Faculty union challenges provost’s revised handbooks

Allison Smith

Professors raise concerns about new templates

The Kent State chapter of the American Association of University Professors claims the provost’s revisions to handbooks violate the collective bargaining agreement.

The handbooks regulate policies within a college, and new templates were developed in Provost Bob Frank’s office. Those templates do away with handbooks for each department and college and create universal policy handbooks.

“At Kent State we have two types of handbooks; we have handbooks for colleges and we have handbooks for departments,” Frank said. “At Kent State we have an extraordinary amount of authority invested in the handbooks in the departments.”

The handbooks contain the mission, objectives, structure and organization of each college.

Kent State union professors wrote to members expressing disagreement over language in the new template, saying they apply too broad a policy stroke for the number of colleges at Kent State.

Kara Robinson, chapter president of AAUP, said the handbooks have conflicts with the tenure track and non-tenure track collective bargaining agreements. The AAUP believes the documents fail to recognize the diversity of academic units at Kent State.

“Our concern is if a unit were to take the template language and adopt it in whole,” Robinson said. “That’s why we pointed out to them where we feel the problems lie.”

In a letter sent out to members of both collective bargaining units, a document listed more than 20 conflicts and tensions between the handbook templates and the bargaining agreements.

Robinson said the AAUP is appreciative of the Office of the Provost’s interest in handbooks.

“We agree with him that handbooks do need to clearly express what the faculty of the unit consider important,” Robinson said.

Frank said the departments have edited and modified their handbooks so many times that the handbooks now have a significant degree of variance among them.

“They’re so long and detailed and complicated that people just tend to change parts of them; and so if you read the whole document there are parts that should be edited and updated that don’t reflect current university policy,” Frank said.

Frank said he and Associate Provost Sue Averill went through and updated all the references, put the same kind of language in the handbooks and gave them back to the departments as a template.

“We gave two models, one for the arts and one for the sciences, and said, ‘Here’s a template. You go and review it and adjust it for your discipline needs and then send it back to your dean for review,'” Frank said. “The dean then has the responsibility of reviewing it and either approving it or sending it back or just flat-out not accepting it.”

Frank said the Office of the Provost has provided the departments with the language to improve their handbooks, but if they would prefer to do it another way, they certainly can.

“Obviously we don’t believe this violates either of those contracts,” Frank said. “If you read those sections of the contract carefully, they specify that the dean has the prerogative to ask faculty to review the handbooks and there’s a specified series of steps in there.”

Contact administration reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].