AAUP faculty requiring periodic review for the president and provost

Natalie Comerford, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to amend language inaccuracies differentiating the faculty of WCAAUP, WCAAUP and the national AAUP.

Following a meeting on March 8, 2023, the faculty of the Whitman College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WCAAUP) approved a motion to amend the faculty code and require periodic review of the president and provost by the Committee of Division Chairs. 

Associate Professor of Art History and President of the WCAAUP Lisa Uddin co-sponsored the motion with Associate Professor of Politics and Vice President Jack Jackson. 

The motion was two-fold in its objectives: 1. To create a structure that would promote the improvement of the college’s senior leadership — for the benefit of the college, generally — and 2. to offer a mechanism for faculty to generate and share their perspectives on senior leadership,” Uddin said. “We see these objectives as stimulating, sustaining shared governance and strengthening the accountability of our senior leadership.” 

Jackson believes that faculty involvement is critical to running an academic institution like Whitman and that previous faculty did not have an official method of assessing the administration. This new motion will allow for direct faculty review of the president and provost, with the hope of increasing faculty voices in running Whitman College.

“Those who are most immediately involved in educating Whitman’s students — the faculty — did not have an institutionalized method of assessing the quality of the work performed by Whitman’s president or provost prior to the passage of this motion. The new policy will strengthen both shared governance and good governance at the college.” Jackson said.

Jackson also stressed the importance of the relationship between faculty and administration in maintaining the academic environment of Whitman.

“Faculty must have a central role in institutional governance in order to maintain a culture of academic excellence at Whitman College,” Jackson said.

Nationally, Whitman is following a trend. Associate Professor of Psychology Pavel Blagov wrote and published a WCAAUP blog post about the motion and described how the national AAUP has suggested creating policies and avenues for faculty collaboration and evaluation of administration since 1966. Blagov claims that by following the trend, this motion has the potential to exceed the goals listed in it.

“I think that the results from the motion will more likely than not further the goals listed above. By adopting the motion, the Whitman College faculty is catching up with a national trend,” Blagov said.

Uddin believes that the timing was right to bring up the motion and to help Whitman catch up with national institutional policies, and she hopes the motion will help improve shared governance and provide accountability to the administration. The passing margin of the motion clearly shows how many faculty members supported it. Uddin explained how timing made this motion even more successful.

“When Whitman faculty were polled in spring 2021 on the question of a periodic review by the Faculty Governance Committee, 67 percent and 70 percent of faculty agreed with the proposal of regular faculty review of the provost and president, respectively,” Uddin said. “Early this year, we received feedback from faculty in division meetings, elected faculty leaders, as well as President Bolton and adjusted the motion accordingly. By the time we shared it on the faculty floor, it was ready to be passed, which it did by 97 percent.”

Uddin is hopeful that the motion will help achieve the goals it was designed to and improve the shared governance of faculty and administration at Whitman College.

“We are optimistic that the motion will create the channels and protocols to ensure more shared governance and more accountability of our senior administrative officers,” Uddin said.