University reviews governance policies for individual schools

The University’s 10 schools will reexamine their governance policies over the next year as they seek to centralize documents and create a process to review them more regularly.

The Faculty Senate began comparing each school’s bylaws with the guidelines stipulated in the overarching faculty code, a document that outlines roles and rights for all of GW’s academic employees, after a conflict was discovered in the College of Professional Studies’ rules earlier this fall.

As the provost begins collecting and rereading each school’s bylaws, academic administrators are taking the opportunity to establish a method for organizing the documents in a single location so that University employees can be more aware of their rights. The joint effort between the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Senate also hopes to ensure that policies are easily accessible across future leadership shifts.

The process for selecting deans according to the bylaws of the College of Professional Studies is inconsistent with the faculty code, the Faculty Senate discovered after the selection of a new dean for the school in October.

The governing documents for the college allow the University president and the provost to select a dean with input from full-time faculty and “deans of schools whose programs are most directly affected by [CPS].” But the University-wide code calls for the provost to pick a dean through an elected search committee.

Each school or department can set its own standards for more specific topics of governance as long as they comply with the University-wide code.

From promotion and tenure to academic freedom, the University-wide code covers “all those things that constitute the basic requirements for governance,” Michael Castleberry, chair of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, said.

The discrepancy was discovered after Kathleen Burke announced in late August that she would end her three-year stint as the dean of the college – after tensions surrounding an ongoing search for the Graduate School of Political Management’s executive director surfaced among faculty, students and alumni – and the University tapped Ali Eskandarian as her replacement within just two months. Eskandarian previously served as senior associate dean for strategic initiatives and research in CPS.

Provost Steven Lerman said he talked with the college’s dean’s council and program directors – which together include almost all of the full-time faculty of the college and representatives from other schools – as well as the academic affairs committee of the Board of Trustees, the executive committee of the Faculty Senate and University President Steven Knapp when selecting Eskandarian. The deliberations violated the University’s faculty code by not including an elected search committee.

“But it is a faculty right. It is an opportunity for the faculty to have input into the selection of people who will lead and govern the school in which they work,” Castleberry said.The discrepancy occurred because the group replacing Burke consulted the college’s bylaws rather than the faculty code, Lerman said.

“The Faculty Senate will be examining this difference in the coming year to determine whether the faculty code or the CPS bylaws should be modified,” Lerman said.

Burke’s selection in 2008 complied with the code, gathering input from an elected search committee and the necessary CPS and non-CPS faculty. “There was an interest in an outside candidate” during the hiring process for Burke, Lerman said.

An amendment to bring CPS’s bylaws into compliance with the code would require a two-thirds vote of the college’s faculty in a specialized meeting, with final approval depending on the provost.

To prevent future code violations, Lerman has begun asking colleges and schools to review their bylaws for consistency with the faculty code.

The University also hopes to centralize the rules, and potentially publicize the documents, but Castleberry said details of that effort have not yet been finalized.

“Once upon a time, a faculty member could be fired just because a new dean or a new president came in and just didn’t like them and you didn’t really have recourse,” Castleberry said. “So governance is designed to be a protected structure that defines what the role and participation is of all the constituent groups of the organization.”

Four schools within the University – the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the three schools of the medical center – have revised their bylaws in the last few years and all 10 deans have turned over within the last four years.

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