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August 15, 2001 Minutes




Approved Faculty Senate Minutes

August 15, 2001

Special Meeting with President Supple

Senators Present: Mike Blanda, Mary Brennan, Marguerite Gillis, Ted Hindson, Oren Renick, chair, Ron Sawey, Theron Stimmel,  and Jim Stutzman.

Representing Senators Absent: Elizabeth Skerpan-Wheeler, LeAnne Smith-Stedman, Eric Weller, and Tim England.

Guests:  President Jerome H. Supple, Dr. Robert D. Gratz, VPAA, Gaye Krampitz, Ruth Welborn, Frank Josserand, Mary Ann Stutts, Paul Cohen, Dan Lochman, Ruth Taylor, Mike Hennessy, Ken Margerison, Margaret Vaverak, Charles Zucker (Texas Faculty Association), Christine Keller, Thomas Keller, Gilbert Fulmer, David Caverly, Mike Moore, Sam Tarsitano, Kari Lavalli, Don Hazlewood, Cathy Fleuriet, Judy Leavell, R.D. Ogden, J. D. Irvin, Virginia Resta, Gregory Hall, Lesley Jones, Jeff Slomka, David Wiley, Bob Pankey, Todd Curry (ASG), Susan Macey, Miriam Balboa-Echeverria, Lisa Cruz, T. Cay Rowe, Mark Hendricks, Stan Stephenson, David Stea, Selene Hinojosa, Nestor Lugones, Priscilla Leder, and Karen Brown.

The meeting was called to order at 3:00 p.m.

Concerns About the Post-Tenure Review Process

Chair Renick, made an opening statement about the Senate's concern with the post-tenure review process in light of SWT v. Rudnicki. He welcomed President Supple, Dr. Gratz and all guests. President Supple was invited to make an opening statement before proceeding with the discussion.

President Supple stated that the administrative appeals process is continuing because the Board of Regents has not acted on the Rudnicki matter.  Because of the pending nature of the case, including possible litigation, he was limited in what he could specifically say about it.

Renick asked the President if he could discuss process concerns? President Supple stated that everyone was new to this process and the related policy. Needed improvements might emerge from an evaluation of what had transpired.

Note: The remainder of the meeting was in a question and answer format.

The President stated that no specific process improvement recommendation had come to his attention from the recently concluded post-tenure review action. However, to address process generally in today's meeting with the senate could be beneficial to the University.

Citing pages 33-34 of the Faculty Handbook (1999), in the Rudnicki matter, the President was asked if he thought that policy was followed in the Rudnicki matter, relative to the steps taken. Namely, were appropriate procedural steps taken and did the chair meet his responsibilities? The President indicated his conclusion that procedures were followed and chair responsibility had satisfied policy requirements.

Issues Addressing Policy, Procedures, Process, Documentation and Outcomes

A Senator expressed concern to the President that too often chairs have been selected to discipline the faculty with a department and address unstated objectives to force compliance with University commitments. Chairs should deal with faculty in a non-adversarial manner and demonstrate common courtesy and humanity. The President responded that chairs are consistently following policy and applying standards in individual faculty situations.

A Senator described the Rudnicki matter as akin to an assassination “in a start chamber” and that if someone is placed on a “hit list” they need to be warned. The Senator felt that the case was poorly handled. He stated that when a chair doesn't follow or ignores policy, faculty rights are not being protected. How often is this going to happen?

The President said he does not know, but he hoped it would not happen again. He stated if a tenured faculty member is receives three negative annual evaluations and is unresponsive, they need to they removed.

A comment from the audience was made that there seems to be a problem at the chair level. The President related the comment to the current situation. He advocated preventive measure to address potential problems before they become post-tenure review actions.

A Senator commented they were alarmed, by the chairs testimony before the Hearing Tribunal in the Rudnicki matter. The chair clearly stated that policy was not followed; the Senator left the hearing with a feeling that “we are not a community of scholars. We are employees.”

Another Senator commented, that if one (faculty) is bound by policy and the other (chair) is not, and then we are not a community.

The President stated that post-tenure review is relatively new policy and that much still needs to be learned about its application. Perhaps improvement in the process for granting tenure could reduce potential post-tenure review actions.

Potential Deterioration of Relations Between Faculty and Administrators

Concern was raised about other developing post-tenure review actions. In response, the President asked VPAA Gratz to prepare a list of negative performing faculty members.

The President was asked how he felt the Rudnicki matter would affect the University's image? He stated that he is very concerned about how this is viewed off campus.

A Senator stated that in the last couple of years, seven tenure-track or tenured faculty have expressed concerns to the ombudsman of potential actions against them. It was suggested that the Ombudsman is a good place to start in addressing post-tenure review issues.

Potential Ways to Improve the Post-Tenure Review Process

The President requested that the Senate appoint two senators to participate in a University effort to evaluate the post-tenure review policy, procedures and process.

A Senator made comments about hearsay evidence being admitted during the recent Hearing Tribunal. He referred to the 1987 Mason case where hearsay evidence was not admitted. In the Rudnicki matter, hearsay evidence was admitted. Is it University policy to inhibit the due process or law?

The President stated that there was no intent to inhibit due process. The Hearing Tribunal was conducted consistent with policy.

A Senator asked the President if he would entertain the idea of faculty voted chairs. The response was ”no.”

A Senator commented about how disappointing the recent post-tenure review matter was, and that, in effect, the University had written off a major dollar investment in a faculty member. A way must be found to intervene early to prevent or resolve conflict.

President Supple commented, that the dilemma was how to build prevention into the system and how to know when to intervene.

A Senator commented, that we already have it. Faculty must be given a list for corrections, or deficiencies. Someone needs to make sure that the chairs are following policy.

President Supple responded that some how there must be mediation when the first annual evaluation indicates a faculty member has failed to meet departmental expectations.

A Senator stated that it is the administration's job to resolve such systems problems.

A Senator reiterated that when the “red flag” goes up, the faculty member must be given clear, direct, specific actions to follow to meet expectations.

The President responded that faculty members also have a responsibility to do their part to avoid failing to meet departmental expectations.

In response to the question, “What resources do faculty members have?” the President said, “They may grieve (grievance policy) their concerns.”

In response to a Senator's question, the President affirmed that everyone, at all levels of the University, is bound by policy.

Related Concerns

A member of the audience asked the President if the way chairs are selected would be reconsidered. Specifically, what about chairs being elected by faculty or a system of chair rotation within a department. The President stated the view that the appointment of chairs is better than election of chairs.

A member of the audience asked if the decision in the Rudnicki matter might be rescinded. President Supple stated a lot of work went into the decision, and he feels that the evidence forced the decision.

The President was asked if it was impossible to admit a mistake. The President responded that it was not impossible, but that policy was followed and the facts supporting the decision were present.

A member of the audience asked why the President did not meet with Rudnicki, in the course of his post-tenure review. The President stated that the faculty member was given the opportunity to speak up and present his case.

The President was asked if there were specific steps to be taken to prevent this from happening again. He responded affirmatively and that we need to do all that we can to prevent this from happening again.

A comment was made about the potential division, between faculty and administration. We need to make certain that the other side (faculty) is heard when conflicts arise.  President Supple commented that all faculty have the opportunity to speak and present their side.

President Supple raised the question, how do we assure that? Are there ways to get faculty involvement? We need to work to that end.

Outcomes of Grievances by Faculty

The President inquired, how are we going to follow up? He requested that Dr. Gratz (VPAA) prepare a list of all faculty grievances during the last five years to see if there is a pattern to the outcomes.  Is there merit to the faculty concern that they are not supported when they file a grievance against a chair or other administrator?

Chair Renick thanked the President for meeting with the Senate and assured him that the Senate will follow up with his request for representatives to work on improving post-tenure review. Further, he stated that post-tenure review will be a Senate priority during 2001-2002.

Following a break, the Senate reconvened at 4:30 p.m. to review the concluded Special Meeting with the President.

During the discussion, which followed, Senators reviewed the following matters:

*  Post-tenure review must assure equal protection safeguards;
*  Appointment of the hearing tribunal by the administration should be reviewed;
*  Post-tenure policy may not have been followed in the Rudnicki matter, particularly during the first annual evaluation;
*  The Senate should be proactive in assuring that faculty who fail to meet departmental expectations are being
    appropriately mentored in responding to their remediation plan;
*  The Senate may be able to collaborate with a department to identify the components of effective peer review; and
*  The Senate may be able to establish a sentinel system to inform faculty when performance may not be meeting
    departmental expectations.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:15 p.m.