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ISU could see serious ramifications from national group’s investigation

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Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2011 8:23 pm

    Idaho State University Faculty Senate Chair Phil Cole says an investigation by a national group of professors and academics into the decision to suspend the Faculty Senate could have serious ramifications for ISU.

    Cole says the worst-case scenario is that ISU would be sanctioned by the American Association of University Professors, which is investigating the Idaho State Board of Education’s Feb. 17 suspension of the senate.

    The State Board made the decision at the recommendation of ISU President Arthur Vailas, who offered the solution as a way to resolve the long-running dispute between the university’s administration and faculty. The suspension came one week after ISU faculty had given Vailas a resounding vote of no confidence — the third faculty vote against his administration in less than a year.

    The AAUP investigation could lead to ISU being censured, which could hamper the university's ability to attract quality professors.

    But Cole says of far greater concern is the possibility that the AAUP, which has about 47,000 members around the country, would add ISU to the list of institutions it has sanctioned.

    “Being on the sanctioned list is much worse than being on the censured list,” Cole says. “This is serious business.”

    Making the AAUP’s “censured” list means the group feels a university is not following principles of academic freedom and tenure.

    Sixty of the nation’s roughly 4,600 post-secondary colleges and universities are on the AAUP’s censured list. Only four are on its “sanctioned” list, which includes institutions the AAUP feels have seriously departed from generally accepted standards of governance endorsed by the association.

    The censured list serves in part as a warning to professors around the nation that the administration of that university is violating these principles, which could affect the quality of faculty that institution can attract.

    But Cole says being on the sanctioned list is a warning to employers that the degrees issued by that university are suspect.

    Being on that list is a red flag to employers, academia and the public that “there is a fundamental flaw in a university and it could collapse,” Cole says. “It would be a disaster for ISU because it would say, ‘Really watch out for an ISU degree; it doesn’t mean much.’”

    AAUP representative Greg Scholtz told the Journal that an investigation the group has launched into the ISU situation will lead to a report being issued before the group’s annual conference in early June. If the report recommends ISU be sanctioned, delegates at the conference would vote on that proposal.

    Scholtz, director of AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance, wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of ISU being sanctioned since the investigation is ongoing but he did say, “It’s a possibility.”

    He also said about 90 percent of AAUP’s investigations into alleged violations of academic freedom or governance result in some type of punishment, whether it’s censure or sanction.

    The four institutions currently sanctioned by the AAUP are: Antioch University in Ohio, which was sanctioned in 2010; Miami Dade College, Fla. (2000); Elmira College, N.Y. (1995); and Lindenwood College, Mo. (1994).

    In addition to AAUP’s investigation, another major academic group has joined the fray and Cole and others worry the fallout from the suspension of the Faculty Senate could end up hurting ISU’s national reputation.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a diverse national group which defends the individual rights of faculty and students at institutions of higher learning, sent a letter to Vailas dated March 2 demanding an answer for the suspension of the Faculty Senate.

    Cole says both FIRE and AAUP are fast-tracking their investigations into the situation at ISU and the continued strife at the university is becoming a major national story.

    “This is something clearly the rest of the nation does not want to happen,” he says in regard to the Faculty Senate’s suspension. “The nation is watching and saying, “This is bad, we cannot have this.’ It is absolutely unacceptable to other universities.”

    Many on campus have speculated a sanction by the AAUP could bode ill regarding ISU’s accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, based in Redmond, Wash.

    Sandra Elman, president of the commission, which is responsible for accrediting 160 institutions in this region including ISU, said it would be premature to comment on such fears, especially since she has no way of knowing what the findings of the AAUP's probe will be.

    Elman said Vailas has been keeping her apprised of developments on campus.

    “At this point there appears to be no basis for the commission to intervene in the university’s dealings with matters related to governance,” Elman said.

    When asked if an AAUP sanction could have ramifications for a university’s accreditation in general Elman replied, “Indirectly, yes. (The AAUP) may raise issues that would come to our attention, and then we might determine that there’s a need to look into these further, but right now this is all very premature."

    She continued, “Whatever the Northwest Commission does, it has to be in accordance with our standards for accreditation. That reigns supreme for us regardless of what any organization may do.”

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Welcome to the discussion.

17 comments:

  • Crotonensis posted at 1:28 am on Wed, Mar 23, 2011.

    Crotonensis Posts: 1

    Three questions. (1) Why isn't such extreme nonsense currently happening at any of our other State universities? (2) When did this nonsense start happening at Idaho State University? (3) What best accounts for the timing and the advent of the nonsense here? Denial of the obvious won't bring an answer to any of the three.

     
  • concernedISUalum posted at 10:56 pm on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    concernedISUalum Posts: 4

    "I, I, I, I..... get over yourself, YOURS is not the only opinion that matters."

    So now it's personal attacks for my expressing my opinion? Seriously, try forming a valid argument for once. Here's a hint: "I suggest many alumni just want this thing to go away, however that may be," isn't one. The fact that you admit there is a 'thing' that needs to 'go away' proves my point. local_yocal validates this point also, stating "ISU is in a real heap".

    But the real heart of the matter is mynameisshawn's observation that Universities are businesses and need to be run as such. 'For better or worse' doesn't mean things have to stay 'worse' once you realize it's there. You can choose to right the ship, if you don't back down to oppressive tactics.

    As for the purpose of the University, ask the students if they are there to enable the University to turn a profit or to get a high quality education. The faculty have the latter as their priority, and it seems that the administration only has eyes on the former. This is the problem - the polarization of values. The faculty senate was a means for the faculty to voice their concerns in an organized manner and the State SHUT THEM DOWN - call it what you will - suspended - whatever. The fact remains that the State Board of Education said with a unanimous voice (I'm paraphrasing here) " we won't listen to you, current faculty senate, you can go home. Vailas, find us some faculty who think like us and maybe we'll talk".

    As I said before, I have no confidence in the State Board of Education, the current ISU administration, and I'll have no confidence in the band of sycophants they pull together in the 'new and improved faculty senate'. I feel so bad for my Alma Mater it makes me sick to my stomach.

    Is my opinion the only one that matters? No. But is does matter, without a doubt.

     
  • PeepStone posted at 10:33 pm on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    PeepStone Posts: 5

    Let's assume you are all correct in that Dr. Cole is to blame and that those Leftist organizations defending high and mighty principles are of no concern.

    Do you really want a University run by a group that fires you for speech they deem inappropriate or reconstitutes organizations that don't tow the party line.

    If you consider ISU a business, then I can see your point of letting the CEO begin a war to conquer the education business. After all Business is War and ISU should feel free to run over those leftists in pursuit of the mighty dollar with whatever business model they think will work.

    However, if you believe we require responsible free speech and critical thinking to move ISU forward, then you will want to be very worried when you see behavior which has attracted such national attention.

    What kind of a leader is only able to convince 92 out of more than 450 educated people that he is leading in the right direction?

     
  • mynameisshawn posted at 11:18 am on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    mynameisshawn Posts: 2

    And by the way, Phil never had the support of the ISU staff, and when he said that he did, he was out and out lying to the press and to the students simply to advance his cause. To me, this spoke volumes as to the true nature of Phil's leadership abilities. "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." - Emerson

     
  • local_yocal posted at 10:35 am on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    local_yocal Posts: 6

    Way to go Phil... I hope you are happy now. If you would have stuck with the cronyism happening at the top and dealt with matters internally like a professional and an adult instead of co-authoring a 37 page whine fest about how "Art Vailas is mean to me," coupled with, "I fear change," we wouldn't be in this mess. Yes, I blame you. The senate wasn't disbanded, you were suspended (big difference) because you lost your objectivity and now ISU is in a real heap, and guess what buddy they are laughing at you too. Grats... you just gained another level on the dip$h!7 of the year-o-meter, you're now tied with Vailas and we all get to pay for it. Awesome.

     
  • mynameisshawn posted at 10:08 am on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    mynameisshawn Posts: 2

    IMHO, faculty are holding to an outdated romantic ideal of the university as a place where people "strive for knowledge, truth and the answer to the question of human existence", and faculty see themselves as necessary and sufficient to enable this reaction. For better or worse, after WWII, the view of higher education by its stakeholders (students, parents, bus. govt.) has changed to that of one of an engine of economic production. Faculty are reluctant to accept the reality of that situation. I suspect most faculty have little or no skill or experience in leading a $500M enterprise. Faculty go to school for years themselves to become experts in their chosen field, why are they so unwilling to let other experts employ their skills also.

     
  • Quenton posted at 7:10 am on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    Quenton Posts: 40

    Concerned "somebody" said:

    "I am not a pawn in someone's game, and resent being called such."

    I, I, I, I..... get over yourself, YOURS is not the only opinion that matters. In fact, I would suggest many alumni just want this thing to go away, however that may be.

     
  • reporter posted at 2:55 am on Tue, Mar 22, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    All degrees obtained while a university is accredited remain recognized as “graduates of an accredited institution.” So alumni are not in danger, even if the worst happens. Regional accreditation commissions understand how devastating the effects are on the students caught in a school whose accreditation is revoked, which is why it so seldom is revoked.

    HR looks at relevant education, training, and education, not just where your degree came from.

     
  • concernedISUalum posted at 11:42 pm on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    concernedISUalum Posts: 4

    Strong programs do make a University, I agree. Bad administrations break them. Rolling successful programs into less successful programs - brand dilution. What about all the programs that are not nationally renowned? I'd be willing to bet that it is harder to get past an HR initial screen if your degree comes from a sanctioned institution. HR doesn't care about what other programs are strong, they just apply filters and cut, cut, cut.

    "Being on AAUP's censured list isn't a death sentence." Well it sure isn't a feather in the cap! But you argue we'd be in good company - "Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Stanford University, Yale, etc.". I say name seven schools that can afford bad press. Guess what - ISU isn't on the list!

    Oh, by the way, I am not a pawn in someone's game, and resent being called such. If you think for a moment that the students and alumni were not involved from the very beginning you are both sadly mistaken and willfully ignorant. Here's the way I see it: the faculty want what is best for the students and the administration wants what is best for the short-sighted State Board - i.e., reduction in payroll and increased tuition - ca-ching!

    Vailas is keeping Elman appraised of the situation? The same way he kept the State Board appraised of the faculty senate situation? If that's the case, I'd be surprised if he doesn't recommend removing our accreditation himself! Zero confidence? Hah! Try Negative Confidence! I have never felt that the University was in more inept and self-serving hands. Get out and good riddance.

     
  • cats and dogs posted at 1:07 pm on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    cats and dogs Posts: 2

    I.S.U. won't loose its accreditation and was never close to losing its accreditation. Accreditation is based on the academic integrity of the institution. This means the university is actually educating its students who graduate meeting at least minimum standards. All accreditation reviews find something a university could be doing better. It's also important that universities address those findings. Thank the faculty for the fact that ISU maintains its accreditation.

    AAUP is another matter. No matter what people say, the university is not a business and without faculty and students there is no university. BYU is in the enviable position of being able to thumb its nose at AAUP because they're in no danger of losing enrollment, faculty or money because of it. They have a set of standards and they want people who support them. BYU won't, however, break the law.

    Because ISU competes directly with similar universities in the region and country for enrollment and hiring, AAUP action is important. AAUP is the gold standard for fair practices within the university, academic freedom and faculty governance plus a number of other issues. There will always be people who criticize it, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fair and top quality organization which takes its responsibilities seriously.

    It is important to keep in mind that AAUP doesn't run out and investigate every little complaint it receives. All complaints are carefully reviewed for merit. For an investigation to proceed after the administration's response means it's serious.

    We have to remember that we don't know what AAUP will find; something, nothing or in between. Whatever the findings, we have to take them seriously and no matter what the findings, someone will be disappointed. Shooting the messenger, preemptively or otherwise, says more about the shooter than the messenger.

     
  • reporter posted at 11:55 am on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    If you really want to know about the aaup, I recommend that you read the following articles:

    academia.org/the-agony-of-the-aaup/
    capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/OT0405.pdf

     
  • reporter posted at 11:34 am on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    There's really NO reason to worry about ISU losing its accreditation status based on what is stated in the article:

    Elman said Vailas has been keeping her apprised of developments on campus.

    “At this point there appears to be no basis for the commission to intervene in the university’s dealings with matters related to governance,” Elman said.

    When asked if an AAUP sanction could have ramifications for a university’s accreditation in general Elman replied, “Indirectly, yes. (The AAUP) may raise issues that would come to our attention, and then we might determine that there’s a need to look into these further, but right now this is all very premature."

    Why am I not worried? First, Vailas is keeping Elman updated on the situation. Second, Elman said there isn't any reason for the commission to get involved. And third, it's too premature for the commission to look into any of these issues.

     
  • reporter posted at 11:26 am on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    From BYU's experience, we learn that the only thing that really matters is that ISU maintains its accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. ISU can learn from BYU's experience and disregard AAUP if it wants to.

    A Deseret News article dated June 14, 2006 stated the following:

    BYU, however, is still on the list and university leaders aren't making any move to get their name cleared.

    The Provo university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got onto the list after a professor was denied tenure. AAUP leaders said that denial was based on the faculty member's views on feminism and because her views were contrary to the tenets of the LDS Church.

    AAUP's report also found that BYU's appeal procedures were inadequate.

    Despite the accusations, university spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the listing is not a top priority for BYU.

    "We have been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. When they came in 1996, they particularly examined and reviewed our academic freedom policy and approved us," she said.

    Although BYU leaders did work to explain to the AAUP that the school's academic freedom policy is "clear and honest," Jenkins said they are not concerned about getting off the list.

    The article can be viewed at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/640186826/BYU-still-on-list-of-censured-schools.html

     
  • Quenton posted at 10:56 am on Mon, Mar 21, 2011.

    Quenton Posts: 40

    Whatever the disagreement between administration, faculty and the Board of Education, I would hope Cole keeps students and alumni out of the argument. In trying to further his agenda (which I believe has merit) he has used ISU degree holders as pawns. This is very insensitive and may actually hurt his cause as people like myself take offense.

    In fact, I predict this story with quotes from Cole will circulate the state newspapers and do more to tarnish the alumni of ISU than any obscure sanctioning body.

     
  • reporter posted at 11:29 pm on Sun, Mar 20, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    Cole states ‘Really watch out for an ISU degree; it doesn’t mean much.’”

    Try telling this to the Idaho State University counseling program. It was tied as the 13th best program of its kind in the country in the U.S. News and World Report's ratings last year. See http://www2.isu.edu/headlines/?p=2567

    Also, try telling this to the Idaho State University’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology. In 2009, the journal Psychological Reports has ranked Idaho State University’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology first out of 207 programs nationwide and in Canada on its students’ performances on a national professional examination. See http://www2.isu.edu/headlines/?p=1656

    I could go on, but I won't.

     
  • reporter posted at 11:11 pm on Sun, Mar 20, 2011.

    reporter Posts: 8

    According to AAUP, being on the sanctioned list means "unsatisfactory conditions of academic government exist at the institutions in question". What Idaho State University Faculty Senate Chair Phil Cole said about ISU degrees "It would be a disaster for ISU because it would say, ‘Really watch out for an ISU degree; it doesn’t mean much.’” is injurious to ISU and I believe it's over-exaggerated and misleading. Being on AAUP's censured list isn't a death sentence. For instance, Brigham Young University was on the list in 1998. Also, there have been cases for many at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Cases involving prominent institutions of higher learning such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Stanford University, Yale, etc.

    Link to AAUP's Censured List
    http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/about/censuredadmins/

    FIRE's Cases (All)
    http://thefire.org/cases/all/

     
  • concernedISUalum posted at 10:11 pm on Sun, Mar 20, 2011.

    concernedISUalum Posts: 4

    Looks like the ISU administration and the State Bored of Edjoocashun will end up trashing the University, her student's degrees and the degrees of alums, all while simultaneously crippling the University's ability to hire quality professors. Bravo! Think it's not happening? My ISU degree is now from a College which doesn't exist anymore thanks to the thoughtless, useless re-org. What's your encore? Raising the tuition another 200% over the next five years? Unjustly firing the rest of the professors who care enough about ISU to tell you you're incompetent? My thanks to the Journal for the excellent coverage. Too much of this has happened behind closed doors!

     

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