tell the faculty what concerns he had conveyed to the board.

In reaction to what Mellema described as “one way communication,” a committee was formed—the Faculty Senate Shared Governance Committee.

At the end of last month, a special faculty meeting was held in order to discuss and vote upon the faculty opinion of the president and provost on matters of shared governance.

“Though some people have said that this is a “no confidence” vote, the vote was actually limited to that particular issue,” Vice-Chair of the Faculty Senate and Associate Professor of History Sujay Rao said.

The following is the text of the motion that was approved by the Faculty Senate with a 90-16 vote:

“Pursuant to guidelines for best practice in shared governance, articulated (separately) by the AGB and the AAUP, the Faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College respectfully request that the Board of Trustees delay any ‘finalizing’ action on proposed changes to the College’s bylaws until such time as the Board (or its duly elected designees) has consulted with the Faculty (or its duly elected designees) on the nature and scope of these changes.

The Faculty further requests that the Board view this motion as a statement of the Faculty’s lack of confidence in the President and Provost’s ability to represent the faculty’s interests on matters of shared governance, on the grounds that the administrative and faculty roles and interests are clearly distinguishable (see again AGB, AAUP).”

According to Rao, “The vote grew out of a nearly month-long discussion over the proposal to revise the College’s bylaws—a proposal that has alarmed the faculty both because of some of the content of the proposed bylaws and because there has been little opportunity to discuss the proposal before it goes to the Board of Trustees.”

This vote was the third motion brought to the board. The first two manifested earlier: One to request that the voting on amendments be postponed, and the second was a concern over the absence of dialogue and lack of response to the first.

According to Mellema, “No formal response has ever been received [from the board] to any of the motions.”

The vote occurred as planned, with no postponement.

“There is some clear evidence that some of the things that the faculty was concerned about were remedied. The faculty manual is now included. There are things that we wanted, things that we didn’t and things that we never saw in the original draft,” Mellema said.

The Faculty Senate is moving forward, looking for ways to remedy situations such as this in the future. “It would be wonderful if we could actually talk to the board. There is no established channel for such communication to take place. Direct two-way communication is the hallmark of shared governance,” Mellema said.

1 Comment

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  1. Tane S. Danger says:

    Kudos to the Gustavian Weekly for pursuing this story in what would otherwise be the paper’s hiatus.

    In previous years, the faculty has had held the paper at arm’s length, or worse, shut student journalists out completely. Now it seems the faculty has found a use for transparency in college governance. Let’s just hope those professors and staff remember the value of a free press when they’re the ones under the microscope.