April 23, 2001
Don't bypass faculty governance
Harvey Klehr is Mellon Professor of Politics and History.
In 30 years on the faculty of Emory College, I recall only one other occasion when the faculty challenged an administrative decision.
Some 20 years ago, Leon Mandel, then-head of chemistry, offered a denunciation
of a unilaterally imposed parking fee increase. After 10 seconds of discussion,
the faculty unanimously ordered the administration to rescind it. The
fee was rescinded. Two years later and without fanfare, it was unilaterally
raised once again, this time without protest.
We may have lost control over parking, but if we, as a faculty, lose
control over the very organization of Emory College, we might as well
surrender any illusion that this faculty retains any collective authority.
Two weeks ago the faculty passed a resolution concerning the recent reorganization
of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and the creation of a new executive vice
provost for A&S. There were two issues in the resolution, and I believe
they are linked.
The first one is quite obvious: A very significant change in the organization
of Emory College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences had been
unilaterally imposed on the faculty by the administration. A new administrative
structure had been put in place, responsibilities had been reallocated
and the faculty had been told to accept it. We had heard that faculty
governance at Emory was broken and that we now had an opportunity
to fix it; I would suggest that it was broken because it was not used.
Precisely because this change was not openly discussed, its results were
flawed. In the weeks after it was announced, there was confusion about
the precise role of the new Executive Vice Provost and whether his duties
were more decanal or provostial.
At the time of the college faculty meeting, almost half the members of
the graduate school facultythose outside of the collegestill
had not been formally notified that their status had changed. And, in
place of an old structure that had two deans reporting to a provost, we
had six deans, reporting to an executive vice provost who reported to
a provostand a promise that more deans would be appointed shortly.
The second issue is the status of the college. Our resolution noted that
this reorganization had weakened the dean of Emory College, who no longer
controlled faculty hiring, budgets or tenure and promotion. The dean of
the college would no longer report directly to the provost. In fact, the
dean was left with control only of curriculum and undergraduate student
affairs. None of the other newly appointed deans reported to him.
A prominent political scientist once argued that organizations
are the mobilization of bias. No one doubts that separate college
and graduate school units had consequences, some of them undesirable and
cited as reasons for this change. But the new structure would also have
consequences, and it is naïve or disingenuous to pretend that a unified
structure will simply allow for more coordination.
By the same token, it would create needless work to turn both the college
and the graduate school upside down for two years while we debated about
a reorganization. It is more prudent to debate first and only have to
reorganize once. I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me that both the
college bylaws and the Grey Book would have had to be amended to fit the
proposed new structures under them.
For example, the bylaws state that the Dean of a School or College
shall be appointed by the Board of Trustees or its Executive Committee
upon recommendation of the President, who shall have conferred regarding
such recommendation with an appropriate committee of the members of the
faculty of the school or college ... The Dean of a school or college shall
have responsibility for the direction of the work of his or her division
... The Dean shall supervise the work and direct the discipline of his
or her division; the Dean shall advise with the President in the formation
of the faculty.
Also, the Grey Book makes very clear that an individual dean has primary
responsibility for tenure and promotion recommendations from his or her
unit. Why change these now and then change them again in two years if
we adopt some other structure?
If, after a full and frank discussion, the college faculty were to vote
for the exact same structure that was imposed, I might be persuaded by
arguments that my fears for the college were unfounded, or I might be
very unhappy. But I would accept the right of the faculty to determine
what kind of institution we wanted to be and recognize that in this (as
in so many other cases) I was an educational outlier.
This resolution, overwhelmingly adopted by the faculty, makes an important
statement. It signifies that the faculty wants to be a full partner in
determining the vision of Emory University.
Editors note: The president, the provost and the incoming interim provost met with the College Executive Committee on Monday, April 16, and were scheduled to meet with the Executive Committee of the Graduate School on Friday, April 20. They will meet again with the College Executive Committee on Wednesday, April 25.