Faculty Senate letter confirmed, sent to President Bardo
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Students aren’t the only members of the university demanding transparency.
Earlier this month The Sunflower received a letter in an unmarked envelope titled “Concerns of the Faculty regarding the governance and future of Wichita State University.” Members of Faculty Senate Wednesday confirmed the letter, which outlines faculty grievances with the administration, had been sent to President John Bardo.
The letter states faculty concerns that “the idea of shared governance is a concept that has fallen into disrepair under the current administration” and that there is “a perception that only part of the university is being involved in the future direction of the institution while the rest is left to fend for itself.”
Decision-making processes remain “murky” and input from faculty is “often non-existent.” Efforts to communicate to faculty are “superficial at best and patronizing at worst.”
“At a fundamental level, there is a profound lack of transparency and a frequent resort to unilateralism by the administration which is a main concern among the faculty at WSU,” the letter states.
“Colleges, departments and units are being asked to make ‘big and audacious goals’ and to ‘break out of silos’ and to be ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ but are asked to do so with no guidance,” the letter continues.
When faculty do attempt to meet these goals set by Bardo’s administration, the letter says, “those plans are given token acknowledgment and laid aside for the next new administrative pet project.”
The letter acknowledges the reality of the statewide budget crunch, but questions why money always seems to appear “for projects the administration deems important, such as paying consultants, but not others.”
Policies change without faculty input, the letter says. Syllabus changes are mandated without discussion. “The administration consistently declares these non-negotiable with no faculty input, only compliance. In these situations, the veneer of shared governance shatters.”
The letter uses Innovation Campus as a major example of an administrative decision that took place without any input from the faculty.
“Faculty are not necessarily opposed to the project but we are concerned about the lack of transparency in how the decisions regarding its development are made.”
Another major decision, according to the letter, that when forward with “limited discussion and input” included the WATC-WSU merger, and the changes it underwent over time.
“Now that it looks like WATC will simply be a satellite (for what purposes remains entirely unclear), all the time and energy put into it could have been saved if a thorough going discussion of the issues had been presented earlier on before any moves to merge were made,” the letter went on.
Faculty salaries, especially in relation to administrator salaries, were another major concern of the faculty in the letter.
“We are especially concerned that the number of administrators has been growing over the years while the number of faculty lines are being cut. At a time when money is tight, continually adding six-figure salaried administrators seems to be poor asset management.”
“Realizing that different budget streams have different restrictions, the truth, nevertheless, is that resources are continually made available to address priorities: the Innovation Campus, WATC, parking, sports, and Shocker One Stop, and expansion of upper administration in terms of both numbers and individual compensation. The message is clear: if you are a priority of the administration, then resources become available. Faculty are clearly not a priority.”
The conclusion of the letter, which is four pages in length, outlines a way forward, one that “treats faculty and staff as partners in the process whose concerns will be heard and whose concerns may shape or even stop a proposed project, goal, or endeavor. … We hope this time of challenge can also be one that launches a new way of doing things.”
The administration responded to the letter by creating an online page called “President Bardo’s Q/A.”
“The purpose of this online format is twofold: give faculty access to in-depth responses and allow administration to fully address the faculty questions and concerns,” the page, which is maintained by Strategic Communications, says.
On the page, the president’s executive team addresses questions submitted by faculty members, including some of the issues in the letter. On Wednesday, there were 13 total question answered and signed by 10 different administrators. None of the questions were answered or signed by President Bardo.