Frank’s actions upset Senate

Faculty think he overstepped his boundaries

The Faculty Senate adopted a resolution at yesterday’s meeting urging the Provost’s Office to stop creating ad hoc committees that interfere with the senate’s duties.

According to the resolution presented at the meeting by Senate Vice Chair Paul Farrell, the Provost’s Office “usurped” the senate by forming committees for high-priority senate issues such as the Kent Core, sabbaticals and the tenure policy.

The resolution cites three examples: an administration ad hoc committee formed to revise the liberal education requirement curriculum that will become the Kent Core; an administration ad hoc committee formed to consider changes to policy governing sabbatical leave; and an administration mandate to revise the university tenure policy.

The senate and faculty union consider the third example the biggest overstep because the Professional Standards Committee, which is revising the university’s tenure policy, only includes faculty members.

The resolution states that the PSC “does not recognize the Office of the Provost among its members” and “is capable of, and is currently completing a revision of both the University Tenure Policy and the University Promotion Policy.”

“It’s OK to have these (administration ad hoc) committees,” Farrell said after the meeting, “but in the end, it’s up to the senate to endorse it.”

Provost Robert Frank responded to the resolution and questions from senators that followed with a summary of his office’s collaboration with senate committees.

“Not only did Faculty Senate participate in these meetings,” he said, “but they recommended people to us.”

That’s when Sen. Deborah Smith joined the debate. Smith is also the grievance chair of Kent State’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which serves as the faculty union.

Although the AAUP-KSU is officially unrelated to the senate, union leadership voted to support it in a letter saying the senate’s efforts to revise the tenure and promotions policy are “directly tied to the tenure-track unit’s collective bargaining agreement.”

Smith’s role as grievance chair is charged with confronting the university’s administration on behalf of the faculty.

“(That there were senate members) on those ad hoc committees is, to my mind, pretty irrelevant . That committee produced a document with recommendations that were then disseminated by your office,” Smith added, addressing the provost. “They clearly included changes to policy.”

However, Frank said he was unaware of the document.

After the Faculty Senate meeting, Frank sent an e-mail to the Professional Standards Committee and faculty, praising them for the “speedy progress on the revisions of the promotion and tenure standards.”

The provost caused a stir when he e-mailed faculty members Thursday, urging them to contact their senate representatives about the importance of tenure and promotion policy revisions.

Revisions that would simplify and clarify the current tenure and promotion policies have been on President Lester Lefton’s agenda since he was hired, and Frank is frustrated at how long it’s taking to revise the policy.

In his e-mail, Frank referred to Lefton’s State of the University address in September where he said, “a range of issues on the governance table have reached the point at which decisions must replace discussions.

Also in his e-mail, Frank said the PSC finished revising the tenure policy and was ready for review at the May senate meeting with just a matching promotion policy left to do. He wrote, “the process slowed to a standstill” when new issues were brought up at the July senate meeting and when the debate continued with newly appointed committee members.

PSC Chair Susan Roxburgh responded yesterday morning in an e-mail.

“The Provost also minimizes the scope of our recent efforts,” she wrote, adding later “the committee has worked very hard to complete this endeavor in as timely a manner as possible.”

Roxburgh echoed the senate resolution, saying “it is not appropriate or in keeping with past practice for the provost to participate in meetings and indeed, as was the case for virtually the entire 07-08 AY, to convene meetings of the PSC.”

Ferrell, who presented the resolution at yesterday’s meeting, said he thought the provost’s e-mail was unnecessary because there’s no need to have the policy revised this semester.

“It was creating a conflict that didn’t need to be there,” he said.

At the end of the senate meeting, the PSC announced it had completed a revised policy and would be ready to discuss it at the Nov. 2 meeting.

Meanwhile, Frank says his office is just doing its job, and its relationship with the faculty is more collaborative than the resolution suggests.

“It’s probably better to focus on all the things we’re agreeing on,” he said, “than the few things we’re disagreeing on, in general. We’re doing the things a provost’s office is expected to do. There are some differences about the timeline we’re expected to follow. I don’t think we’ve usurped their authority.”

Contact faculty affairs reporter Colin Morris at c[email protected] and academic affairs reporter Jamie Shearer at [email protected].