Address to the Board of Control on February 24, 2011

Chair Richardson and members of the board; distinguished audience

On behalf of the University Senate, I would like to compliment President Mroz on the speech of stability that he delivered three days ago.  Please interrupt me during this presentation if you have any questions.  Members of the Senate Executive Committee were very pleased to be informed of our breakfast meeting in late April and we are all looking forward to that occasion.  Today I would like to apprise you of the Senate’s accomplishments to date and I will start with this Reader’s Digest suitable quote  that a candidate for one of the strategic hiring positions had at the end of their talk.  As I read this during that seminar, I had to point out that I disagreed with this contention completely.  Anyone who has ever supervised a graduate student and who has had to suggest corrections to a thesis would know that there are times when in trying to discover the best in others, we do not use our best language.   Maybe it is.   My message here is that any action that results in a change in people’s circumstance is viewed, initially and reflexively, negatively.

In the Senate, one mechanism used to bring out the best is shown in the attached illustration on attendance at our senate meetings.  By this I mean just making public the record of attendance.  With the notable exception of the Army/Air Force ROTC whose representative is AWOL, there is also a dividing line between the attendances on this slide as compared to the next slide.  This cannot be attributed to bad weather.  In any case the Senate continues to move forward and we have rendered judgment on several proposals; two which I will describe to you in some detail.   I do this not to belabor you with the minutia of everyday life at our university but to establish the fact that the University Senate is deeply concerned with the running of this institution and has worked with the intention of trying to make Tech a more efficient and better institution for all under the latitude that both you and President Mroz allow.  I should note that in addition to these slides being stored in your agenda, this actual address and the slides are available on the Senate website as shown here.

Since my last presentation on December 10, 2010 and at the time these slides were prepared, we have had three meetings to date with three presentations the details of which are on this slide.  Conflict of Interest by VP Reed was very informative as it pertained to new requirements from the US government.  The CATPR presentation is easily addressed since this committee had no business last year.  Provost Seel presented an account of the statistics regarding tenure.  However, this aspect of  Centralized Computing Services” is one that the quotation and my message of analysis describe adequately.  Here we heard about resistance on all fronts to a change which on the surface seems very reasonable.  We will save money, offer better service and also strive for equality in service, yet there remains an undercurrent of suspicion regarding the motives behind these procedures.  Unfortunately, many past occurrences are responsible for the tendency to view this amalgamation with suspicion.  Interestingly, CIO Milligan mentioned in the senate that he was trying to accomplish something of this nature since the early 1990’s.  It would appear that the university needs to be more affirmative in quickly recognizing the merits of intelligent suggestions and implementing them.

As of February 4, 2011, the Senate has worked on 22 proposals of which the Senate has already passed judgment on 15 of these with 7 being considered at varying stages of deliberation.  We have evolved  numerical and lettering systems to differentiate between proposals that are introduced on the senate floor and those that are under committee consideration.  Therefore, this slide shows the numerical scheme with the results obtained by the Senate and the Administration.  In the case of proposal 1-11, i.e., the first proposal in the 2010-2011academic period, which failed to pass the Senate, there is no reason for the administration to spend time on this, unless they are interested.  This next slide depicts new degree options, changes in titles and modification to the sick leave policy submitted by the Fringe Benefits Committee.  Incidentally, the Chair of this committee Patti Luokkanen from the Library was recently elected to be the Vice-President of the Senate.  When these slides were prepared these proposals were approved by the Senate and we were pleased to be informed a few days ago that the administration has also approved all except for the two that I will discuss for which we still await a response.   Next we see a series of degrees labeled as b-11, c-11 and d-11 approved by the Senate Curricular Policy Committee in accord with the dictates of an approved procedure.  I had alluded to this in a previous address as a mechanism by which the Senate can speed up deliberation on these proposals.  This Committee still has tons of work to do and one on this committee, who I will not name but is among our most distinguished members from an engineering field, has recently publicly complained that the Chair of this committee, Senator Andrew Storer from Forestry, had insisted on them working during the Christmas Break. 

In 2009, then interim-Provost Seel initiated a discussion with members of the appropriate Senate Committees regarding reformation of Unit Governance.  As you are aware, all departments and school at the university operate under Charters defined following Senate proposal 16-92, each of which individually lays out policies and procedures for governance designed by each unit and approved by our President.  Since 1992, the University Senate has amended and expanded the issues that units should address in their Charter.  The different departments and, in these matters, according to a Senate’s By-Law, Schools are considered as equivalent to Departments, have all derived charters in one form or another.  Some Charters are not in compliance with these requirements.  They vary in the numbers of pages as shown here and a similar trend is maintained for the number of words and lines as illustrated here, though there is not an exact correlation.  Specifically, the Forestry School requires more page space for the words in their charter.

During the period 2006 to 2009 and specifically referring to Proposals 11-06 and 22-08, the Senate attempted on two separate occasions to revise and reform Charters.  Eventually after a period of some debate, the Senate did approve both proposals but these were not viewed favorably by the administration.  In the Fall of 2009, interim-Provost Seel signaled that the administration was interested to once again discuss reforms to the system.  The charters were too long and detailed, he explained.  The documents should be paired down to minimal requirements.  In addition, the Administration felt that since Departmental Chairs and School Deans were administrative officers, recommended for service by their units, and serving at the pleasure of the President, Michigan Tech should adopt a uniform system that covered searching for, hiring and evaluating chairs and deans of schools.

Two Senate committees spent a great deal of time meeting with different units on campus and formulating proposals 5-11 and 6-11 which were recently approved by the Senate.  These documents represent compromise to reform the charter system.  Of the items proposal 5-11 requires for unit Charters, seven are required by other Senate policies and were identified by Provost Seel as essential.  In order to assure broad acceptance among the university’s constituents, 5-11 also allows individual units to keep already approved items from their current charters, if these departments wish to do so.  Therefore, proposal 5-11 can be regarded as an evolutionary step towards one charter for all departments, which at this stage is perhaps not to be advised, given the peculiarities that remain among these departments.  These perhaps extraneous items can be regarded, if I use some biochemical parlance, as junk DNA, whereby the essential genes to run a Department are in items 1-7 and other material can also be included, specifically material that is outside of points 1-7 but in approved charters.  Any further material could be placed in a separate operations manual which would not require administrative review.  However, it should be noted that similar to junk DNA, this additional material may prove useful on occasion.

The removal of the procedures to search for, hire and evaluate Chairs and School Deans from Charters meant that a separate proposal with these details is required.  The policy, proposal 6-11, was assembled using sections from currently approved charters, particularly those of the Chemical Engineering department and the Schools of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences and Technology.  The policy dictates the way by which academic units form search committees to sort through applicants, determine the best candidates and recommend those to the administration.  The administration then makes the final decision and chooses from this list of candidates.  A cycle of evaluation then begins.  These evaluations are meant to provide useful feedback to deans or chairs in a timely manner so that they can institute improvements before their term ends or they enter a major performance review.  These administrative officers will only be evaluated in the second and third years of each three year term in contrast to the annual evaluation of our President.

Summing up, under the guidance of Provost Seel, two committees in the Senate worked to craft these two proposals.  This involved the extrication of the most meritorious language in existing approved charters, meetings with interested Departments or Schools, and numerous discussions within these committees and on the Senate floor.  This is in part illustrated on the bottom of this slide and these proposals accomplish the streamlining of Charters and the Centralization of the Search and Evaluating Procedures for Departmental Chairs and School Deans.  I would like to recognize the contributions of the Chairs of the Senate’s Academic and Administrative Policy Committees, Senator Timothy Scarlett from Social Sciences and the at-large Senator Gerard Caneba who is in Chemical Engineering, respectively, who worked to establish these two proposals and to get them through the Senate.  The merits of these proposals are obvious to anyone reading them. 

Thanks for listening.