A note on the Faculties’ resolutions.

While the memory of the Alumni Association’s annual meeting is still somewhat fresh in my mind, I want to take issue with the repeated mischaracterization by BVG members present of the Annapolis faculty’s resolution of May 13th.

First, that resolution, again, in full:

We, the tutors of the Annapolis campus of St. John’s College, reaffirm our support for the findings of the 2013–2014 college-wide Faculty Polity Review, which recognized the importance of campus communities with regard to college governance. Still more do we affirm our approval of the collaborative process through which that agreement was reached.

We acknowledge that the Board of Visitors and Governors of St. John’s is committed to consolidating many college offices for the purposes of significantly reducing expenses, thereby putting the college on a solid financial footing. With a view to this the Board has decided to abolish the management committee and to unify college leadership in a new way, with the purpose of “improv[ing] the college-wide decision making process, and accordingly better equip[ping] us to deal with our financial challenges.” Under the imminent proposal for Polity revision, one campus president will indefinitely serve as college-wide executive with authority over college-wide as well as campus-specific matters, while the other campus president, reporting to the college-wide president, will have only campus-specific authority and ceremonial duties.

A two-president structure in which one president has greater authority will make the second a president in name only, and it will confuse lines of authority and reduce accountability. In the case of St. John’s College the line between college-wide and campus-specific issues is very hard to draw consistently and with any clarity; this confusion will lead to disagreements concerning the authority of each president.

Furthermore, the inequality between the offices will almost certainly lead to inequities in the management of the college. This will be true regardless of the campus on which the college-wide president is located, now or in the future.

If there must be a single college-wide president, we think it imperative that both faculties have a direct and unmediated relationship with the president, and he or she with them. The proposed structure will be a recurring and profound source of divisiveness and distrust, contrary to the board’s intention and to the desire of both campuses. Indeed, the proposal is already causing widespread anger and divisiveness.

Moreover, the nominal president will lack the full stature necessary to fulfill essential functions such as lobbying legislators and cultivating the most significant donors, thus hampering the upcoming campaign. Finally, to adopt a nominal presidency will result in a significant expense and duplication of offices, contrary to the purpose of college-wide consolidation. For these reasons we, the tutors of the Annapolis campus, vigorously urge the Board to reconsider their proposal and establish a single president for St. John’s College, who will preside over both campuses equally and be responsible to and accountable for St. John’s College as a whole.

The voices I heard on the call — one of which was later explained to me as having been BVG member Bryan Dorland — explicitly stated that both the Annapolis faculty and the Santa Fe faculty passed resolutions which agree in spirit with the proposed Polity change. I take issue with that characterization, as would, I suspect, members of the Annapolis faculty. As did, in fact, the current Dean of the Annapolis faculty, Joe Macfarland, in the meeting.

Is it true that both the Annapolis resolution, Santa Fe resolution, and the proposed Polity change all call for a single, college-wide executive? Surely that is strictly true.

Here’s the text of the Santa Fe resolution (as it was described by Mark Roosevelt in an email he sent to the BVG) which the Annapolis faculty received as an attachment to an email on May 26th.

May 24, 2016

Dear Board Members,

The Santa Fe Faculty met this afternoon to review the polity changes proposed by the BVG at your May meeting. What is below is the outcome of that meeting. I believe the language and sentiment is clear but take the liberty of adding that the first recommendation was an attempt to address concerns that have been raised that the campus where the president with college-wide authority does not reside may appear short-changed.

The faculty recommended to the Board that they consider revising the language of the proposed amendment to state, “There will be a President on each campus, and one of the Presidents will be designated Chancellor of St. John’s College.”

The faculty voted in unanimous support of the motion.

In addition the faculty unanimously supported this resolution:

The faculty of St. John’s College in Santa Fe endorses the movement of the Board towards consolidated leadership, greater accountability, and more responsive, timely decision-making.

Best,

Mark

[Emphasis his.]

Resolving that there will be “a President on each campus” is not the same thing as requesting that the Board “establish a single president for St. John’s College, who will preside over both campuses equally and be responsible to and accountable for St. John’s College as a whole.” The Santa Fe faculty’s resolution lines up very neatly with the proposed Polity change, with the exception that they suggest the college-wide president be titled “Chancellor.” The Annapolis faculty resolution is suggesting a different kind of governance change that acknowledges the Board’s desire to consolidate administrative authority. If anything, one reading of the Annapolis faculty resolution might be that absent any proposed Polity change they prefer the governance structure remain as it has been, but that they are willing to accommodate the Board on this point.

Both resolutions were written in response to the proposed Polity change. They are not de novo. They are not, for instance, the faculty themselves (of both campuses) proposing, de novo, a change to the Polity and the governance structure of the College. These resolutions are both reactive — though not reactionary — and not proactive. They are ameliorating a situation that was created without the input of the faculty. This is true in a very literal sense: the Deans were apparently not present in the room when the Polity amendment was proposed and voted on. And in neither case did their resolutions explicitly say, “We want the same governance structure as the Board is proposing, we support this change to the Polity.”

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