The issues identified by the open letter require an on-going community conversation and I hope I can help that to happen by offering this blog as a forum.
August 10, 2012
I am in receipt of your letter which expresses concern about shared governance and consultation at Fresno State.
The dramatic disinvestment in higher education over the past four years by the state of California has placed extraordinary stress on our University community. We are attempting to serve approximately the same number of students with $15 million fewer dollars than we had in 2008-09. This situation stresses the entire fabric of our University community, and I recognize the anger and frustration that you feel. Our University community can be very proud of its commitment to shared governance and consultation over the past twenty years. We can be even prouder of the commitment we have demonstrated to our students, whose benefit must always remain the focus of our decision making.
It may be helpful to review Article 2, Section 5 of the Academic Assembly Constitution of California State University, Fresno, which outlines the role of the Academic Senate in policy consultation and recommendations.
Section 5. POLICY CONSULTATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
“The variety and complexity of the tasks performed by institutions of higher
education produce an inescapable interdependence among governing board,
administration, faculty, students and others. The relationship calls for adequate
communication among these components and full opportunity for appropriate joint
planning and effort”.i The deliberative process of consultation is therefore required.
Meaningful consultation from initial formulation through final determination of
policy and procedures, consists of thoughtful deliberation and presentation of facts
and opinions leading to consensus or agreement.
To achieve optimum communications, consultation and cooperation within the
University, responsibilities of Academic Senate Standing Committees shall include:
Formulation of policy recommendations in consultation with the
Development of procedures that accompany policy recommendations in
consultation with the Administration;
Consultation with the Administration on the implementation of policy;
Consultation with the Administration on other appropriate matters;
Consultation with other Academic Senate Standing Committees as appropriate;
and Consultation with the Council of Deans as appropriate.
- Formulation of policy recommendations in consultation with the Administration;
California State University, Fresno
5241 North Barton Avenue M/S ML48 • Fresno, California 93740-8027
C. Policy recommendations or reports, except as defined in Section 8.C, emanating from Academic Senate Standing Committees, Subcommittees, task forces or ad hoc committees shall be forwarded to the Academic Senate for appropriate review and approval before submission to the President for final action.
I have been committed to consultation on policy matters, and that commitment will continue in the future. Please allow me to address the specific issues; some which are policy matters, and others that are not, which you refer to in your letter.
First, with regard to parking lots A and J. In 2005, the campus initiated a comprehensive planning process to develop a master plan for the campus, which was completed in November 2006, after extensive consultation with the campus community. The completed Master Plan indicated that a parking structure would be constructed on Lot J. Obviously, construction of a parking structure would require the removal of trees. This plan was modified during the 2011-12 academic year as a result of declining enrollments, economic conditions, and the need to minimize student fee increases. The revised plan called for a reconstruction of Lots A and J to increase the number of spaces by approximately 500 to serve students. The increase will address our parking needs for, at least, the next ten years. This plan was presented to the FACEL Committee of the Academic Senate on February 1, 2012. Unfortunately, there was very poor attendance at this meeting. The next consultative group responsible for reviewing the plans was the Campus Planning Committee (CPC), which is supposed to have two faculty members on the committee. Despite numerous requests from the Office of the Vice President for Administrative Services, beginning in August 2011, for the Academic Senate to make appointments to the CPC, there was not sufficient faculty representation at the CPC meeting when this matter was considered. Further, this matter was not considered by the Arboretum Committee because parking lots are not part of the University’s arboretum.
After reviewing the process followed on the reconstruction of these lots, I agree that there should have been more faculty participation in the discussion about these lots. However, the facts do not support a conclusion that faculty were ignored. There is shared responsibility in this matter, and clearly our governance processes did not function adequately. Vice President Teniente-Matson has a complete record of efforts made to consult and to get individuals appointed to committees, and she will provide this record if you so desire.
I have reviewed the process for consultation concerning facilities, the arboretum and sustainability. Vice President Teniente-Matson will present recommendations for changes to the Academic Senate Executive Committee for consideration at its first meeting this fall. I am confident we can establish systems which will assure significant faculty participation in the future. I apologize that this process did not meet the standards of consultation that I believe are important for our University community.
With regard to our budget planning discussions, I do not agree that the University Budget Committee was "bypassed and replaced with a non-elected Budget Task Force". It was the charge of the Task Force to provide recommendations for consideration by the University community, and ultimately the University Budget Committee and the Academic Senate. Many of the suggestions considered by the Task Force came from recommendations which have been voiced by the University Community in previous years. This process did get the attention of our University community, but it did not result in productive recommendations for the University Budget Committee to consider. I believe the process did tell us what would not be acceptable to the community. As you know, the broadly inclusive consultative process included a special meeting of the Academic Senate and resulted in
I recognize that the issue of cohort hiring has become contentious for some. It is important to recognize that we have lost $15 million since the 2008-2009 academic year. It is very unlikely that this money will be restored. In this context, maintaining and growing our tenure-track faculty is a crucial priority. The reduction of faculty positions to accommodate budget cuts has freed up dollars in the benefits pool, and the Provost is devoting these dollars to faculty hires. Some of these are cohort positions, all of which address crucial needs identified by the Departments, and entail some interdisciplinary collaboration consistent with the Department expectations and determined by the faculty. There is a growing consensus in the higher education community about the value of interdisciplinary approaches to students.
The process of identifying faculty needs for new hires rests with the departments and Schools/Colleges. This process will continue.
All requests for cohort hires for 2012-13 originated with the Department Chairs and Deans, before being authorized by the Provost. Once an appointment is complete, the School or College will receive permanent funding for these positions. Thus, the addition of these faculty positions will permanently benefit a School or College.
It is necessary that we reexamine the Level B funding model to consider all sources of funding since there has been such a dramatic change in the sources of funds we use to support our programs. Therefore, consistent with the Task Force recommendations that were accepted last spring, I am requesting that the University Budget Committee consider a revised Level B funding model this fall that reflects the multiple sources of revenue that are supporting the Schools and Colleges, including revenue provided through the partial funding of faculty positions. It is my hope that these revisions can be recommended by the end of the fall semester so we have a clear and predictable model available to use as we address funding based upon the outcome of the November election. The University Budget Committee will forward the appropriate policy recommendations to the Academic Senate for consideration.
I will be discussing the budget situation, our carry-forward, and related issues at the Faculty and Staff Assembly on August 17. These remarks will provide full and up-to-date information on our fiscal situation as we begin the semester.
The final specific issue identified in your letter is the development of a new logo. The process followed is fully described at the following site: http://www.fresnostate.edu/advancement/ucomm/brand/faqs.html.
[Here is a link to the above site: Campus Branding Standards]
You are correct that the Academic Senate was not asked to approve the logo. However, either the Chair or the Vice Chair of the Academic Senate has served on the Integrated Marketing and Communications Council since its inception, and invitations were extended to all members of the University community to participate in this process. The extensive research efforts were led by a faculty member. Senate Executive Committee minutes of May 2, 2011 indicate that “Chair Caldwell announced the Integrated Marketing and Communications Council (IMCC) is conducting a focus group to report on its work and seek input from campus stakeholders. An invitation to participate in the focus group has been sent to faculty via email. Caldwell encouraged participation from the Executive Committee.”
I did respond to the Academic Senate resolution, and that response can also be found at the above noted site. I believe that response did acknowledge some of the most intense concerns raised by members of the Academic Senate, and provides for the use of the seal on stationery for correspondence internationally, and with academic societies, publishers and for reference letters. Further, I have asked Senate Chair Lynn Williams to use the appropriate processes to appoint two members of the Academic Senate to serve on an advisory committee, which among other duties will consider modifications to the graphic standards guidelines and use of the logo. I believe this will help us resolve critical issues through a positive consultative process.
I am committed to shared governance and consultation in policy matters as outlined in the Academic Assembly Constitution, and I believe I have demonstrated that in the past. I have had numerous discussions with our senior administrative leadership about the importance of effective consultation. I pledge to you, and the Academic Senate, that I will make every effort to follow our guidelines, policies and practices to consult, consistent with my responsibilities. I am very pleased that Senate Chair Williams plans to schedule weekly meetings of the Academic Senate as long as the body has business to address. I will do everything possible to work on improving our shared governance process.
I recognize that this written communication does not address every issue or concern expressed by those who have signed the letter. I would be very interested in discussing these issues with you, or a representative group if you so desire.
This fall, we face an extraordinary election in which the citizens of this state will be called upon to express their commitment to funding of public higher education. The outcome of this election will affect our students and future students for years to come. We must be focused on doing everything possible to gain support for this effort. I hope you will join me in that effort.
John D. Welty President
cc: Dr. Lynn Williams, Chair of the Academic Senate Academic Senate Members