ASU Faculty Senate this letter is being written to you on behalf of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate approved this action in a unanimous vote by all present Senators (the Senators from HPPE and TED were not present) at our March 22, 2013 meeting. The members of the Faculty Senate and the department faculty they represent have expressed concerns over the recently announced creation of the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (AVPAA) position. Specifically, there have been questions about the transparency of the process under which the position was created, the duties that will be assigned to the position, and the announced permanent nature of the position. The Faculty Senate is also concerned over the lack of shared governance in creating the AVPAA position, especially in light of the Higher Learning Commission’s previous admonishment about the quality of shared governance on this campus. At the start, the Faculty Senate would like to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of Margaret Doell in earning an ACE Fellowship.
It is our understanding that the ACE Fellowship is a competitive application process and that earning such a fellowship is an impressive achievement. We want to directly say upfront that this letter is not a reflection on Professor Doell or her standing as an ACE Fellow or member of the ASU faculty. We also acknowledge and appreciate that the ACE Fellowship that led to the creation of the AVPAA position requires that all ACE Fellows be granted greater administrative duties on their home campus and that the administration of ASU must fulfill the obligations of the ACE Fellowship by providing Professor Doell with these increased responsibilities. We would also like to acknowledge the fact that due to changes in the administrative structure of ASU, the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) has been performing duties that used to belong to other administrative positions.
We also recognize that even with the addition of the AVPAA position, there are fewer overall administrative positions today than existed under the old “Dean” system. That being said, the Faculty Senate has strong concerns over the creation of the AVPAA position. It is our understanding, via statements from the VPAA, that the plan for creating the AVPAA position was formed when Professor Doell earned the ACE Fellowship.
Assuming this is accurate, the plan for this position has existed for close to a year, while the ASU faculty were only informed the week of March 22. While the Faculty Senate realizes that ultimate decision making power at ASU resides with President Svaldi and the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate would have welcomed the opportunity for shared governance and open discussions about the creation of a new administrative position with undefined powers and responsibilitie. Additionally, without open communication, the representatives of the Faculty Senate find that we are lacking in a full understanding of what the duties of the AVPAA will be.
According to VPAA Novotny, the AVPAA will have no direct oversight of on-campus faculty and programs, and will not be part of the academic chain of command to which faculty report. However, it has been stated by the VPAA that the AVPAA will be in charge of adjunct budgets, summer programs, and preparations for the next visit of the Higher Learning Commission. These duties would seem to place the AVPAA in direct control of some of the faculty budgets and, through those mechanisms, some faculty duties on the ASU campus.
Additionally, according to information provided to Dr. Mark Finney, the AVPAA position will start as a half-time position before turning into a full-time position after one year. The Faculty Senate would like to know what the expanded duties will be once the position moves from half-time to full-time. Finally, there is concern that a conflict of interest exists should any individual hold the AVPAA position while also acting as the chair of an academic department. Had there been open discussions or transparency in the process for creating this new AVPAA position, individual faculty and the Faculty Senate could have shared our concerns from the start, which may have reduced the amount of confusion we currently find. Finally, according to statements from VPAA Novotny, the AVPAA position will continue beyond the one year required by the ACE Fellowship. At our March 22 meeting the Faculty Senate voted unanimously to recommend that the permanent AVPAA position be filled by a national search. In the past it has been an all-too-common practice at ASU to promote administrators from within, while faculty must be filled by national searches.
The Faculty Senate is requesting that the administration of ASU openly commit to a national search should the AVPAA position continue beyond one year, as has been indicated. It is our belief that a national search will allow ASU to select the most qualified and diverse candidate available. A national search will allow the campus, faculty, staff, students, and administration alike a chance to vet the diverse educations, life experiences, employment backgrounds, and personal qualities of all applicants, including any from ASU. Indeed, should the individual holding the AVPAA position at the time of the search wish to continue, the Faculty Senate would encourage that individual to apply.
While we support the chance of any ASU faculty member to grow and develop, we do not believe that it is in the best interest of ASU to simply appoint an internal candidate to a permanent administrative position without first vetting that candidate against a national pool. In closing, the Faculty Senate hopes this letter will spark a renewed dedication to communication between all parties involved in shared governance. Given ASU’s past failure to meet the HLC’s approval for our quality of campus shared governance, the Faculty Senate is dedicated to working with the administration, staff, and students on any topic related to that area. Specific to this letter the Faculty Senate would like to extend an invitation to President Svaldi to attend either of our final two Senate meetings (April 19 or May 3) to discuss the AVPAA position and the larger topic of shared governance. Our meetings take place at 2pm in MCD 387.
Dr. Brent King (Faculty Senate President)
Professor Dana Provence (Senator, Art)
Dr. Robert Benson (Pro Tem Senator, Bio/Earth Sci
Professor Armando Valdez (Senator, Business)
Dr. Tony Weathers (Senator, Chem/Comp Sci/Math)
Dr. Rex Filer (Senator, Counselor Ed)
Dr. John Taylor (Senator, Theatre)
Dr. George Backen (Senator, Hist/Gov/Phil)
Dr. Leslie Alvarez (Senator, Psychology)
Dr. Stephanie Hilwig (Senator, Sociology)
Dr. Matthew Schildt (Senator, Music)