Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Academic Freedom in Higher Education in South Carolina

At the faculty senate meeting of Tuesday, March 4, it was moved and seconded that we endorse the statement below.  Unfortunately, we did not have quorum, so we agreed to ask the faculty to vote on this resolution electronically:

“We strongly support the vital importance of academic freedom in our institutions. This freedom and the occasional controversies it can cause are vital to the pursuit of knowledge and truth in every discipline. Further, securing this freedom is a key obligation to accrediting bodies of our faculties, institutions, and governing boards. We therefore condemn any effort on the part of the government to restrict, through legislation or otherwise, free academic inquiry.”

Click here or  here  for additional information.  Use the comment section to respond. 

Faculty Senate President's Report

Presented to the SCSU Faculty Senate on March 4, 2014
It’s been a busy month!
Since our February meeting, the SCSU Board of Trustees has met several times.  At each meeting, the topic of safety has come up. In short:
·                  The Police Chief reminded everyone of statistics that say crime on campus has been going down for three years ( )
·                  He explained the protocol that was followed after the January shooting, to the satisfaction of almost no one --“we are reviewing our procedures”;
·                  The current plan calls for the installment of a new generation of call boxes; timetable tba.
In February, I made a presentation to the AA Board Committee highlighting these issues:
·                     We need faculty;
·                     Faculty working conditions need enrichment;
·                     Students need scholarship money;
·                     Faculty want to ensure that the University structure is credible;
·                     Shared governance needs to be protected.
The board member, and especially those with an academic background, received this presentation very well.  In response to the last point, the President expanded the Provost Search committee to include a member of the FS Executive Committee, albeit not one of the names I had submitted.  I followed up, pointing out that the faculty body would be best served by having one of the three executives elected by the entire faculty, and/or a tenured one, a suggestion which was not acted upon.
On Feb 7, the entire Executive Committee met with the president.  At the top of the president’s agenda was the need to discuss belt tightening;--specifically, how can we save 500K from AA.  In my response (crafted with the XC), I said:
While the Faculty Senate is open to a discussion on the value of our programs…there are no quick savings to be had by closing programs. ..Eliminating one or two programs would not eliminate the need for faculty, while the loss of faculty certainly would hurt accreditation and enrollment. Short term, it is imperative that if there is to be immediate belt tightening, the administration show leadership by cutting their own support and even salaries…

This is not to say that we should not agree to evaluate our programs.   We have to.

For most of February, the Board has been mobilized trying to appeal for additional funding.  A legislative day in Columbia reported met with some success and some skepticism.  –I have forwarded to Senators a list of talking points from the Board of Trustees for faculty who want to contact their legislators.

The Handbook committee turned in its draft of the handbook. Ed Policies will consider it on March 6.  Dr. Luke has asked the Senate to consider it on March 18 in a Call meeting.

The Faculty Senate needs to update the FS Constitution, and decide if we want it to continue to be a part of the Faculty Handbook.

Lastly, USC-Upstate and the College of Charleston have recently had their appropriations cut by the House Ways and Means Committee for assigning LGBTQ books as part of their summer reading programs.  The College of Charleston has asked faculty representative bodies across the state to endorse a statement similar to the following

“The College of Charleston Faculty Senate unequivocally defends academic freedom as essential to higher education.  This freedom, and the occasional controversies it can generate, is fundamental to the pursuit of truth and knowledge in all disciplines.  Legislative efforts attempting to influence or limit curricular decisions at any institution are a threat to academic freedom at all academic institutions.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Thomas Cassidy
Professor, English and Modern Languages
SCSU Faculty Senate President, 2013-15
South Carolina State University

Friday, January 17, 2014

Faculty Leadership at SCSU



As you know, the faculty senate spent much of last semester defending our tenure and promotion process—a process which is at the heart of the faculty role in shared governance. Eventually, the recommendations of the University Tenure and Promotion committee were ratified by the Board of Trustees, and we started the new year with President Elzey enacting the recommendations of the faculty senate that the raises which normally accompany tenure and promotion be instituted. Though this is a struggle many of us feel should never have had to happen, it shows the value and need for us to come together as a faculty engaging in the shared governance process.
Shared governance is an essential part of the Academy; it demands that decisions be made  openly and transparently, that all major stakeholders (faculty, administration, students, alumni, staff) have a meaningful say, and that faculty take the lead role in shaping programs and the direction of the university.  Faculty may not control the purse strings, but we do control the intellectual capital of the university. It is faculty who bring the ideas, who develop the research, who disseminate the information, and who convey the passion for learning that makes the modern university the engine for both preservation and change that it has become. Faculty are the university leaders who make universities and their leaders successful.  Universities become great because of the work faculty do.
South Carolina State University is a university with a great mission and a great history.  We bring economic and cultural opportunities to underserved students, and we do this better than almost anyone else.  However, no one familiar with our recent history would say that the university is living up to this legacy in a full bodied way.  Now is the time then for the faculty to define our mission for the future. 
Those of us who have been studying the proposed Faculty Handbook revisions are aware that the University in general and Academic Affairs in specific have mission statements.  That is well and good, but the faculty body should have our own Mission and Vision statements, to articulate where we are, where we want to go, and how we will get there.  In order to judge our own progress (or lack thereof), we need to articulate a shared idea of what progress should look like.
Based on the feedback from faculty and my own experiences as Faculty Senate President, there are four concerns that I think we can widely agree on:
ñ  The academic structure needs to be viable, to promote the integrity and growth of our programs, and to respect the leadership role of the faculty;

ñ  The Tenure and Promotion process is basic to faculty rights and faculty development;

ñ  The continued budget retrenchment has already undermined our programs; Academic Affairs needs to be enriched, or we risk falling deeper into a vicious spiral; and

ñ  The Faculty has a mission which we take very seriously to develop faculty and academic programs.
The faculty senate is exploring the possibility of sponsoring a luncheon (tentatively set for Feb 11) to initiate a conversation on how the faculty can move forward.  Among the questions we need to ask ourselves:

ñ  What are our core values around teaching, research, and tenure and promotion?

ñ  What are our pathways to productivity?

ñ  How do we define our mission?  How do we define our vision for achieving that mission?

Your senators and I will keep you informed as the plans for this Faculty Leadership workshop develops.  In the meantime, I want to urge everyone to read through the Faculty Handbook online, submit your comments as soon as possible, and if you have not done so already, please pay your faculty senate dues ($20), our funding for projects like this, to your senator or to Dr. Crystal Nixon.

Yours in university service,

Thomas Cassidy

SCSU Faculty Senate President

Professor, English and Modern Languages
South Carolina State University