Some UB Faculty Senators look to change dean review process

Decanal review process dominates semester's first Senate meeting

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When the matter of possibly changing UB’s decanal review process was raised in a Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting last fall, “Most people said, ‘Wait, where did this come from? What’s the problem? Why should we bother?’” according to law professor Martha McCluskey.

McCluskey was part of a group that initially discussed making changes to the process in 2011. She stepped onto the Faculty Senate floor Tuesday to advocate for them again.

“We’re in an era and culture of assessment. We have to not just trust in excellence, but we have to really have different ways of assessing and monitoring it,” McCluskey said. “We’ve done that for students and faculty and staff. I think including a more professional, clearer, ramped-up process for decanal performance is just part of that same goal and culture and it will benefit us all.”

A committee tasked with evaluating how UB reviews its deans presented its findings in the first Faculty Senate meeting of the spring semester Tuesday. Decanal review changes were not the only thing discussed, as members of UB’s administration also gave updates on the implementation of new general education requirements and the Heart of the Campus initiative.

The committee, which includes members from 12 UB schools, was formed in fall 2013 after a Faculty Senate Executive Committee motion in April 2012 by professors, including McCluskey. McCluskey said Tuesday that UB’s current decanal review policy from 1994 is vague, not regularly followed and hard to find.

Elaine Davis, an oral diagnostics professor and associate dean for Student Affairs, is chair of the committee and presented its findings Tuesday. She said the concerns about the current policy brought to her committee were a lack of consistency, transparency in evaluation procedures and confidentiality of interviews. The timing of the reviews, which UB policy states should happen every five years, was also an issue, according to McCluskey.

“When does five-year review start? Does it start in year four and completed by year five? Does it start year six and then be completed in year seven? [What] if someone had two years as an interim dean? So there was a lot of confusion about this,” McCluskey said.

Former law school dean Makau Mutua was dean for six-and-a-half years before his review was initiated. Mutua resigned on Dec. 19, 2014 amid allegations he lied in federal court and in a state administrative proceeding.

Davis’ findings found that some of the concerns were valid, including the lack of public information on the current decanal review process. She said the decanal reviews seem to be a confidential process, but there are inconsistent procedures. The process is also not transparent to the dean undergoing review, according to Davis.

McCluskey is concerned that the committee did not give its report to the Faculty Senate early enough so it could be discussed in Tuesday’s meeting. McCluskey said she personally emailed the report over the weekend to a list of members, but said that list is “probably not up to date” or accurate.

Richard Gronostajski, Senate parliamentarian and biochemistry professor, said “the report was not sent out as early as we would have liked.” He also said the report, recommendations and any proposed amendments will be discussed and voted on in the Faculty Senate meeting on March 3.

President Satish Tripathi and Provost Charles Zukoski could not make comments or take questions about the decanal review at Tuesday’s meeting because of a “procedural error,” by Senate Chair Ezra Zubrow.

Zubrow said Tuesday the Faculty Senate Executive Committee originally decided it was not necessary have the president or provost respond to the decanal report findings. The committee changed its mind at a second meeting and Zubrow was to inform Tripathi and Zukoski.

Zubrow said he did not do so because the minutes for the second meeting were not yet approved, so he thought the presentations of the findings would be had later in the semester. He said he still scheduled the findings to be presented for Tuesday because there was a “considerable desire” by many members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to have it that day.

He asked the Senate to remember that if Tripathi or Zukoski did not feel they were in a position to make a comment, it is not their fault, but his own.

The president and the provost did still address the Faculty Senate Tuesday, discussing such topics as the Heart of the Campus.

There were several other announcements at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Zukoski said UB has queued projects for its Heart of the Campus initiative so that if money becomes available from SUNY, UB will be more likely to receive it than other schools that do not have “shovel ready” projects.
  • Tripathi acknowledged that UB has old buildings that need repair, particularly on South Campus. He said the university wants to push for more critical maintenance money from SUNY for South Campus buildings that are 60-70 years old.
  • Tripathi said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s announcement that SUNY would graduate 60,000 more students each year by 2020 is “a tougher thing to do” if the universities don’t have extra money from the state to serve the students.
  • Zubrow and Andy Stott, Dean of Undergraduate Education, announced that the subcommittees that designed the new general education program will be dissolved, and new subcommittees will be made for the implementation.

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