The American Association of University Professors sent a letter this week to University officials to express its concerns about the lack of faculty involvement in the system reorganization and the merging of the presidential and chancellor positions.
University faculty members contacted the AAUP, which then issued a formal complaint challenging the LSU Board of Supervisors’ insistence that the merger process has been “fair and inclusive,” along with the Board’s restructuring approach.
“We strongly disagree with the general implications of the letter concerning the reorganization process and presidential search,” said Interim System President and Chancellor William “Bill” Jenkins. “LSU faculty members have been included in those processes, continue to be included and will continue to play a vital role as the reorganization process unfolds over the next 18 to 24 months.”
The letter was also copied to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the agency responsible for the University’s accreditation.
According to the letter, faculty complained they were denied an opportunity to participate in the discussion that led to the Association of Governing Boards’ recommendation to consolidate the two positions.
“The whole process started in large part due to the feedback that was generated by faculty and staff,” said Board of Supervisors member and Presidential Search Committee Chairman Blake Chatelain in response to the letter. “Problems that were identified in large part by faculty and staff is what led the Board to figure out changes. … I’ve had the back of faculty members on that deal.”
Chatelain said some understand the report and like it, but some do not, and the Board has gotten feedback from both sides.
“The AAUP is a clear and strong signal to any reasonable decision maker that the University is well out-of-step with expectations for a major and comprehensive research University,” said Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope.
The AAUP’s Statement on Government emphasizes the “shared responsibility of both the faculty and Board in the search for and selection of a president” and “envisions the faculty’s playing an active role in the decision-making process.”
“It is not to the advantage of the University, students and citizens of Louisiana for the Board to ignore or marginalize the faculty,” said B. Robert Kreiser, associate secretary for the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance for the AAUP. Kreiser signed the AAUP’s letter.
The letter said only one faculty member is involved in the search committee.
According to Chatelain, three faculty members currently serve on the search committee: William Cooper, professor of history; Thomas Klei, interim vice chancellor of Research and Economic Development; and Cherie-Ann Nathan, professor, vice-chair and director of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Cancer Research at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport.
Faculty leaders emphasized the importance of a president with a Ph.D. and research experience, but the published job description omitted this stipulation, according to the letter.
“The Board understands the desires for the faculty and the importance of an academic background, and we take that seriously,” Chatelain said. “We didn’t want to cast our ad in a way that would discourage anybody. … We want to do a nationwide search and get the best candidate, and we don’t want to box ourselves in.”
The letter also states the AAUP’s concerns about the faculty’s “little to no” representation on the subcommittees — aside from the Academic subcommittee — for the Transition Advisory Team.
The Academic subcommittee has seven faculty members, the Finance and Revenue has no faculty members, Technology and Operations has three, Research and Discovery has four and the Student Experience has two.
“We are hoping the Board of Supervisors will realize the error of their ways and begin to behave as those who are responsible for a large, public treasure ought to behave,” Cope said.