Academic Governance (and Protest) at Fordham

BY MICHAEL DECESARE

In discussions of academic governance, administrators like to emphasize the need for trust. Trouble is, they’re usually the ones to betray it.

The latest case in point comes from Fordham University. As reported in a February 1 article in the Fordham Ram, the administration announced in June 2016 that “it would impose a salary deal on the faculty without having come to an agreement with the Faculty Senate on salary and benefits, as required by the [university’s] statutes.” The administration’s unilateral “deal” was handed down to the faculty after failed salary negotiations with the faculty senate.

So much for trust.

Failed negotiations, according to the same article, have happened before at Fordham. When no agreement was reached by May or June, the two sides resumed negotiations in the fall. This time around–under a chief financial officer (CFO) beginning his second year at the university–the administration simply “imposed a salary increase on the faculty and refused to negotiate further.”

So much for trust.

The senate’s salary and benefits committee promptly informed the faculty that the administration’s action violated the university’s statutes. The president of the senate then filed grievances against the president of the university, the CFO (who is also a “senior vice president”), the provost, and the board of trustees. On Thursday, the university’s hearing committee found that the grievances had merit.

University counsel, as it turns out, couldn’t have cared less: “Since the [Hearing] Committee had no authority to act upon the grievances, the decisions of the Committee are not determinative,” she declared in an email message to the faculty. “The Administration will not be re-opening salary negotiations for the current academic year, but looks forward to continuing to work with you on negotiations for the upcoming year.”

So much for trust.

To their credit, more than 150 faculty lined up outside of yesterday’s university strategic planning meeting, tape over their mouths, in protest of the administration’s refusal to accept the hearing committee’s findings (click here for pictures). Administrators and board members were forced to file past them on their way into the meeting. Several dozen additional faculty, who could not attend because of teaching obligations, wrote in support of the silent protest event.

So-called “shared” governance may be, in part, about trust. But effective academic governance is about an institution’s governing board, administration, and faculty being “aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action,” as the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities put it.

Fordham’s faculty have that awareness. The university’s administration would do well to acquire it.

2 thoughts on “Academic Governance (and Protest) at Fordham

  1. Pingback: A Troubling Assault on Student Rights at Fordham | ACADEME BLOG

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