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Faculty Forum Papers



Thurston E. Doler
Faculty Senate President

October 1988

Thurston E. Doler, Faculty Senate President

For the past two decades I've been involved in faculty governance organizations that include the Oregon State Employees Association, Interinstitutional Faculty Senate, the Association of Oregon Faculties and the OSU Faculty State. Thus, it should come as no surprise to you that I intend to discuss the role of faculty in delineating options for the immediate future.

The CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, in its 9-7-88 issue, has a lead article entitled: "Action Oriented Governor at Odds with College Leaders Over Charge He's Politicizing Higher Education." Since there has been much ambiguity about the situation we find ourselves in, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the various details of this essay. Regardless of some of the specifics, however, there seem to be at least two fairly clear conclusions that can be drawn. They are: 1. Our Governor has injected himself into the management of higher education, and we have to deal with that; and 2. The prospects for significant increases in budgets for higher education in 89-90 are at best uncertain, and we have to cope with this.

I'm confident that the dialogue between State government's representatives, the Governor in particular, and higher education in the next few months will profoundly affect our fortunes in the next biennium. We are already in a dialogue of sorts. It began in April when the Faculty Senate adopted a resolution called "A Declaration of Concern," which raised questions about the alleged politicization of higher education and the prospects of diminishing support. It also, however, acknowledged the reality that the promotion of higher education is dependent upon a partnership with the governor in solving the problems of support for what we do. The governor has acknowledged this partnership.

A recent meeting between Bob McCoy, President of the Association of Oregon Faculties and Mark Nelson, Public Affairs Counsel, and the Governor resulted in a friendly encounter in which mutual concern for the welfare of higher education was expressed, but which resulted in no promises. Thus, nothing from this meeting substantially altered our perceptions of where we are. There is, however, the prospect of significant additional dialogue.

I am convinced that unless we're able to alter substantially the situation in the next few months, we will go into the next legislative session with reduced leadership and less than the support that we need to do the job that we have been doing and expect to continue doing.

I would like to take an inward look, from a faculty perspective, at what we have done in the recent past, what we're doing now, and what we urgently need to do in the immediate future. A consideration of options.

From where I stand, despite some significant negatives, the basic state of the University is excellent! Here's why I think so. Take a look at what we did last year with curriculum. With the approval of the Faculty Senate, our Curriculum Council, under the leadership of Bruce Shepard, reviewed many programs, modernized some, deleted others or proposed new ones. A central example of a new program is the new Ph. D. degree in Applied Economics that is now in place.

Under the direction of Jack Davis, scores of faculty have spent hundreds of hours overhauling our curricula and converting to the Semester System. We may not have approved the change but we are doing the job well.

A Curriculum Review Commission, chaired by Frank Schaumburg, did a comprehensive study of General Education Requirements earlier this year and that program is now under the direction of Baccalaureate Core Committee Chairperson, Jean Peters. It's ongoing. Again, with Senate scrutiny and approval.

The almost thirty (30) Faculty Senate Committees have for years performed indispensable services in governance of the University. A typical example this last year was the Budgets and Fiscal Planning Committee, chaired by Margy Woodburn, which recommended the procedures for program reduction, consolidation, or elimination, adopted by the Faculty Senate. More about that later.

How about research? I read in the Summer issue of BRIEFING, published by the Southern Willamette Research Corridor, that OSU's research contracts will total over $113,000,000.00 this year. That's up substantially from last year and ranks OSU 54th among the top 100 Universities funded by federal grants for research and development. Vice President Keller, take a bow for your faculties!

Our public service record is another little noticed dimension of what we do. I obviously cannot enumerate this in detail, but it's illustrated in a conversation I had this week with Dick Scanlan, Chair of Food Technology, who pointed out to me that OSU's graduates and know-how are pervasive in the food processing industries in Oregon. I'm confident that the list of examples could be "as long as your arm." Note the awards given here today!

In the wake of this record, still more will be demanded of us. The OSSHE projected admissions increase for this year is up 17%. For OSU the projection is 12%. (See Fall Admission Summary, July 22, 1988). The new increase for OSU could be as much as 3%. Obviously, there are many out there who like what we offer.

Now, let's take a look at the demands that we have been making on ourselves. We have raised our standards for tenure and promotion. It's now tougher than ever to get tenure at OSU. The standards for promotion have also been tightened up. The hurdles have been raised. These were adopted by the Faculty Senate just this year.

So, the business of teaching, research and service is not simply "business as usual;" it's better than usual! Let those who demand excellence of us be encouraged by what we have done and what is taking place here. Personally, I have no reluctance to say to the taxpayers, our alumni, the parents of our students, and to those who govern us, if you want dedication, we have it; if you want commitment, we are committed; if you want renewal, we're doing it; if you want excellence, we display it. If we are not doing enough to promote economic development in Oregon, let's engage in dialogue. Let's derive the quid pro quo that will support higher education adequately and give the State's economy the prosperity that we all want and need. Let's do it!

Our future is held in the hands of various people and groups. We faculty are not the masters of our fates. We can be, however, significant contributors. There are things that we have done and there are things yet to be done. Let's discuss some of them.

As I said earlier, the prospects for our support next biennium are uncertain. Signals from the Governor, who proposes to the legislature, are ambiguous at best and discouraging at worst. His is the demand for "excellence," with which nobody disagrees. There is the suggestion that we might be expected, however, to reward only the best among us and leave others who give merely "satisfactory" service with minimal or no rewards. This policy, if applied over time, will inevitably result in islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. This unhealthy situation could not long endure because the "islands" would remove themselves, leaving nothing but the mediocre. To use another metaphor, if the faculty are the goose that lays the golden eggs of teaching, research and service, this policy would result, at best, in producing a goose that lays only gold plated eggs!

In the face of these prospects the Faculty Senate has consistently made the same choice. No across the board salary reductions to finance deficits. The choice is to reduce or eliminate programs, which means eliminating people, and doing well those that remain. This Spring the Faculty Senate, as it did in 1981, when Leo Parks was president, adopted criteria and procedures for doing just that--and without declaring financial exigency! The prospect of financing a two (2) or four (4) percent salary increase "out of our hides," as it were, is indeed, daunting. Let's work hard to avoid doing that!

This situation creates not only the opportunity but the necessity for faculty to make a statement--perhaps many statements. (Incidentally, in my past efforts to enter into the deliberations of issues before the OSBHE, I have had to elbow my way into discussions. I think it's ironical that one of the System's greatest sources of knowledge and expertise, the faculties, is not a regular, scheduled contributor to Board deliberations. Now back to the regular script.) Positive, intelligent, wise and persistent steps are needed to avoid the worse case scenario and to obtain the best possible outcome. The players in this game are diverse--the public, the governor, the legislature and the programs competing for funds, including higher education.

There is no "cop out." We cannot, not make a statement, for no statement is a statement, albeit the wrong one! Let's enumerate some of them and trust that a number of small steps will add up to a giant leap. First, we continue to do our jobs and to publicize that fact discretely when possible. We are voters, a small minority, but many of us are opinion leaders and that can make a big difference in votes. We can focus on the Governor and the Legislature and communicate with them. We have higher education people all over the state who can do these things, and they can make a difference!

What should we NOT do? We should not rant and rave, wallow in self pity, attack the public, the governor or legislators.

What else should we do? We should use our considerable intelligence and talents to help solve our problems. A quid pro quo will be formulated from ideas. Work smart, not angry! We have an enterprise of which we are proud. Let's get the word out! Let's do it!

We faculty have established channels of communication which we must better utilize. Every one of you has several Senators. I challenge you to get into organized caucuses and come up with options for the Senate. Talk to us!

The Interinstitutional Faculty Senate has been, and will continue to be, active. Talk to IFS Senators Gary Tiedeman, Pat Wells (who is also Vice President) and John Dunn. Call up Nancy Tang, PSU, the State IFS President. Give her your ideas.

Call Bill Brandt, OSU's AAUP president. Give him some suggestions. Call Bob Becker, AOF Campus Rep. Give him a message. In addition, when you get back to the office, fill out, sign and mail the AOF membership form you have in your mailbox. Numbers are important, membership numbers are the easiest way we have to send a message.

We faculty can, and must, exercise our options. Let's not just "belly-ache" to each other. Let's hammer out some ideas and tell them to AOF President McCoy, President Byrne, Chancellor Lemman, Board President Hensley, Governor Goldschmidt, Senator Trow, Representative Van Vliet and any other senators or representatives whom you know. If you forgot the names or cannot find their address or phone numbers, call the Faculty Senate Office, we'll help you.

We, of course, recognize the legitimate interest and role that the public, the Board, the governor and the legislature have in what we do. Let's insist upon a dialogue with them about our future. Let's go after that quid pro quo!


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