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Faculty Forum Papers



Graham B. Spanier
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

October 1986

October 2, 1986

Graham B. Spanier
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you on this, my second day as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oregon State University. I have received a most warm welcome from the faculty, staff, and administration, and I am grateful for the confidence you and President Byrne have shown in me by selecting me for this position.

I would like my remarks today to be the first in a yearly series of addresses to the Faculty Senate in which I might outline some goals and plans for the year. In addition, I will plan to attend all Senate meetings personally during the year, schedule permitting. I plan to have available at every Senate meeting a written summary of important actions, issues, and announcements that might be of special interest to the faculty. I will also make myself available for questions and comments at each Senate meeting I am able to attend to the extent that the Senate agenda permits

Before I outline some initial impressions about Oregon State University, I want to take a moment to reflect on one aspect of the past year. You have undergone the most significant administrative reorganization in the history of this university, and I think we will all come to appreciate President Byrne's decision to structure Oregon State University in a manner that is more customary for comprehensive institutions of higher education in the United States. Perhaps the most important part of this reorganization is the creation of the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. I want to publicly acknowledge my debt and gratitude to Bill Wilkins, who had the difficult and challenging task of launching the position, defining the initial scope of it, and making it work during a time of change. I can't tell you how pleased I am to join an institution and an office where so much works so well. All of my previous administrative appointments have involved stepping into chaos, poor morale, serious financial disarray, and a vacuum of leadership. Bill has done an exemplary job and should be credited with laying a most impressive foundation for the future. Please join me in publicly thanking Bill and wishing him well during his forthcoming sabbatical year.

Oregon State University is a remarkable success story. During the course of my interviews and my first days on campus, I have had the opportunity to familiarize myself with much of what we have to offer as a university. I have read thousands of pages of reports, reviews, proposals, plans, and public relations material. I have also now had more than 100 meeting involving several hundred of the faculty and staff. (Please forgive me if I do not remember your names at first!) We can be proud of what we have here and especially of the accomplishments of our many talented faculty.

But in stepping into this new position, I am more concerned about our potential than about our achievements. I see my principal responsibilities, shared with the President and other Vice Presidents, as advancing this institution to a position of increasing national and international leadership and visibility; strengthening our service to the people of Oregon; insuring that the education we provide our students is up to date, intellectually sound, and of the highest quality; enhancing the quality of life for students, staff and faculty members on campus; insuring that we hire the best faculty and staff who we can attract to Oregon State; rewarding those outstanding faculty that we already have here; finding ways to improve the efficiency of management of the university in areas such as personnel actions, computing, office automation, and administrative procedures; and providing leadership for programs that will enhance our ability to attract to the faculty, staff and student body individuals from underrepresented groups. I want us to take the next big step in all of these areas.

Oregon State University is a leader nationally in many fields, but we can do better. The obstacles are at times formidable: faculty and staff salaries are too low; teaching loads are not competitive in some units; inadequate start-up funds for laboratories, equipment, and staff assistance for new faculty; employee benefits that might be improved; and bureaucratic policies that occasionally seem to get in the way. But all of these limitations, and the many others I haven't mentioned, can be corrected. I am going to try.

Today I would like to summarize several initiatives that I hope to launch in the immediate future. I will welcome your input on all of these ideas and programs, and indeed encourage each of you to write to me directly, or through the appropriate Senate committees, about these and other programs.

1. First, I am pleased to announce that Professor Pete Fullerton has accepted a three year appointment as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. His appointment follows several months of able service as Acting Associate Vice President. Dr. Fullerton's assignments will include many of those traditionally part of the Dean of Faculty portfolio, as well as supervision of several academic support units and a substantial number of new responsibilities.

Professor Mimi Orzech has accepted a three year appointment as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, following several months of impressive service as Acting Assistant Vice President. Dr. Orzech's assignments will include many of those previously held by the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, as well as supervisory responsibility for several academic support units and a range of special assignments. I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with these two most capable individuals.

2. Effective immediately, and as indicated in my remarks about Dr. Pete Fullerton and Dr. Mimi Orzech, all new administrative appointments made through my office will carry specific fixed-terms of service, with the opportunity for continuing renewals. This approach allows for in-depth periodic evaluation of Deans, Directors, and other managers reporting to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Such a system is now in place in some of our Colleges. However, I will encourage Deans and Directors to make appointments of chairs, heads, and others for appropriate terms. I will also review with incumbents how we might move each of them to a system of periodic review.

3. The Senate today received a committee recommendation regarding fixed-term appointments. Upon receipt of the Senate's recommendations, I will endeavor to institute a new policy on such appointments by the end of fall term. This is a most complex issue. Our policy must allow us to attract and keep the best faculty we can while protecting the financial integrity of the institution.

4. It is clear that there are substantial variations in workloads across campus. Several units have unusually high teaching loads, including the Colleges of Health and Physical Education, the College of Business and the School of Education. There also can be little doubt that one of our largest academic units, the College of Liberal Arts, has a standard teaching load that challenges faculty to sustain a program of research or creative scholarship comparing favorably with colleagues in peer institutions. Reducing teaching workloads is a challenge since we do not wish to reduce student credit hours. Nevertheless, through curriculum review and attention to course scheduling and sequencing, we may be able to make some initial improvements. I have already begun to discuss this problem with Dean Robert Frank and have asked him to conduct a careful study of how we might begin to reduce teaching loads for faculty who are productive scholars in the College of Liberal Arts. In order to facilitate this plan, I am prepared to guarantee that, barring serious financial circumstances, the College will not lose any faculty positions during the next two years, even though many of its faculty might be teaching fewer courses. I will be reviewing the workloads in other Colleges with their Deans as well and hope to launch efforts in those units to free more faculty time for scholarship and professional development.

5. All faculty members should have an opportunity to further their professional development, including travel to professional meetings. Some of our colleges have insufficient funds to support travel to even one meeting a year for some of their faculty. I will seek to create a special pool of funds beyond those already available to support faculty development and professional travel. In addition, we will streamline the procedures leading to faculty development and travel awards now administered centrally. Such a program is not only good for the faculty member, it is good for OSU. We must not underestimate the importance of our presence at professional meeting as a way of marketing our university, attracting graduate students, and recruiting other faculty.

6. In collaboration with Vice President Trow, we will appoint a task force to study the problem of student attrition. Stated differently, we wish to improve retention. This will be an important emphasis during this year.

7. To further enhance the visibility of the university, and to accept the special role of universities in recognizing distinguished national and world leaders in education, government, and industry, I propose that we reestablish the OSU tradition of awarding honorary doctorates to deserving leaders in their fields. We would thereby rejoin the many leading institutions of higher education that grant such recognition. This program would need to be established so it does not diminish in any way the honor we have bestowed on recipients of our Distinguished Service Awards.

8. To further bring distinguished Americans to Oregon State, as well as to enrich the cultural and political awareness of our students and faculty, I plan to work with the Lectures and Convocations Committee to establish a Provost's Lectureship. This would be an occasional lecture and will provide additional opportunities to expose our students and faculty to national leaders, particularly eminent women and minorities.

9. With the concurrence of Dean Lyle Calvin, I would like to institute a policy, to be effective next fall, prohibiting graduate students whose native language is not English from teaching until such time as they have been deemed proficient in spoken English at a level appropriate to their assignment and so certified by the English Language Institute. I will ask the Senate to consider this matter and hope that there is agreement that such a policy would serve well both our undergraduate students and the graduate students involved.

10. There is nothing more important for the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost than matters relating to faculty appointments, faculty development, promotion, and tenure. I want to continue the tradition of making the university's expectations clear and facilitating faculty development that encourages promotion and tenure. The Provost has the delicate responsibility of making personnel decisions that will promote excellence, but that will also be equitable and humane. We must recognize diversity across academic units and we must remember that many individuals are hired to do work that does not necessarily fit our traditional expectations for faculty research, scholarship and teaching. There are some improvements to be made in the manner that we conduct our tenure and promotion reviews at Oregon State. Although it would not be appropriate to change any policies that would significantly affect this year's deliberations, I have been working with central administration staff, the Faculty Senate President, and the chair of the Senate Promotion and Tenure Committee to find ways to streamline the process once a dossier reaches the administration building. I will be working with your Senate representatives during the year to reexamine the overall process with an eye to next year. One specific change I would like to discuss relates to the confidentiality of outside letters. I would like to give the faculty the option of waiving the right to see evaluative letters. A policy by which letters are open to faculty members may restrict an outside evaluator's willingness to present an objective assessment of the candidate. I have therefore asked our legal counsel, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, to prepare a draft -- and I underline the word draft -- of a form that would be available to faculty on a strictly voluntary basis -- and I underline the word voluntary -- that could be used to waive one's right of access of such letters. This is similar to what we do with letters of evaluation for undergraduate and graduate students and is a procedure with which we are all familiar. I will ask the Senate as well as Deans and Department administrators to consider this proposal.

11. I would like to announce the establishment of a Provost's Art Prize. This prize will be given annually to a work crated by a student and judged meritorious in a competition overseen by a faculty committee. The winning student would receive an appropriate cash prize and the work of art would become part of the permanent collection of the university and displayed in the administration building or another appropriate location on campus.

12. A high priority of mine is the encouragement of interdisciplinary cooperation. We have had great success with such ventures already, for example in the interdisciplinary research centers reporting to Vice President Keller. In cooperation with other Vice Presidents, I will look for opportunities to bring faculty members together from different units for research, instruction, and unstructured exchange of ideas. I will continue to sponsor the informal brown bag luncheon series started by Bill Wilkins to bring together faculty and staff from around campus, as well as from off campus. This series will be open to all faculty and staff and will feature informal presentations of research and scholarship by faculty from all of our academic Colleges.

13. Oregon State University's general education curriculum for undergraduates is seriously in need of reform. In addition, we need to examine the entire range of educational opportunities outside of the classroom. I would like to work with the Faculty Senate and the Long Range Planning Committee Curriculum Task Force to launch a major study of our curriculum. It is my hope that we will consider moving away from a curriculum with little coherence -- the current format by which students simply choose courses from a long menu in each category -- to a curriculum that has themes, emphases on certain skills, and a rationale that projects what the OSU faculty consider an appropriate array of courses for a graduate of the 1990's.

14. I will soon meet with various groups concerned with issues pertaining to women, including the President's Commission on the Status of Women and the Women's Center Advisory Group. Among the topics I would like to address are day care, sexual harassment, affirmative action, dual-career issues, maternity leave policies, and the classroom climate for women. Similarly, I will soon meet with groups concerned with issues pertaining to minorities, including the Minorities Task Force. We will want to examine and perhaps redesign our entire approach to affirmative action in the recruitment of faculty and students in view of Oregon State's difficulties in seeking and attracting underrepresented groups to our campus.

15. I will initiate discussions on how we might further improve the way we manage budgets, personnel forms, and student records. Vice President Trow and I have discussed the need to simplify procedures pertaining to registration, advising, and related student services. I believe much can be accomplished even within the constraints currently imposed in conjunction with the development of the Total Information System. We will also embark on a program of office automation in Academic Affairs, not just to improve our own procedures there, but to lay the groundwork for future electronic communication with the Colleges.

16. I hope to launch this spring, in anticipation of the fall 1987 term, a faculty associate program. This program would bring a faculty member into central administration for one year, on a half-time basis, to assist with special projects. It is an opportunity for interested individuals to sample administration without making an irreversible career shift. I see it as an especially useful way to help prepare individuals for possible future administrative appointments. Such a program would be geared to faculty relatively early in their careers, with special emphasis on attracting women and minorities to such an internship.

17. To facilitate communication among the academic administration, I will propose to the deans the establishment of a new group and the continuation of another. The Dean's Forum would be a new group consisting of only the deans and would be chaired by the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. This will become a key body that discusses academic and administrative policy, and helps chart the direction for the university. The Academic Council will continue and will include the deans as well as broader representation by directors of the university's other units centrally involved in Academic Programs.

18. I plan to look consistently for opportunities to expand the social consciousness for our students. It is important that the university provide for its students an environment in which there can be open discussion of social issues facing them personally and the world around them. I hope that a growing number or our lectures, conferences, and cultural events will focus our attention on issues such as Apartheid, poverty and unemployment, family disruption, disarmament, and social injustice and discrimination in its many forms.

These are some of my initial ideas and impressions. I welcome your comments on them and hope that all of you would agree that some of these goals are worth pursuing with vigor. I look forward to working with you in the years ahead, and I want especially to wish you well as we begin this new academic year together

Graham B. Spanier
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

October 9, 1986

Opinions expressed by authors of Faculty Forum articles are not necessarily those of the OSU Faculty or Faculty Senate.