The following letters have recently been sent to the Herald-Citizen by current and retired TTU faculty (and AAUP members).
In her May 4 Herald Citizen article “Faculty senate president responds to no confidence vote,” Lindsay McReynolds mentions the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and correctly cites as among its goals is to “advance academic freedom and shared governance.”. Each term assumes that faculty members are the experts in the mission of the university: to educate students in faculty members’ fields of expertise. I will leave academic freedom for another letter; “shared governance” means that faculty shares in the governance of the institution, especially when it comes to areas of faculty expertise, like “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process” (AAUP Statement of Governance of Colleges and Universities). Recent decisions at TTU enumerated by the TTU AAUP and reported in a previous article by Tracy Hackett (April 29) bypassed meaningful faculty participation, like the parking plan – which raises the annual parking fee for faculty by 4 times the present rate and for students, 5 times — appointment of administrators, establishment of new degrees like the Public Safety master’s degree (though faculty opposition largely ended when the name of the program was changed from Criminal Justice) . There is a fear among many faculty members that as the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) is displaced by a local governing board at TTU (and at other universities in TBR), the faculty voice will continue be marginalized. The AAUP advises that in university governance “The structure and procedures for faculty participation should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution. Faculty representatives should be selected by the faculty according to procedures determined by the faculty.” In the Boards prescribed by Governor Haslam’s FOCUS Act, only ONE of the ten Board members must be a faculty member, and that faculty member will have a term of only two years, whereas all of the others (aside from a non-voting student board member with a one year term) will eventually have 6 year terms. Obviously, the structure of the local boards minimizes faculty input by its very constitution, and that sole faculty member will have a crucial role in channeling the faculty voice. Although the FOCUS act stipulates that the faculty representative will be selected “in a manner determined by the faculty senate” of the individual institution, I would hope that at TTU the faculty representative will be selected by an actual vote of the entire TTU faculty. Only thus can the process of selecting a faculty representative for the new local governing board of TTU be called truly democratic. Also, although the governor appoints the other board members, there is nothing that stipulates that other board members cannot be present or past faculty members in the institution, and I would hope that as many as 3 more board members – or more – be present or former faculty from TTU.
Dr. Josephine A. McQuail
President of the TN Conference of the AAUP
Professor of English, TTU
The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author
To the Editor:
TTU’s Office of Communications and Marketing emailed TTU employees (3/24/16) to explain that because a new science building is to be built on a commuter lot, the lot must be replaced, creating an “opportunity” for TTU “to restructure its parking to better fit the university’s master plan and better serve the campus community.” This plan costs $26 million: $14,250,000 for 1,000 parking spaces with a shuttle, modifications to Dixie and William L. Jones Drive, and a move to zone parking; and $11,856,000 for a parking garage with 600 spaces.
TTU states the 1,000 parking spaces will cost $3,000-$5,000/space and that the parking garage spaces will cost $12,000-$20,000/space. This was the only cost analysis given.
This is very disturbing.
The TTU community needs to see itemized projected costs if it is expected to pay. The increase in fees is almost five times more for students and four times more for employees for next year. Fees are to increase yearly. These new fees do not cover the construction of the parking garage. That charge will be assessed later. With no concrete financing plan for it, students and employees wonder if they will pay for it though they will not be able to afford to park there. Who will use it?
It has been reported that President Oldham recently said in a meeting that unless TTU wants to turn down a $90 million science building, then it could take lots more time to figure this out. Tying the science building to the $26 million parking plan is a false trail. Using TTU’s numbers, to replace the lost 650 spaces would cost about $2-$3.25 million, for 1,000 spaces $3-5 million. How are the remaining millions earmarked? Students and employees need to know.
In the same meeting the President reportedly said that he had no vested interest in this particular plan, and while a good plan, maybe it’s not the best. Isn’t it strange that we are then proceeding with it? Why not do what needs to be done now and save millions? In this meeting, the President reportedly also used UTK and Memphis as comparisons. We are not UTK or Memphis.
Parking is becoming a financial hardship for many students and employees as well as a logistical nightmare for others who, forced to park further away, will have trouble getting to classes and worksites carrying materials.
TTU is a regional school serving mainly Upper-Cumberland students and their families. Their needs must be put ahead of expensive restructuring that has not been justified or proven crucial to their welfare. TTU must rethink its “opportunities” and scale back to fiscally responsible action.
Too many changes, too fast, far too expensive.
To the editor:
Increasingly, the TTU faculty has deep concerns with the governing style and substance of the university’s president, Phil Oldham. A recent survey of faculty opinion carried out under the auspices of the TTU chapter of the Association of University Professors [TTU-AAUP] corroborated the widespread nature of the dissatisfaction. The 149 respondents represented fully 34% of the 435 tenured, tenure-track, and adjunct professors and instructors that compose the faculty and that received the survey based on the faculty list provided by the university. This was a large response rate as anyone who has conducted a survey of this type would appreciate. The survey indicated that 79% of the faculty felt the university was worse off compared to a year earlier, while 60% felt the students were worse off. Eighty four percent of the faculty believed President Oldham was not leading the university in a positive direction and 89% felt that the administration has not been upholding its responsibilities. The vast majority of respondents—92%–indicated that the common practice of ‘shared governance’ was not working at TTU. Instead of hearing the message, President Oldham and others attempted to dismiss the survey as unrepresentative, arguing that there were too few respondents for it to be reliable. If the administration wants to conduct a census of faculty opinion, it should by all means do so. In lieu of a larger sample and instead of denial, President Oldham and his administration need to face the facts and those facts indicate widespread dissatisfaction with: a top-down governing style, questionable hiring practices, curriculum development in certain instances that eschewed or ignored faculty input; the dismantling of successful programs such as the TTU Water Center and the creation of failed programs such as the Center for Healthcare Informatics; and expensive infrastructural projects—such as a planned parking expansion the costs of which will be borne by faculty and students and that may jeopardize the university’s fiscal condition.