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Faculty Senate indicates it wants to ‘move on’

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Interim-Vice President for Frost Campus Manoj Patankar and Vice President for Health Sciences Philip Alderson addressed issues concerning the administrative restructuring during the most recent meeting of the Faculty Senate on Feb. 2. Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., was also invited to the meeting but was not in attendance. Calls to Biondi’s office for comment were unreturned at press time.

According to Faculty Senate President Joanne Langan, most of the faculty members seem to be ready to “move on,” and she said only a small group is still dissatisfied with the Administration’s actions, which were seen as not properly consulting with faculty members before moving ahead with proposed changes.

“I have heard from a small group of people who are dissatisfied; the others have either remained silent or are satisfied,” Langan said. “I just don’t understand how people are hanging on to this disdain, or this almost-hatred, and how we are not celebrating what we have achieved. Instead, people are hanging onto the negative.”

A tabled motion from the Dec. 15 meeting calling for the removal of Patankar from his then-role of Interim-Provost never came up during the meeting, which Langan said was “because some of the reports were clarified by [Patankar and Alderson's] presence here openly and honestly.”

Patankar said the University would form a transition team to deal with the specific details of the transition process, and would work out any issues along the way.

Michael May, S.J., chair of Mathematics and Computer Science, asked Patankar if he felt that this most recent process has been sufficiently consultative after the faculty manual had been “blatantly violated” originally.

Patankar said yes, and added:

“When the initial proposal was made, the president agreed to stop the process to take a break, and I think at that point the whole issue of consultative process, in my mind, was addressed.”

On Jan. 25, Biondi called a meeting of his Executive Staff, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the chairs of the two Senate Task Forces to discuss the task force reports that were present at the Dec. 15 meeting. Soon afterward, it was announced that the restructuring of the graduate school and removal of the provost position were official.

However, May said: “All the things brought up by the task forces were addressed, and I remember at the last [Faculty Senate] meeting an acceptance of a resolution not supporting the proposals.”

Faculty Senate Executive Committee member Mark Farris responded to this.

“There is no doubt that everyone knows that the process was not followed according to the faculty manual.

But that process, of course, isn’t spelled out really clearly; we have obviously gone through a learning phase here from our side and the administrative side.”

Alderson later said that eight changes had since been made to the original proposals, and that they were made as a result of the consultative process.

“It sounds to me like the result of this process is that the administration made a decision, stopped the decision while they had a comment period and then went ahead with the decision they had already decided on,” May said.

“That doesn’t strike me as a consultative process.”

On Jan. 21, Biondi said that he had consulted Langan about the changes in January 2009, and in the first meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council in August. Biondi said that Langan didn’t tell other faculty members because she thought that everything in the PCC meetings was confidential.

“What happens at PCC stays at PCC, unless we were given explicit instructions that you may share this; it is confidential,” Langan said. “To breach that confidentiality and risk losing a seat at that meeting, I am not willing to do that. It is just too important.”

On Jan. 27, Biondi announced the official elimination of the provost position, creating instead three vice presidents: one for the Frost Campus, one for the Health Science Campus and one for the Madrid Campus. The decentralization of the graduate school will take place in the coming months. Earlier this semester, the Faculty Senate passed resolutions calling for a halt on these changes, citing the administration’s failure to meet the standards of faculty consultation listed in the faculty manual.

This sentiment led consideration of a vote of no confidence in the upper administration, including Biondi, along with the motion to demand the removal of Patankar, on Dec. 15 in Faculty Senate.

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