On September 30, as he said he would at the most recent meeting of the Academic Senate, President Keen sent an email to the entire campus, making available to us two important draft documents the Board of Trustees has been working on:
- Policy 1200: Board of Trustees Rules of Procedure
- Policy 1300: Formulation, Adoption, and Amendment of Policies
In his email, Dr. Keen noted the Board’s intention to adopt these policies at its meeting on October 18th (about which, more below) and that he has distributed and been in discussion about these documents with various entities on campus, including the Middle States Response Team Subcommittee on Institutional Leadership and Governance, the Academic Senate Executive Committee and four representatives of the elected faculty leadership: NCCFT President Frank Frisenda, Academic Senate Chair Evelyn Deluty, Chair of Chairs Lynn Mazzola, and AFA President Stefan Krompier. Together with sharing the draft documents across the entire campus, these discussions have been consistent with the commitment to respectful and inclusive consultation we’ve previously noted in Dr. Keen’s approach to the issues confronting our campus—a welcome change we should all be thankful for.
If you haven’t yet read Policy 1200 and Policy 1300, we urge you to do so. They raise serious concerns about the role the Board of Trustees will play on this campus moving forward—relative to our contract, to how shared governance operates on our campus, and to NYS Education Law. The AAUP has articulated some of these concerns in its most recent post and some of you have begun to share your comments on the campus email system as well. We want you to know that we share your sense of urgency, but we also want to caution against drawing too-quick conclusions based on documents that are clearly labeled draft and are still under discussion. Because we are sitting at the table where that discussion is taking place, we will not discuss specific details of the documents here, but there are some thoughts we would like to share with you nonetheless.
First, as President Keen noted in his email, and as Interim AVP Collins pointed out at a meeting we had with her and Dr. Keen on September 29th, the Board has drawn up policy documents 1200 and 1300 in response to Middle States’ requirements, stated under Standards 4 and 5 (Leadership and Governance & Administration, respectively) of their report. These requirements charge our entire institution with:
- “complet[ing] a formal review of the roles and responsibilities and authority of all constituencies and staff of the college [in relation to] policy creation/revision, policy final approval and policy implementation” (Standard 5), and
- “creat[ing] a system of shared governance in which each major constituency carries out its role in a complementary manner consistent with the principles of shared governance and New York State Regulations” (Standard 4).
These requirements essentially mandate the creation of documents like Policy 1200 and Policy 1300, which, as Dr. Keen points out in his email, collect and update policies and procedures that have been in existence for some time. In other words, not only would the Board have been remiss in its Middle States responsibilities if it did not create the documents in the first place, but we would be remiss as an institution if we did not have the conversation those documents have started. In either case, we would have had a hard time persuading Middle States that we’d taken their requirements seriously and that they should therefore remove our probationary status.
Second, at the September 29th meeting we mentioned above, President Keen expressed his commitment that the policy documents under discussion will not, in their final form, violate our contract. While the distance between that commitment and the documents’ final form still needs to be navigated, we left the meeting reassured that our concerns are being be taken seriously. Dr. Keen provided additional evidence of this when he told us he would ask the Board to delay voting on these policies to a meeting after October 18th and then scheduled three additional meetings with the elected faculty leadership specifically to discuss our concerns.
We recognize that it can be frustrating not to know the details of what’s going on in a situation like this, so we want to reassure you that we—along with the rest of the elected faculty leadership—have combed through these policy documents very carefully and that we stand ready to take whatever measures are necessary to protect the integrity of both our contract and our system of shared governance. So far, we seem to have found honest brokers in Drs. Keen and Collins. The most responsible measure to take right now, therefore, is to allow the discussion we are having to run its course.
If you have thoughts about this you’d like to share, please submit a comment below. While members of the executive committee do not respond on the blog, we do read all comments. If there is something you would like to communicate to us directly, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, stay tuned. We will post any updates here. If they become necessary, calls to action will be posted here and on Twitter.