Daily Egyptian

‘This is about power:’ Faculty Association discusses academic reorganization

By Kallie Cox, Staff Reporter

The SIUC Faculty Association, a union for tenured faculty members, met Monday to discuss the reorganization, which they referred to as a “troubling new phase in the campus restructuring process.”

According to a memo sent out by the association, the proposed School of Education and the School of Analytics, Finance and Economics have been sent to interim president J. Kevin Dorsey for approval despite negative faculty votes of 16-7 and 9-6 respectively.

The two schools join the Schools of Human Sciences, Management & Marketing and Agriculture currently awaiting approval by Dorsey.

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Dave Johnson, president of the Faculty Association, said some of the faculty concerns about the reorganization include lack of organized logistics and rather than reporting to deans, new schools directly reporting to interim provost, Meera Komarraju.

“The new phase we have entered is the campus administration defying […] the faculty senate,” Johnson said. “We got no votes in the faculty senate, no votes in the graduate council and the administration is going forward nonetheless with these proposed schools.”

Johnson said the administration is setting a precedent of not listening to faculty and believes the precedent will affect more faculty in the future.  

Clay Awsumb, president of the Graduate Professional Student Council, said plans moving forward without the support of faculty should concern everyone.

“What is going to hinge on whether something succeeds or doesn’t is whether the persons actually believe in what they are going to be tasked with doing,” Awsumb said.

George Boulukos, an English professor at SIU, gave the audience updates and his report on the faculty proposed “School for Social Sciences and Humanities.”

Boulukos said organizers for the proposed school recently met with the interim provost in regards to their push to retaining chairs and the department structure in the new school.

“We believe that gives us the best ability to control our own curriculum and to work within our disciplines as they have been defined,” Boulukos said.

Boulukos said representatives from the interim provost’s office told the group they would never allow department chair structures as part of a new college.

“They told us that they think the idea of sectors is terrible because it creates a structure that is in place and once structures are in place, they become difficult to dismantle,” Boulukos said.

Boulukos said the bottom line of the meeting was power.

“They told us directly and indirectly that this is about power,” Boulukos said. “They want to preserve the maximum power to make decisions and to override any considerations we bring forward.”  

Patrick Dilley, a professor in the Educational Administration and Higher Education department, said this plan is “as ethically and conceptually vapid as the notion that somehow faculty need to take place of the administration.”

Dilley said he agreed with Boulukos.

“This is entirely, entirely, about power and inept leadership,” Dilley said. “We have not been able to have a qualified person actually take an advanced position in leadership in this university for at least a decade.”

Brione Lockett, SIUC Student Trustee, said he has a problem with individuals with interim titles making permanent decisions for the university.

“The university does what it wants and gets what it needs but they don’t give the students what they deserve,” Lockett said. “If proper protocol and requirements were not followed for hiring, how can hired individuals make long-term decisions for the university?”

Virginia Tilley, a professor of Political Science at SIU, asked at what point the administration will be held responsible or when faculty will take drastic action.

“At what point does this whole thing break?” Tilley said. “At what point is either the administration held responsible for an abysmal performance that has led to this [the enrollment crisis] […] and at what point the faculty might consider drastic action.”

Tilley said she does not see the situation turning around and said she believes it will only get worse from here.

Dorsey has approved 6 new schools under the academic reorganization – the School of Biological Science, the School of Applied Engineering and Technology, the School of Earth Systems and Sustainability, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Justice and the School of Public Safety and Psychological Sciences.

In a statement to the Daily Egyptian, Komarraju said the reorganization process has included many meetings with faculty, staff and students to hear their concerns/suggestions and to work collaboratively toward solutions.

“It is not realistic to expect everyone to agree on all aspects of a proposal, and it has been understood by all parties from the beginning that faculty input is advisory,” Komarraju said. “However, we believe that the significant faculty input we have sought and welcomed has shaped nearly all of the proposals for the better.” 

Komarraju said the reorganization is about re-envisioning the university and creating more opportunities for students and faculty.

“It does not give any entity more or less “power” than exists in our current structure,” Komarraju said. “We recognize that organizational change is not easy and requires all members of an organization to be collaborative, to be respectful and to be willing to consider change.”

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @KallieECox.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “‘This is about power:’ Faculty Association discusses academic reorganization”

  1. Christian Alexander Gonzalez on April 10th, 2019 1:49 pm

    These issues are great and impact the student body in many ways. Due to this, I feel much of the student body should know more about these issues and should be more involved. Unfortunately the word is not getting out enough for a majority of the student. To solve this, I think outlets on campus such as RSOs should take part in these school affairs. I know for a fact my RSO would be happy to help and many more would be if the news was better to spread.

  2. Tony Williams on April 10th, 2019 1:50 pm

    This is a timely story.

    Faculty are slowly being removed from any autonomy they have on this campus concerning knowing their disciplines and teaching them in the most professional manner possible. Many of these interim appointments do not have the confidence of faculty since they have clearly revealed their incompetence in the past and the inability to act fairly in cases of documented unethical behavior on the part of certain people and departments on this campus. Students are being cheated here on more than one level.

    In the meantime why is Colwell still here two weeks after the report concerning the circumstances of his appointment? Why was the basketball coach allowed to appoint his own brother since nepotism was also condemned by this report? The administration clearly believes it can get away with anything and Interim President Dorsey is to blame here. Former President Poshard at least removed Chancellor Wendler when problematic issues arose but so far Dorsey has done nothing. The Interim Chancellor has dismissed dissenting serious votes against this proposal of restructuring as “advisory” and states it will probably go ahead.

    The past administration and BOT are too ashamed to admit that they were conned into accepting a scheme that had never worked anywhere else from a former chancellor whose time in Alberta was rocked by scandal, a situation ignored by the local hack newspaper but exposed by the heroic investigative journalism of the DE.

    This is just the latest incident in SIUC’s rapd decline as a credible institution and out two D’s – Dorsey and Dunn – are definitely the worst higher administrators I’ve seen during my time on this campus.

    Keep up the good work, DE – if only to inspire the FA to move away from the servile behavior they have exhibited in the past towards administration.

  3. Jonathan Gray on April 10th, 2019 2:43 pm

    I appreciate the student newspaper’s coverage and willingness to grapple with the complexities of university organization and reorganization. However, there are a few errors in this reporting worth correcting for anyone who reads this far down.

    The proposal (from the faculty) that Dr. Boulukos is addressing is the *College* of Social Sciences and Humanities (not the “School” of same). The proposal addresses the administration’s stated value of synergy between disciplines by proposing centers (not “sectors”) of interdisciplinary focus that the different departments in the college would participate in. The college would keep a basic and familiar structure of departments with department chairs. The upper administration finds the centers too complicated and prefers to combine departments into schools and do away with department chairs. Originally, reorganization touted “synergy” and breaking down silos to support more faculty collaboration. Their focus on schools and mergers, however, really only makes slightly bigger silos — with no evidence that such silos will facilitate synergy OR in any way impact recruitment and retention of students. Moreover, the upper administration insists on mergers of departments simply for mergers’ sake — with no real guiding principles for what conditions necessitate a merger here but not there.

    Again, the primary goal seems to be the removal of departments as contracturally recognized “units” with department chairs as disciplinarily qualified leadership within those units. When a school is a mash-up of different disciplines, the upper admin gets to decide who will serve as shool *director* — who need not have relevant disciplinary expertise. Hence, the focus on “power grab” in what seems to be a work around for the extant collective bargaining agreement and contract. A contract, by the way, that is currently under negotiation (which, again, might explain the rush under a ticking clock).

    It is worth remembering that the previous BOT gave the *Interim* president the right to approve these reorganization plans without BOT oversight or approval. The BOT has since changed in its configuration significantly. The SIU upper admin’s push to get these school proposals to the president despite the lack of majority support for them by their affected faculty is, in part, likely due to those BOT oversight conditions possibly changing in the future.

    An early exigency for the need for reorganization offered by former Chancellor Montemagno was that reorganization (especially nixing departments and department chairs) would save money. It quickly became apparent this was a lie and even he later referred to his own claims as “fake news.”

    The rationale then shifted to “promoting synergy” — which also proves to be both vague and false. You don’t dismantle silos by building bigger ones. You don’t reject actual proposals (e.g. interdisciplinary “centers”) with precedents both here and at other institutions in favor of less clear alternatives with no clear rationale or precedent.

    Repeatedly, the upper admin has touted recruitment and retention as the primary goal of restructuring. They have offered no evidence of how their proposals will do so. Indeed, there is ample evidence that this plan and the ham-fisted ways in which it is being implemented are doing more harm than good on that front.

    The upper admin, now almost entirely *interim*, continues to push a flawed reorganization plan that promises more harm than help for the institution. Their failure to provide clear rationales or transparency in their process should give everyone pause.

    SIU is in trouble and it needs to do something, yes. But we got into this mess precisely because of upper administrative malfeasance and poor vision. I have no hope that we can dig ourselves out of such a mess when our leadership continues to make the same mistakes over and over again.

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