Faculty Council reaffirms commitment to shared governance

Faculty+Council+met+in+172+Tremont+St.+and+approved+a+resolution+reaffirming+their+commitment+to+shared+governance.

Photo: Parker Purifoy

Faculty Council met in 172 Tremont St. and approved a resolution reaffirming their commitment to shared governance.

By Parker Purifoy, Emerson '21

Faculty Council voted unanimously to move a resolution reaffirming their commitment to shared governance to the full Faculty Assembly during their Jan. 16 meeting.

The proposal states that college faculty wish to recommit to the implementation of shared governance in all faculty matters including research, creative accomplishments, salary and benefits, and working conditions. The full Faculty Assembly will vote on the resolution at their Jan. 29 meeting.

While most of the faculty council appeared to be in agreement on the resolution, Chair of the Faculty Council Tim Riley disagreed with many of the examples others were using to make the case for increased shared governance.

Shared governance is the idea that individuals on every level of an institution can influence decisions within the institution.

Professor Thomas Cooper, who was among the group to propose the resolution, said there were several examples in the last six months which prompted the need to discuss shared governance at the college. He brought up the Marlboro merger, the increased healthcare costs for faculty and staff, and the rollout of Workday as examples of a lack of communication between the administration and the faculty.

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Cooper said in the meeting that faculty leadership and the unions were not informed of the proposed Marlboro merger before President M. Lee Pelton’s public announcement in November. He also said they were not told about the spiking health care costs until the Oct. 22 faculty assembly meeting—the same day professor Moses Shumow died in a train accident.

The college raised health insurance renewal costs for 2020 by 16.8 percent.

Cooper said the college additionally did not sufficiently ask for faculty input when switching to Workday, which caused problems in the implementation of the software.

According to previous Beacon reporting, Workday replaced the college’s previous system, Banner, in handling payroll, human resources, and finance. When the college shifted to Workday in July, faculty members experienced complications transitioning to the new software, which lead to overpaid faculty members and issues with reimbursement processes.

“There are other examples but we don’t want to get off on a tangent, discussing the past issue by issue,” Cooper said at the meeting. “What we want to do is prevent all of this in the future and have consistency of input via our three democratic bodies. We don’t want to manage these issues, but serve as consultants and partners with true consistency and with a timeline that allows us to do this before rather than after.”

Visual and Media Arts Professor Cher Knight said in the meeting that the proposed resolution is not about blaming individuals or the administration as a whole but about preventing similar issues from arising in the future.

“The one thing that links all of those particular incidents is where there have been breakdowns in the shared governance or where it’s not working at its optimum best,” she said. “Again, it’s not about finger-pointing, but we’ve had three recent examples that I think all of us would agree have been pretty major issues for our institution. It feels like if we just look at the empirical evidence, it’s an important time for us to start doing some care-taking for shared governance on campus.”

Riley, who disagreed with these examples, said faculty members were warned about the Workday rollover, and that the administration did not know how large the health care cost increase would be until three days before it was announced. He also said he sympathized with the administration over the way the Marlboro merger was announced.

“They were dealing with a very, very intense PR situation that involves a whole other institution, a whole lot of other tenured professors,” Riley said in the meeting. “And [Pelton] didn’t want word to get out ahead of time and rumors to start spreading.”

He then said he did not agree that the resolution was the right way to get increased shared governance.

“When we frame something like this around a resolution like this, and we come at the administration antagonistically, it’s not really my style,” he said. “I can understand how the union might feel that way, they have an adversarial relationship to start with.”

Gian Lombardo, president of the union representing full-time faculty, interrupted Riley to disagree with the notion that the unions were being antagonistic. After the meeting, Lombardo said it was his job to advocate for the faculty, even if that did seem confrontational.

“I have to advocate for everything in our profession that goes just beyond work, salary and benefits,” he said in an interview. “It goes back to issues like shared governance and having a say in what affects us and having a say in the curriculum. So I need to speak up, and sometimes speaking up is viewed as being adversarial. But if you don’t ask for something, you never get anything.”

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