TERRE HAUTE —
Forty-five percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty at Indiana State University have signed a petition raising concerns about some administrative recommendations to cut costs.
The recommendations relate to textbooks, academic department size and a reduction in required hours for a major. All of those would require policy changes by the ISU board of trustees.
In addition, the national American Association of University Professors has sent a letter to ISU President Dan Bradley, asking the administration to address concerns of the ISU AAUP chapter, also related to the cost-cutting recommendations.
The AAUP national office asks that concerns be addressed “in a manner that honors the principles of academic freedom and shared governance.” The ISU chapter contacted the national office.
Rick Lotspeich, treasurer with the ISU AAUP chapter, said the letter expresses concerns that the proposed policy changes move the ISU administration and university “in a direction that national does not approve of” because they would reduce academic freedom and the role of faculty in shared governance.
The ISU AAUP chapter asked the national office for its opinion and also asked the national to send that opinion to Bradley.
The national AAUP letter and ISU faculty petition are separate, but relate to the same issues.
The faculty petition, signed by 155 tenured and tenure-track faculty, raises three objections:
n First, the faculty “object to policies that inappropriately restrict an individual faculty member’s choice of course materials such as textbooks. We ask that this initiative be discarded.”
n They also object to “arbitrary rules” for determining minimum size of academic departments. According to the ISU Handbook, decisions on academic structure are an area of primary authority of the faculty.
ISU administration had recommended a minimum size of 12 full-time equivalent regular faculty. “We ask that this initiative be pursued in accordance with the Handbook,” the petition states.
n Third, faculty object to mandates decreasing the number of hours required for a major. Curriculum is an area of primary authority for faculty, according to the Handbook. The petition asks that the Handbook be followed.
The ISU administration has proposed limiting an undergraduate major to 50 semester hours; any exceptions would have to be approved by the board of trustees, according to the recommendation.
The petition also states, “While we recognize the importance of minimizing the economic burden of tuition and fees, we do not believe these initiatives will significantly address that problem and find them to be contrary to the principles of academic freedom and shared governance.”
The petition has been forwarded to the board of trustees by faculty members Lotspeich and Carl Klarner.
The ISU Handbook states that faculty have primary authority to formulate policy governing curriculum, degree requirements and academic structure.
Steve Lamb, ISU Faculty Senate chairman, said primary authority means that if the university president disagrees with the Senate, he must tell the board of trustees why he disagrees, although the final decision rests with trustees.
The importance of primary authority is that “most presidents will not go out of their way to counter the vast majority of faculty in the domain of primary authority,” Lamb said.
The administration had planned to take recommendations to trustees at their May 4 meeting.
ISU Provost Jack Maynard said the petition shares some consistency with feedback the administration has received in open forums and at a Faculty Senate meeting Thursday.
“Now, Dan [Bradley] and I have all this information and over the next few days, we’ll try to frame recommendations in response to that,” he said. “Clearly there are things we were proposing that we need to rethink.”
He and Bradley plan to meet with the Faculty Senate leadership team early next week. “We plan to share our thoughts and have more conversation,” he said. “We know there is a place in the middle we can reach. … We have to figure out how to get there.”
Maynard emphasized, “We are trying to work in partnership and not get into a war on this issue. It’s not always easy.”
He anticipates the administration will update the board of trustees next week on affordability and cost-cutting issues, and it may make some recommendations.
However, the administration may not be ready to recommend policy changes to the trustees, Maynard said.
Bradley could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. He was in Thailand, where he is receiving an honorary degree from one of ISU’s partner institutions.
Lamb, reacting to the petition and national AAUP letter, said faculty “feel very strongly” that they should have been more involved in these recommendations.
“They also feel they’ve been very responsible — both individual faculty and departments — in doing all they can to keep costs down,” including telling students alternative ways to obtain textbooks and other course materials, he said.
“Faculty feel rather strongly they have been somewhat rebuffed, or insulted, that the administration doesn’t recognize the efforts they have been making continuously on students’ behalf,” Lamb said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.