This article is the text of Idaho State University Provisional Faculty Senate Chairman Phil Cole’s speech delivered Saturday to the American Association of University Professors in Washington, D.C.:
On behalf of the faculty of Idaho State University and as the duly-elected chair of the Provisional Faculty Senate of Idaho State University, I am profoundly grateful to the American Association of University Professors — both its staff and members — for their professional concern, for their fair-minded investigation, and for their due diligence in upholding time-honored academic principles and fundamental standards of academic governance across our nation. It is my view that the May 2011 AAUP report entitled College and University Governance: Idaho State University gives an accurate account of the collapse of shared governance at ISU.
The faculty’s duly elected senate, councils, and bylaws were dissolved following a faculty-wide vote of no confidence in the President. Two months later the ISU administration was directed by the State Board to restore some form of elected governance. Following this, the ISU faculty mostly re-voted in their colleagues from the disbanded body. The provisional faculty senate met once during final exam week, 36 hours before the end of the semester, to elect officers and conduct other business, such as vote on a provisional constitution. The Administration responded by declaring the provisional senate to be nonoperational. Presumably, the provisional senate will be allowed to become functional sometime next fall.
In the meantime faculty grievance procedures have been suspended. The provisional faculty senate leadership has been sternly warned against emailing the faculty at large. On the first day after spring semester when most faculty went off contract, the central administration inexplicably dissolved the Office of the Ombudsman. About a week later this office was reinstated, again without any explanation.
At this time, faculty at ISU have no duly-elected university-wide faculty representatives who are recognized by central administration, no bylaws, no seat at central administration meetings, no agreed-upon grievance procedures, and no right to communicate electronically with colleagues at large. The councils that reported to the faculty senate have either been disbanded or now report directly to a vice president.
I fully recognize that sanction is a severe action designed to apply to egregious deficiencies in university governance. It is appropriately rare. Only four of the over 3400 not-for-profit colleges and universities in the United States are sanctioned, not one of them is a four-year public doctoral-granting university like Idaho State University.
The issue of sanction at ISU, is of course, much larger than the well being of one state university in southeast Idaho. It is about how we marshal intellectual expertise to educate students. It is about how we create new knowledge. In the words of Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars, a university has a four-fold mission: pursuit of truth, transmission of ethics, cultivation of character, and preparation for professional life. Removing professors from meaningful oversight of the curriculum and scholarship can only be detrimental to the quality of student learning. And educating students is the business of a university.
Are students products or are they humans representing the future of our society? Is the purpose of research to bring in extramural money or is the purpose of extramural money to do research and educate students? ISU faculty fully understand curriculum, teaching, and research, but our expertise has been silenced.
Through the recent troubles at Idaho State University, I have come to realize now more than ever that the faculty at ISU are hard-working, talented, and professional people. Our students have great promise in becoming the next generation of leaders in business, education, and government.
It is my hope that the actions of the AAUP today, despite their distressing nature, will help to set Idaho State University on the proper path for fully realizing its potential.