Proposal could strip research profs of vote

Faculty members and the dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services are arguing over a resolution presented at last month’s Faculty Senate meeting that would bar SPHHS research faculty from being a part of certain decision-making groups.

The resolution, introduced by the Committee on Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom, would prevent research faculty in the school from participating in curriculum decisions, as well as the appointments of tenured professors, deans and department chairs. Supporters of the resolution say the research faculty are subject to coercion and should not be trusted to vote, but SPHHS Interim Dean Josef Reum said that the resolution would make research faculty “second-class citizens.”

Research faculty are members of the school’s staff whose primary job is in research rather than the instruction of students.

In non-GW Medical Center programs, research faculty are not allowed to vote on certain governance issues. But many faculty members in the SPHHS – which is a part of the medical center – are research-based, so stripping them of the ability to vote would take the rights from a significant number of faculty members.

The resolution says research faculty are “less likely than tenure-accruing faculty to have the academic independence and scholarly background needed to achieve the high levels of scholarly excellence and academic recognition to which the University aspires.”

The proposal – which was tabled and will be revised and reintroduced at a future meeting – caused a stir among faculty when it was submitted during the February Faculty Senate meeting, inducing outbursts from faculty and Reum, who said he had not been consulted on the matter. Reum said that he was “immediately saddened, angry and frightened” that members of GW would be devalued based on their appointment status.

“It is my hope, for the life of the entire GWU community.[that] the senate will take issue with this incendiary, discriminatory and offensive characterization of research and non-tenure accruing faculty,” Reum said last week.

Chair of the Committee for Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom and principle supporter of the resolution Charles Garris said in an interview earlier this week that research faculty are often subject to coercion by other faculty and administrators and should not be allowed to partake in University governance.

“Only regular, active-status faculty, the majority of which are tenured and tenure-track faculty, who have a long-term stake in the University [and who] are not subject to coercion should vote,” Garris said. “Research faculty should not vote on code-specified matters which affect the long-term academic excellence of the SPHHS.”

Failure to reduce the influence of the research faculty “may have negative consequences” for SPHHS, Garris said.

The issue of research faculty influence stems from SPHHS being out of compliance with the Faculty Code concerning the number of tenured or tenure-accruing faculty in each school. The Faculty Code requires that at least 50 percent of professors in each school be tenured or tenure-accruing, and caps non-tenured professors at 25 percent of the school’s total active faculty. In SPHHS research faculty, as of this fiscal year, reached the 50 percent mark, but still employs too many non-tenured professors at 38 percent.

One of GW’s newest schools, SPHHS has been addressing this shortcoming since its creation in 1997. In 2005, only 39 percent of faculty members were employed as tenured or tenure-accruing faculty, Reum said last fall.

Garris said while the resolution would limit the influence of research faculty, it “does not prevent the SPHHS from seeking and availing themselves of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the research faculty, nor involving them in a wide variety of matters.”

Eric Goplerud, a research professor in the school’s department of health policy, called the resolution “insulting and ignorant.” He said the position taken by the committee is “arrogant, condescending and morally wrong.”

“It badly smacks of a class society of the elect and the fallen,” Goplerud said. “Didn’t we have a revolution, the leader of which our University is named [after], to establish a democracy? Shame on the Faculty Senate.”

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