On a collision course

It has just come to our attention that a resolution has been prepared for presentation at the next meeting of the Faculty Senate on November 2.  The reported wording of the resolution is as follows:

Whereas the Provost’s proposed reorganization of the Graduate School has proceeded without a detailed written plan and without time for due consideration of the implications of such a plan for research and graduate education, the Faculty Senate proposes that any such action to implement such a plan, e.g., through the creation of a new Vice Chancellor for Research or changes in the functions of the Graduate School, be postponed until such time as there is a fully developed written plan that has been reviewed and approved by the University Committee and the Faculty Senate with appropriate opportunity for comment from all members of the faculty.

Among those who have discussed this resolution within our earshot, there is strong sentiment that it would pass by a very large margin.

Such an outcome would be both gratifying and deeply troubling.

Gratifying because it would send a clear message that the faculty are largely united in their profound concern regarding the process to date and, especially, in their willingness to stand up for the principle and tradition of shared governance at UW-Madison.

Troubling because it would represent a very serious, damaging, and completely unexpected breach of mutual trust and shared purpose between the faculty and the relatively new Administration. There would be no winners in this scenario, regardless of whether the restructuring process continues on the Chancellor’s and Provost’s fast track or whether the faculty succeed in forcing a fresh look at the issue.

One colleague’s dour assessment is that this is a resolution that one must desperately hope will not need to be offered after all but that, if it is, one can scarcely imagine anyone voting against it.

It is our impression that the Chancellor and Provost set this train into motion on the gamble that it would reach its destination before we, the faculty and staff, had much of a chance to understand what was at stake, let alone to react. It is also our impression that that gamble has already failed and that we are now on a dangerous collision course. If nothing changes, the collision will occur on November 2.

We urge the Administration to put on the brakes and avert the collision.

– The Editors

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10 Responses to On a collision course

  1. DWQ says:

    The ill will that this reorganization process is generating will be around long after the reorganization is complete. The administration needs to realize that once trust is gone, it takes a long time to regain and that this mistrust will affect other issues down the road.

  2. John W. Moore says:

    I agree that the Chancellor and Provost have set a course that flies in the face of the traditions that have served the UW-Madison well for more than a century. It is unfortunate that such a resolution needs to be offered, but it is essential that everyone vote for it, should it become necessary.

  3. SAA says:

    Sometimes we don’t want to know the answer to our question. Particularly when we know the answer and it is one we don’t like. We learned this lesson as an adolescent. I never asked my parents if I could go to Woodstock. I knew the answer and it was one I didn’t want articulated.

    It is hard to oppose this motion; however, I think this proposed faculty senate motion may raise the question “Who has the authority to define the organizational structure of the university – the chancellor or the faculty senate?” I think, legally, we know the answer and in the current context it may be one we don’t want to articulate.

    UW–Madison has a strong tradition of shared-governance. Campus wide decision-making is not an efficient process, but it is part of who we are as an institute and a community. It also assures support from a broad community and as a result creates stronger decisions. The proposed plan was developed without broad community input. It is not long into this Chancellor’s tenure that a conflict between ‘efficient process’ and ‘shared-governance’ may come to a head.

    How do we move this process forward in a positive manner? Perhaps there are two options 1) Let the UC ad hoc committee finish its study. The chancellor has said that she would consider those findings in her plans. 2) The Provost needs to provide other options for the solution to the listed problems and needs to find a better approach to accommodating community concerns. There have been several calls for a written plan to accompany the presentations, with no positive responses from the Provost Office to accommodate such calls. The proposed change in the Graduate School structure is a campus culture change. To be successful, this requires buy-in by faculty, staff and students. The Town Hall meetings are collecting information, most of it in opposition to the plan, and not incorporating grass-roots ideas or support. We need leadership now that enables the inclusion of faculty-governance in this process, as well as incorporating input from staff and students.

    (No, I never did get to Woodstock.)

  4. GWP says:

    To concur with what SAA wrote: yes, the Chancellor and Provost may well have the legal authority to restructure the administration without faculty participation in the decision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. As DWQ points out, goodwill and trust matter, and they are hard to win back once they’ve been lost.

  5. GWP says:

    Question to SSA (or anyone): When does the UC ad hoc community expect to finish its study? And for those of us not familiar with the workings of that committee, what, exactly, are they considering, and how? Are they focusing more on the process or on the proposal itself? My sense is that it’s the process that has most people so upset.

  6. uwh says:

    The UC Ad Hoc and ASEC Ad Hoc Committees are charged with finishing by the end of this calendar year. They are really charged with looking into what makes our research enterprise work right now and what might be lost in the proposed structure.

    I think in addition to process, faculty are wary of allowing administration to control most of the WARF dollars at a central level.

  7. RGB says:

    and the Academic Staff Senate.

    It seems that you may see differential funding/support/pay raises for biological science versus “hard science and the humanities.

    This continues the effort of the chancellor and governor to divide and conquer the faculty the parts of the university with solid funding versus those without.

  8. Elmer Fudd says:

    This is just silly.

    To anyone who has written and managed research grants at the UW in the past few years, it is clear that there need to be some serious changes. The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (RSP) is seriously overwhelmed, and the Graduate School is just not doing a very good job at crucial research proposal and grants management tasks.

    All to often, there have been serious “close calls” of losing a grant, violating terms of grants & contracts, etc. And the burden of these missteps almost always falls on the faculty and staff who bring in research grants.

    To those in the University Senate who are complaining about this: give me a break. This is a really good idea, and the only reason people are complaining is the typical knee-jerk reaction to change that always comes out of faculty governance.

    Let the Chancellor do her job. Let the Provost do his. A new VP for Research would be tremendously helpful, and align the UW with our peer institutions — finally — in this critical area.

  9. PTN says:

    I’ve attended four town hall sessions and in each case fingers have been pointed toward RSP as a problem. While I personally have had bumpy spots working with RSP, the problem really isn’t the nature of their titles (classified vs unclassified) rather the nature of their job(s) — enforcing rules and regulations that keep the UW working (even if slow at times). RSP is the unit that would bare the brunt of the scrutiny in most cases if audited by an agency (anyone who has submitted a grant knows there is a name a person at RSP on the electronic cover sheet that represents the person accountable to the entire board of regents of the UW).

    RSP has willing opened their shop for critique as part of the Administrative Process Redesign. I was unfamiliar with all the intricate details of APR teams until I attended yesterday’s forum. Several of these teams are making improvements to RSP processes that have already had improvements in areas such as award set-up, cost transfers, etc. APR has done an extensive amount of work that has systematically addressed current processes and proposed (in just one team’s case-award set-up) 29 improvements to help the machine run better. I would strongly encourage you to watch the video from yesterday’s APR session to see what excellent processes and recommendations are ongoing: http://www.vc.wisc.edu/APR/

    The Provost (and Chancellor) need to recognize that complaints about RSP not working likely reflect a collection of individual worst case scenario issues of closeout taking 2 yrs, etc. Changes that are going into effect NOW will help (and already have) RSP run better. Not only does pointing the finger at RSP single out one unit of the campus inappropriately as the ‘only’ source, a restructuring at large scale undermines our coworkers who have spent hours researching and proposing solutions to problems via a systematic and educated process. Before proposing adding another Vice Chancellor position why not get the facts on what is already happening on campus to improve our research shop?

    While I agree that some areas of the machine need tweaking-as any good organization will consider evaluation and restructure, it must be done systematically by identifying what works/doesn’t work with the current system, identifying stake holders and with fiscal accountability.

  10. ABC says:

    PTN – Thank you for finally pointing out the APR project! From the first town hall meeting I sat in on, it’s painfully clear that a great number of faculty and staff, as well as the Provost seem to be unaware of these efforts!

    I’ve done my fair share of complaining about RSP in the past, but I must confess, I haven’t had to complain about award set up since the APR team implemented their improvements. Given the high employee turnover in that department in the past year, I would say that the wheels are turning there again and it’s looking promising! I look forward to the remaining solutions next spring that APR implements to see if it further stabilizes the department.

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