BCAAUP Discusses Governance
Professors Look At Faculty Involvement
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 11:02
Faculty involvement in Boston College’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (BCAAUP) has increased since its start in 2010, and now boasts over 120 members. Recent signs during last Friday’s meeting, however, hinted at a growing sense of apathy toward one of BCAAUP’s main goals—establishing faculty governance.
The BCAAUP aims to set up a faculty senate so that they can have a stronger voice in University decision-making. Members were unhappy with the lack of transparency in the University administration and even confused as to the structure of governance within the faculty handbook’s bylaws and statutes.
“Each year for the past three years we’ve done a survey of all faculty at BC,” said Paul Gray, associate professor of sociology. “Full-time, part-time, adjunct, tenured, non-tenured … in all the different schools.”
This year’s survey had 177 respondents, a drop from the 260-plus people who responded in each of the previous two years. Gray suspected that the drop may be the result of “a little bit of a burn out.”
According to the survey results, only 14 percent of respondents disagreed that faculty morale has declined in recent years. The qualitative comments as to why this figure is so low have not been compiled yet.
Other statistics were about faculty opinion of the University administration: only 25 percent claimed they were satisfied with the administration on the campus-wide level. Others had to do with faculty compensation—only 46 percent of respondents agreed that they were fairly compensated for the work they do.
The broader the questions and the farther away they were from the respondent’s “home” department, the greater the discontent. Nineteen percent of respondents claimed they were satisfied with faculty decision making on the campus-wide level, 27 percent were satisfied at their school level, and 66 percent were satisfied at their respective departmental levels.
Over 70 percent said that they do not agree that the school facilitates collaboration across disciplines.
Thomas Coffey, a professor who is heavily involved with faculty governance at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., spoke at Friday’s meeting and outlined the importance of quality faculty handbooks. He also offered his advice as to how to pitch the argument for stronger faculty governance to the administration.
The BCAAUP members seemed to agree that assembling their own handbook and system of government would help create a better faculty experience and increase academic freedom.
“What do we do when the Vice Provost for Faculty writes [to us], ‘Oh no, you’re wrong—we, the administration, handles the faculty handbook, and look, this is what they do at Brown and Columbia?’” asked Susan Michalczyk, the president of BCAAUP and assistant director of the BC Honors Program. “When they say these things, what recourse do we have? They say these things like the sky is black or white.”
According to Michalczyk, the administration disagrees that a faculty senate would improve the overall University.
“The Provost Advisory Council Chair said to me, ‘We’re Boston College, and we’re unique, and we’re proud to not have a senate.’” Michalczyk said.
Faculty bullying was also brought up at the meeting. Among the respondents in the BCAAUP survey, 23 percent claimed they personally experienced “bullying” among faculty, the majority of which came from the heads of departments and school deans. Respondents noted that the term “bullying” was inappropriate because it carried a child-like connotation—however, they claimed that it did exist among the faculty.
An environmental issue related to University investment allocation was also brought up at the meeting.
“350.org, a grassroots environmental organization working directly on climate change, has started a divestment movement to move University endowments out of fossil fuel companies,” said Bobby Wengronowitz, GA&S ’19. “There’s now a group on the BC campus working on this issue. I think the best way to look at this campaign would be to just grow the numbers of people who see this as serious issue and show our political force.”
The BCAAUP will next meet in May. They hope to rally more support among the faculty and start collaborating on a new handbook.
“The only way we’re going to have an impact as far as AAUP is to get our numbers up … and we have to somehow get our colleagues to join,” Michalczyk said.