Originally published for The Tartan, Gordon College's Student Newspaper.
By: Liam Adams ‘17, Taylor Bradford ‘19, Jonathan Chandra ‘19 and Shalom Maleachi ‘17
All seven faculty members of Gordon College’s Faculty Senate resigned from senatorship on Wednesday, citing ongoing disagreement with the administration over shared governance, specifically in the processes of approving faculty promotion.
Professor Ivy George, the Senate chair prior to the resignations, read a letter outlining the decision at an all-faculty meeting. Also resigning were fellow professors Tim Sherratt, Bruce Herman, Bryan Auday, Irv Levy, Steve Hunt and Jonathan Senning.
Speaking on behalf of the college, Vice President of Communications Rick Sweeney said via email: “Provost Curry was provided with a copy of a letter from the Senate when they met with her a few hours before the faculty meeting. They were not open to further discussion on their decision, which they announced to their faculty colleagues at the end of the regular monthly meeting late Wednesday afternoon.”
Senators are full professors “in good standing” elected by the faculty. Senators deal with faculty personnel issues, including the process of promotion, hiring, tenure, three-and six-year reviews, dismissals, sanctions and appeals. They serve three-year terms and are elected in the Spring.
According to individuals present at the meeting, the letter read by George stated that the Faculty Senate feels that Provost Curry and President Lindsay, as administration members involved in academic affairs, had not been upholding the guidelines concerning the promotion of junior faculty as provided in the Administrative/Faculty Handbook in a clear and respectful manner.
At the end of the all-faculty meeting, Curry addressed the faculty saying, “I want to thank the Senate for their service. Obviously, my perspective and interpretation of the situation is very different than theirs and I will need some time to explore how we bridge the gap in perspectives. All of us care deeply about Gordon and its mission and future. Both the provost and the College’s leadership will take some time to be able to respond constructively to this decision,” Sweeney said.
Part of the tension between the Senate and administration, according to the letter, came from remarks in a closed meeting between Lindsay and the Faculty Senate where Lindsay said that he is not bound by the Administrative/Faculty Handbook.
A professor who was present at the meeting spoke to the Tartan on condition of anonymity, offering the following analogy: “The Senate believes that the administration does not feel bound to the handbook in a way that everyone thought they were. So it’s a little bit, at least from the Senate’s perspective, it’s a little bit like a professor saying, well I don’t really feel bound by the syllabus, so I’m going to assign grades in this class based on criteria and I’m not going to tell you what they are.”
Another concern brought up in the letter was confusion among current junior faculty regarding the application process regarding promotion and tenure. Junior faculty are concerned that they will not be considered seriously for promotion even if the Faculty Senate unanimously votes in favor of them.
In an interview with the Tartan, a professor who was present at faculty meeting said that this situation is a question of the “functioning of the Senate and the power it has vis-a-vis the administration’s power.”
Professor Jonathan Gerber said he arrived at Gordon in 2010, and “the Senate has since then still been the most irenic group of people on campus, probably the most–I would say the most–respected single body on campus.” He went on to comment that any action on the part of the Faculty Senate “would be a clear indication, would be highly respected by faculty because of the status they hold.”
In an interview with the Tartan, a professor nominated for Senatorship this election cycle and who was present at the meeting said, “There’s people of goodwill on the faculty and in the Faculty Senate. There was no joy [on the part of the Senate] in this action, and I think people want this to end well. And, so there’s openness, at least I feel open to engage in some sort of dialogue, and I think the faculty should be open to that.”
The professor opted to remain anonymous because if elected, he or she “could have a role in trying to negotiate a reconciliation.”
“My hope is that as the dust settles there’ll be some clarity as to what’s the best way forward,” he or she added.
Earlier today (April 6), Curry offered faculty a time to discuss the decision-making process related to promotion and tenure at Gordon, how their actions are in line with the college’s peer institutions, and how “the administration and faculty can communicate and better work together within the faculty governance structures,” said Sweeney.
Langdon Kessner ‘17 contributed to this article.