I have seen so much email on this issue that I feel inadequate to do justice to the arguments against imposed cohort categories or the use of "rebate" funding for permanent positions, mentioned by the Provost at the last Senate meeting. Therefore, I hope people who have more to contribute will use the comments section of this blog.
I will address a few of the issues:
1. Funding Sources for Initial Hiring: We get nothing for free
In the Senate meeting of March 19, Jacinta Amaral asked the following question: "I’m very concerned about the funding stream for this [cohort hiring] and how long would the provost’s money stay with that hire. At some point, would a department be told, now it’s all yours. What happens to cohort funding should we change provosts. How is it set up to protect departments over time?"
Provost Covino replied as follows: "The funding that’s provided is permanent. It recurs every year. Of course, if there is a dramatic budget cut, it might have us considering all kinds of things, that’s another issue. But as with any tenure track hire, the funding is permanent."
Senate Meeting of March 19
As I noted, Provost Covino had not answered the question, which was about the funding stream, not the permanence of the funding. Where was the money coming from? Which sources would it come from in the future? Subsequent Senate statements by both Dean Vida Samiian and Provost Covino have gotten us closer to an answer.
At the April 16 meeting, Provost Covino said in the preceding year there had been additional dollars in the Academic Affairs budget under a line item that said "Faculty Appointments," and this money was used for cohort hiring. This year, the money was a rebate, presumably freed up benefit money, from Centrally Monitored Funds.
Well, why shouldn't allocation models be mechanical? Hiring obviously should not be mechanical, but perhaps the allocation process, which is sensitive to all sorts of factors, including student demand, if mechanical, is not so in a stupid way; and when the data changes--such as a drop in student demand or method of delivery--the allocation changes. For the Provost's argument to be persuasive, he'd have to show a flaw in the allocation model designed by Brandt Kehoe--and Brandt was one smart physics professor--and before him, Helen Gigliotti, one smart physical chemist. The place to exercise judgment is within the bounds of a rational allocation model--not to shoot from the budgetary hip, without regard to the effect on allocations down the line.
We have been taught not to like the word "mechanical." It is not an evil word. The system of proportion representation that governs the House of Representatives is mechanical. I don't want to give Montana 10 more Congressmen this year to prevent it's being mechanical, and the only reason I can see to reject a rational allocation model is to favor some schools over others. To that we can apply another word designed to get a knee-jerk reaction: "discrimination."
6. Cohort Hiring has been turned down, according to reports I've seen, by Sociology, Linguistics, and Communication. English will be deliberating on the issue.
[I received the following addition, from Kevin Ayotte, Communication, a few hours after putting up this blog:
Because I think that it is imperative that all participants in this university-wide conversation represent their positions fully and fairly, I want to make one clarification about the situation of the interpersonal communication search within the Health Cohort. Dean Samiian was the one who proposed putting this position request in the Health Cohort in the hope of having the search approved. I do not want to give the impression that the College of Arts & Humanities requested a non-cohort position and the Provost slotted it into the Health Cohort.
The details above do not, however, in any way impact the department's decision regarding the cohort hire. Our concerns re: the constraints that would be placed upon the search and our curriculum are the same. Moreover, I certainly do not perceive this chain of events as Dean Samiian's endorsement of cohort hiring. I spoke with her about the search request and it was initially proposed for the Health Cohort because the current structure of cohort hiring is the only way that Colleges/Schools can get access to the full funding the university has available to hire new faculty. If hiring funds were allocated fully to the College/Schools per the current resolution in the Senate, this would not be an issue. Dean Samiian has resubmitted our request to see if a search without a cohort requirement will be approved, and I will keep everyone updated.]
If I've missed anyone, please chime in.
In summary, the imposition of cohort categories and the funding of hires, outside of Level B, ought to be rejected. This kind of management is of one piece with eliminating schools, disenfranchising departments and schools, hiring faculty to perform academic functions directly under the direction of the provost, appointing task forces rather than going through Senate standing committees and the University Budget Committee, "declarative" consultation, throttling the flow of information, and all of the other tactics and initiatives we have seen this year that centralize power over instruction and curriculum in administrators.
If we want to remain a faculty, in any meaningful sense of the word, all of this has to be fought, and right now, the front line is this resolution on hiring.