SLU faculty, trustees pledge greater cooperation
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 30, 2012 - Leaders of the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees at Saint Louis University issued a joint statement late Friday pledging “more frequent and effective communications” in the wake of a standoff between professors and the university administration.
Executive committees of both groups have met to try to resolve tensions that led to votes of no confidence in university President Lawrence Biondi and his vice president of academic affairs, Manoj Patankar. The joint statement said that, as a result of “private and candid discussions conducted during past weeks,” the two groups would try to work more closely together.
Besides saying that the two executive committees "affirmed their mutual commitment to the University and its academic and spiritual values," the statement added that both groups have endorsed these actions:
- The president of the Faculty Senate will appear before the Trustees annually to share the faculty’s perspectives, insights and concerns.
- Representatives of the trustees and the administration will meet annually with the Faculty Senate to report on the state of the university.
- Trustees will review the current roles of faculty, student and staff representatives on board committees to assure effective participation.
- The Faculty Senate will support and participate in development of an annual assessment of the university community, conducted by an external and independent organization. The purpose of this process, the statement said, is to provide the board with “a holistic understanding of the interests and concerns of the faculty, staff and student communities within the University.”
- The board and the Faculty Senate will support the ongoing work of a task force working to revise the university’s faculty manual.
- Both groups will look into ways to affirm support for effective shared governance – a major grievance by professors -- and address long-term trends affecting the academic life at SLU.
The executive committees also said they had agreed to update the university community about the progress of their discussions only through joint statements, to preserve the spirit of cooperation and candor that has characterized discussions between both groups and is termed critical to their success.
At a senate meeting earlier this week, President Mark Knuepfer said he was working to arrange another meeting between the executive committees of the two groups in advance of the trustees’ meeting on Dec. 15. He said an earlier meeting had been fruitful in giving faculty members an opportunity to let trustees know just how the university operates.
He said the faculty leaders were pushing hard to get their points across and to gain an audience with the trustees at their meeting next month. Nothing in the statement said specifically whether Knuepfer will be allowed to address the board’s meeting in December.
“At this point,” he said, he said Tuesday, “our mission is to get in the door on Saturday, Dec. 15, and make our case to the board members.”
The senate is not the only body at SLU that has voted no confidence in Biondi and Patankar. The Student Government Association has done so as well, and students are planning a protest march on the trustees’ meeting to emphasize their grievances.