Constant reshuffling of the organizational structure at Western Carolina University — at least three such applecart upsets in just six years — led to a recent faculty resolution seeking some order to the chaos.
“This … is in response to past practices, or mis-practices, on campus,” said Sean O’Connell, a WCU professor who led a review of how other universities handle similar reorganizations.
WCU’s Faculty Senate passed an official request recently calling on administration to develop guidelines and to follow them when considering organizational changes.
The tone of the meeting — discussion lasted just 20 minutes — was in stark contrast to a two-hour debate that raged among the board’s members on the same topic last April.
That spring meeting came shortly after the College of Education and Allied Profession was shuffled about, however, resulting in the resignation of Professor Jacqueline Jacobs, a tenured faculty member. She resigned to bring attention to her contention that university administration failed to include faculty members in decisions concerning reorganization.
More than six months later, Faculty Senate opted in a 22-2 vote to ask the university’s administration to emphasize “shared governance,” and to “recognize the necessity of faculty knowledge and participation in academic decision making.”
This, according to the resolution, would mean “all reviews and deliberations about reorganization should be conducted in a collegial and constructive way. Any reorganization proposal should seriously consider disciplinary and interdisciplinary relationships and shall also investigate impacts on stakeholders in non-academic units.”
In plain English, the people who work at WCU want to have their views considered when changes are contemplated.
Faculty hope making their desire for inclusion clear in the form of a resolution will avoid what has happened in the past.
“I think it’s clear that if the new reorganization policy recently passed by Faculty Senate had been in effect last year, the reorganization of the College of Education and Allied Professions, which eliminated two departments and suspended the doctoral program would not have proceeded as it did, without any significant faculty participation,” Professor Mary Jean Herzog said in an email interview.
Herzog works within the College of Education and Allied Professions and was critical of how a re-organization within that college was handled.
“Faculty participation and voice may scare some administrators as well as some faculty, but it has been proven, over and over again, that when decisions are made that involve all the stakeholders, the institution earns dividends in student, staff, and faculty support,” Herzog said in an email.
Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, defended the reorganization, however. A university-level review of decision-making during the reorganization of the College “determined that appropriate processes were followed. … The institution has recognized the likelihood of other units needing to reorganize due to the economy and the lack of any university policy to guide those efforts. The resolution from the senate is the first step from one of the constituencies on campus to begin the development of guidelines.”
There’s no word on when, or if, the university’s top leadership will embrace the resolution as future policy when it comes to reorganization.
Salary scrutiny study
Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher told faculty members late last month that he has authorized a “thorough” salary analysis to review who gets what and why in the form of pay at the university.
“This is to be prepared for that time when we do get money again,” Belcher said. “I’m worried about the salaries.”
Belcher noted a salary study at WCU has not been done in several years. Salary increases also have been nonexistent as North Carolina struggles with the economic downturn.
English Professor Elizabeth Heffelfinger asked if the study would include information previously gathered about possible inequities at WCU in what women and men are paid.
“I want this to be as comprehensive as possible,” Belcher said in an affirmative response. The study would include all faculty, staff, and administrative positions.