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Analyzing the Faculty Vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Carwein


Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

Written by: Bernadette BeckerDecember 07, 2016

Discontent Building for Years

IPFW Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Vicky Carwein on Nov. 21.

The vote was based upon years of dissatisfaction, according to Andrew Downs, speaker of the IU faculty, and Mark Masters, speaker of the Purdue faculty, among many other faculty. The vote passed 27 to 12 with 5 abstentions.

“I voted against hiring her. I doubted her ability to articulate a vision beyond generalized statements that would sound good on any regional campus,” Downs said in a prepared statement at the University Senate meeting.

Downs said Carwein’s lack of vision is hindering her from leading and guiding the university.

“I support the vote for no confidence primarily because the Chancellor has failed to communicate a vision of what IPFW can become,” Masters wrote for a statement read at the University Senate meeting Nov. 21. Masters was in West Lafayette for a meeting of the Purdue University Senate at that time.

Chancellor Carwein’s  Response

Carwein’s statement — also read in the University Senate meeting — pointed to the 20/20 Strategic Plan as evidence of her clearly stated vision for IPFW. The 20/20 Strategic Plan is the statement of mission, values and vision that IPFW will focus on for the time from 2014 to 2020.

However, the resolution of no confidence claimed she “consistently demonstrated a lack of commitment” to the 20/20 Strategic Plan.

Carwein’s statement promoted the other endeavours she has undertaken, such as: increased transparency in finances, improvements in the relationship to the Purdue system, designation of IPFW as a Multisystem Metropolitan University, the creation of the USAP process, and a professional advancement operation.

The administration’s choice to forecast and create budgets based on flat enrollment projections has received some scrutiny by faculty such as Downs, who argue it has allowed the budget shortfall to grow each year, rather than adjusting the budget to the projections of student enrollment.

Transparency Theater

Associate professor in the Department of English & Linguistics Rachel Hile, who was appointed to participate on Year One of USAP and also the University Budgetary Committee, said she felt it was “transparency theater,” where those who were attempting to effect change were not given sufficient information to do their jobs effectively and were not making real impact.

“The people in power have contempt for shared governance,” Hile said.

Hile added, when the administration said community input was being sought it was focused on wealthy business owners.

“Education is a public good,” Hile said.

She said she believes education needs to be re-envisioned to be a valuable institution to create engaged and capable citizenry.

Parent Opinions 

When reaching out to IU President Michael McRobbie for a comment regarding the vote, the Chief of Staff  Karen Adams responded: “Purdue University manages the IPFW campus and selects the chancellor and it would be inappropriate for us to comment.”

The response was indicative of the historically detached role IU has played in IPFW affairs, according to Downs.

In Carwein’s statement responding to the vote of no confidence, she listed improvements in IPFW’s relationship with the Purdue system as an achievement.

Purdue’s statement of “continued and unequivocal support” spoke directly to support the USAP process, underscoring the idea that the vote of no confidence was largely in response to the USAP process. The responses above and below point otherwise, and make the point that USAP was a symptom of a bigger issue: disregarding shared governance.

Disregard for Shared Governance

“USAP was an end run around shared governance with appointed faculty,” Masters wrote.

Masters also pointed out that the USAP report was released directly to the media without faculty input or comment.

Downs said he had attempted to reconcile the USAP process with the standing shared governance channels, only to be told by the chancellor to stop.

The action of USAP to remove programs without faculty oversight or approval is actually against the procedures of IPFW and Purdue’s Faculty Senate. This has actually led to a Purdue resolution urging that program restructuring should to be delayed until both IPFW and Purdue University Senates review, analyze and give input on the program cuts.

What is Shared Governance?

Shared governance is a concept that has its roots in the idea of including faculty in decision making processes of their universities, according to the American Association of University Professors.

The AAUP is one proponent of this concept and has guidelines for the role of university boards, faculty and administrators on how to act transparently and include each other in thoughtful discussion of change.

Transparency and the Open Door Law

The idea of a more transparent campus is challenged by the fact that IPFW is not actually bound by the Open Door Law, which requires governing bodies to discuss issues and meet with the door open so people have access to the information presented. The USAP process, however, because it was not begun by Purdue (the governing body of IPFW), is not required to grant information based on the Open Door Law, according to the Public Access Counselor of Indiana in response to a faculty member who sought the memoranda from the USAP process.

This statement seems to represent that without a committee or action being started by Purdue it is not subject to the same transparency as other institutions.

Misunderstandings Surrounding Shared Governance

Shared governance can seem unusual and odd because many people know the business model of employee and boss, Masters said in an interview. For those within the university, however, shared governance is a key element for change.

While it is generally agreed that Carwein was hired into a difficult situation, faculty such as Masters argue she made no attempt to follow procedural and institutional shared governance guidelines when dealing with it.

“She has failed to consult with faculty governance structures on large and small decisions,” said Masters.

Masters pointed out the tobacco ban as an example of Carwein’s circumvention of shared governance: It was not brought to the attention of the Faculty Senate for discussion or approval. Whereas at Purdue West Lafayette, President Mitch Daniels went before the Faculty, Student and Staff Senates to allow meaningful discussion, according to Masters.

Inclusion vs. Shared Governance

Carwein wrote in her statement that she has been more inclusive than the previous chancellorship and that her inclusion of the University Senate’s IU and Purdue representatives and the presiding officer, Jeffrey Malanson, to meetings and discussions have surpassed the practices of many universities.

“Suggestions and advice was offered often and disregarded often,” Downs said. In a recent meeting, discussing alternative plans for program closure, Carwein rejected a plan to save seven programs, saying that it was too much but refusing to give a number of programs acceptable to save, according to Downs in his statement to the Senate.  He explained that while including faculty in meetings is a good practice, it does not equal shared governance.

Communication on Campus

On IPFW’s campus, however, communication has had its difficulties, according to Steven Carr, interim chair of the communication department and the AAUP representative on campus. In the wake of USAP, faculty began to utilize lists for mass interdepartmental communication using email; however, after several months that capability was taken away.

Carr and AAUP were concerned about the hindrance that could be to the freedom to unionize and communicate at IPFW; therefore, Chief Information Officer Mitch Davidson created a university-wide listserv to reconnect capabilities to communicate.

Academic Affairs are Faculty Affairs

In a presentation on shared governance given to the College of Arts and Sciences by Malanson, he underscored the need for proper communication and opportunities for joint planning between administrators and faculty, noting that faculty has primary responsibility in academic affairs.

“The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process,” according to the AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

The AAUP states the governing boards and chancellor of an educational institution should defer to faculty judgment in areas of faculty primary responsibility “except in rare occasions and with compelling reasons, which should be stated in detail.”