I continue to cover the wellness wars at Penn State. What started as the fallout of a distressingly unfortunate roll out of a comprehensive set of changes to Penn State's benefits programs int he middle of the 2013 Summer has been transforming into a more interesting conversation about shared governance, and the social norms that can the ultimately unsatisfactory and dry formalism of administrative power into a functionally effective relationship between administration and the institutional representatives of the faculty.
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)
In my last post I laid out the current state of the conversation over the review of the Penn State benefits reforms packages at the heart of the dialogue between administration and faculty. I noted the determination of the parties to exercise unrestrained but authorized power in place of a more prudential use of soft power had produced the possibility of contradiction in the obligations of the faculty chair, one which appeared to have been resolved in favor of what might appear to some to be a fundamental breach of duty to the institution represented. (e.g., The Wellness Wars, Presidential Authority, Faculty Chair Responsibility, and the Integrity of the Senate at Penn State, October 28, 2013).
This post includes the response of members of the Senate which I have given permission to include below. What had started as little more than eminently manageable administrative missteps has appeared to have escalated, because of the strategic choices of the parties, into a more interesting and important conversation about transparency, engagement, the relationship between administration and faculty and the shape of shared governance going forward. Much may be at stake in a battle lamentable because it could have been prevented or mitigated but for what in retrospect may be viewed as unfortunate strategic choices by key Senate and administrative actors. I suspect the story is not yet ended.