The proper role of the faculty must be restored at App State


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

One of the more prominent signs of the changes that have been occurring in higher education are the evolving roles of faculty and administration. Administration is growing in adverse ways, and Appalachian State University is no exception.

There has been tension between faculty and administration for some time now.  Sparked partly by notable incidents such as the Jammie Price academic freedom controversy and program prioritization, larger institutional trends also explain the tension.

With the Jammie Price case, a faculty committee concluded that Price had been denied due process when disciplinary actions were taken against her. Administration rejected the committee’s findings, according to The Appalachian.

In the case of program prioritization, the Faculty Senate voted to gain input into the process, according to the Watauga Democrat. Many faculty members expressed morale was lowered by the process’ handling, according to The Appalachian.

While these issues illustrate the tense relationship, a more general trend also reveals the uneasiness. A report released by the university chapter of the American Association of University Professors tracking growth in administration versus faculty has shown how lopsided the situation has become.

While faculty grew by 27 percent between 1990 and 2011, high-level administrative positions grew more than 200 percent. Salaries for administrative positions grew 350 percent, not adjusting for inflation.

Though the report does not compare Appalachian to other universities specifically, its findings are in line with broader trends. The fact that administration has grown out of proportion to faculty is disturbing, and the movement of resources indicates a shift in priorities.

This matters to the university because it undermines the core principle of faculty governance. This idea that professors should have key roles in running the university is under assault.

The faculty perception is that administration has not respected faculty governance. In a March 2013 survey, 52 percent of tenure-line faculty felt then-provost Lori Gonzalez did not respect faculty governance, while 37 percent thought the same of former chancellor Kenneth Peacock.

“I believe that some administrators see faculty governance as a burden,” said Michael Behrent, president of the university AAUP chapter.

Behrent said the traditional university model was one  of shared governance between faculty and administration, working to further the goals of education and research.

However, priorities changed. Administration has become preoccupied with assessments and statistics intended to measure performance and efficiency, information with little relation to actual education, Behrent said.

This is clearly a problem for the university, but it is important to think of it in proper terms. It is not necessarily a situation of malicious administrators out to target faculty.

Administrators are under pressure from the state to test for efficiency and to provide statistical information. Interim Provost Stan Aeschleman attributes the growth of administration partly to this pressure.

However, not everything is hopeless. A number of faculty members have expressed that Chancellor Sheri N. Everts is receptive to faculty concerns.

In this new atmosphere, we have the opportunity to overcome problems and move in a positive direction.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.