The co-Presidents of the AAUP’s Colorado Conference have sent the following letter to the Board of Trustees at Fort Lewis College about the situation there:
Since Drs. Mumme and Rees of Colorado AAUP have openly shared their March 3rd letter to the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees on this site, I think it only fair to share a letter sent to them in response from the Fort Lewis College Faculty Senate President dated March 6th. It points to (in part) the split of the faculty on this issue.
Professor of Chemistry
6 March 2014
Dr. Stephen P. Mumme and Dr. Jonathan Rees, co-presidents AAUP Colorado Conference
Re: Your March 3, 2014 letter to the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees
I am writing to you both to express my dismay and deeply felt concern regarding your letter of March 3, 2014 to the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees. I am particularly concerned about your decision to forward the letter to the AAUP President, and of most serious concern, to the President of the Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association.
As president of the Fort Lewis College faculty senate it is not my responsibility to advocate for the faculty, but I am charged with the difficult task of representing the varied points of view of the faculty at large. Admittedly this has been very challenging over the last couple of months because of the Board of Trustees’ decision to roll our course-credit model back to a 3-credit model from the current mix of 3 and 4 credits. I think it is safe to say that very few on our campus would argue that this was not, at the very least, a heavy-handed move. Nevertheless, my concern, gentlemen, is that you have uncritically, and at face value, accepted the sentiments of one group of the faculty and have proceeded as if those sentiments express a unified faculty voice. In truth, our faculty is relatively evenly split over this decision, certainly more evenly than your letter implies. It is to this point and to the decision to forward your letter to the Higher Learning Commission that I direct my primary concerns.
I find it disturbing, unprofessional, and highly irregular that you chose to compose and then send this letter, wherein you specifically mention the Fort Lewis College Faculty Senate, without the common courtesy of a phone call to me as its president or without providing me the opportunity to review or comment on your letter from the point of view of senate leadership. The ways in which our Board of Trustees’ recent decision has exposed long-standing divisions on our campus are not so simply characterized as black-and-white “sides,” nor is there a significant majority opinion against this decision, as the Fort Lewis College AAUP chapter’s own recent survey suggests (51% oppose the switch).
Regardless of how divided we may or may not be, there does seem to be a growing consensus that you have overstepped your authority. Since your letter was made public I have been contacted by several faculty members on both sides of this issue, including several who are AAUP members,
expressing their anger and dismay over an action (your letter) that implicitly speaks for a majority of Fort Lewis College Faculty. In fact, at least one member of the AAUP has expressed concern that they were completely unaware of this letter, suggesting that the activities that prompted you to write it are not even being communicated to all of the Fort Lewis College AAUP members, let alone the faculty at large.
What has most alarmed our faculty, however, is not the presumption that you speak for all of us, but rather the fact that you took it upon yourselves to forward your letter to Sylvia Manning, the current president of our accrediting body. Whereas I am acutely aware that we have a lot of work to do to repair faculty relationships and to address lapses in shared governance (which I am diligently working on, by the way), I do not know many Fort Lewis College faculty members who would readily consent to individuals from outside of our institution being empowered to jeopardize our upcoming 2015 accreditation visit. There are, in fact, many faculty members on all sides of this issue who have worked very hard to prepare for this visit and will continue to do so over the next several months. Your forward to the HLC disrespects the hard work of these colleagues and our collective commitment to our institution, regardless of its current troubles.
In closing I want to remind you that you have been granted neither the right nor the authority to parade Fort Lewis College’s issues out in front of the Higher Learning Commission, particularly without the professional courtesy of a phone call to verify facts and assess the complexities of faculty feelings about this decision. In the future, I would hope that you more carefully consider your actions regarding the potential livelihood and well being of your faculty colleagues, or at the very least make some kind of effort to ensure that you are speaking for the collective views of the faculty you profess to represent. Failure to correct these inappropriate actions will only further damage the credibility of the AAUP, an organization that many of us greatly respect and value.
Charles R Riggs, PhD, R.P.A.
Associate Professor and President, Fort Lewis College Faculty Senate
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