The UFA has filed an official grievance against the University of Montana alleging that the administration had violated its own policy by issuing letters earlier this month to lecturers that stated that the university did not intend to rehire them after this fall semester. Until now, lecturers were hired for a full academic year and Main Hall has decided to ignore that policy and hire lecturers on a semester-to-semester basis. I have attached the public statement released to the press. It outlines both the ethical and contractual violations done by the administration. If people would like to see a copy of the grievance itself, please feel free to contact Darla Carothers at the UFA office located in the basement of Main Hall, Room 002. I would like to raise an additional issue here for your consideration that has implications for how and how well our university will be governed in the years ahead.
It is hard to find anyone within the entire UM community – administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, interested community members – who would say that they do not support shared governance. And, yet, what does genuine shared governance entail? I would like to offer here a definition of what I think it should mean and a definition of what it does not.
Shared governance should mean that affected parties sit down at the decision-making table together and hammer out an agreement that then everyone at that table agrees to abide by and support.
What shared governance should not mean is that administration invites faculty, staff and student representatives to meetings or “listening sessions” where they can offer ideas and feedback, goes into other rooms to make the real decisions, and then announces those decisions with the hope that the shared governance groups will support them or at least not make any effective trouble.
We at the UFA do not expect that we will be able to be involved in all important decisions that affect us. That would be nice, but it is unrealistic to expect it, at least in the short term. However, what we do expect is that administration endeavor to reach out to faculty, students and staff to be involved in genuine shared governance decision-making as often as possible, which is to say, much more frequently than has been true to date. Frankly, it is in all of our interests to do so, as the current unfortunate situation with the lecturers demonstrates. We were not contacted to work together on negotiating an ethical approach consistent with existing policy and contract concerning our non-tenure track colleagues but rather simply notified that they intended to send out termination letters. We attempted to work with them to come up with an alternative approach and they flat out refused.
In addition, and this is important, when we approach administration and seek a seat at the table and they decide not to offer us one, we are going to ask administration, and this certainly extends to whomever becomes our next president, to tell us straight out when they decide not to invite us to the real decision-making table. We will, of course, ask administration that they not pretend to do shared governance on a particular issue when they do not intend to really do it. Most importantly, this means that we should not go along pretending that we are doing genuine shared governance when we are not. In other words, we will not be duped. When real shared governance procedures are followed, it is our intention to sit down and deal. When we conclude that real shared governance should be happening on a particular issue and it is not, we will say so, publically and loudly. At that point, when we conclude that we really should be at the table and are not, we will do due diligence and closely monitor the process and critique it as we deem necessary.
Our university is in a state of transition. This transition includes some positive exciting elements. A lot of good things happen on this campus and we know it. Some of the changes that we are hopeful will occur, for example, having new resources to reallocate in strategic ways to programs that are have real quality and growth potential as a result of APASP. However, it is also going to include some difficult stuff, most notably some reductions in work force across the campus (administrative services and academic programs – faculty, contract professionals, staff, and administrators) that result from that same APASP process. I submit that whether we emerge from this process stronger or weaker will depend in large part on the extent to which genuine shared governance occurs when it should be occurring.
We at the UFA urge you to consider strongly supporting this position as we move forward. This very much extends to when the presidential finalists make campus visits in September and October.
As always, we actively solicit your views, including your suggestions and criticisms, of this approach.