FA News (4/15): Evals; chancellor candidates

Dear colleagues,

I hope all of you are doing well during this difficult time. I have two matters of some important to share with you. 

Student evaluations

As part of consultations with the administration, the FA has recommended that faculty (and GA’s) should be able to opt-in to doing student evaluations this semester. The GAU and NTT-FA have provided similar recommendations. Unless instructors opt in, no evaluations should be administered in any given class. Instructors may choose to do evaluations, either limited to their own purposes or for use in the promotion and tenure process, should they wish. They should be able to decide what use to make of evaluations after seeing those evaluations; there is a basic parallelism here with the Pass/Fail grading option for students. But instructors should not be required to do evaluations in the special circumstances we currently face. 

It is our understanding that the administration will probably not require that student evaluations be used to evaluate faculty; but it is difficult to ensure that evaluations, once done, will not be used for such purposes, and so we have advised that evaluations not be required at all

Information on Chancellor candidates

With help from leads given by several colleagues, I have collected a set of links to public information on controversies regarding two of the chancellor candidates, Dr. Evans and Dr. Lane; they are attached to this message.  I do not believe that we should rule out candidates solely because they have been involved in controversies. To some extent, controversy comes with high leadership positions.

We should be particularly willing to consider candidates when controversies lie some time in the past, making it possible to evaluate whether the candidate was truly at fault. It is also important to see if candidates have learned from any mistakes they have made. But these mitigating circumstances do not appear to apply here, to the best of my knowledge. These controversies are recent and ongoing, and neither candidate has, to my knowledge, acknowledged any responsibility for their role in them, or noted any lessons learned. Each should, of course, be given every opportunity to address these controversies fully during their virtual visits to campus. 

I am taking the unusual step of sharing this information because I find some of it concerning. I do not mean here to criticize the search committee; I am not sure that they were adequately briefed on these issues. What follows is a very brief introduction to two complex situations.  

Dr. Evans is a subject of an ongoing faculty senate investigation into the budgetary process at Lamar University. The investigation has taken far longer than planned, something the senate attributes to obstruction on the part of Dr. Evans and his administration. You will not be surprised to hear me say that I find it concerning that we are considering hiring a chancellor who is currently under investigation by his own faculty senate.

Dr. Lane was fired by Texas Southern University on February 5th. This act was controversial, to say the least, and the TSU board certainly did not handle the firing well. Although the board originally voted to fire Dr. Lane “with cause” (i.e., because of violations of his contract which justified termination without any compensation), Dr. Lane was able to negotiate a large settlement with TSU, one in which neither side acknowledged any wrongdoing. 

Subsequent to that settlement (and to our search committee’s candidate interviews in late February), a March 10 report by the internal auditor of Texas Southern came to light. This report, the work of the “Chief Audit Executive” at TSU, suggests that the TSU Board of Regents, for all the evident flaws in how they handled Lane’s firing, did have some basis for their decision. In addition, the report indicates that an investigation into possible irregularities in TSU enrollment figures continues.

I am aware of no such controversies surrounding Dr. Stapleton, the third candidate for the chancellor position. To be sure, she has held no leadership position comparable to those held by Evans and Lane, making such controversies less likely.  

We in the FA will, of course, do all we can to work productively with whoever ends up in the chancellor’s position. But SIUC will face major challenges over the next few years, so we need the best person we can find for this post. And faculty should be informed about the records of the individuals in the running for the most important job on campus.

In solidarity,
Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

About Dave Johnson
I'm an Associate Professor in Classics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Among other things.

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