Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Consequences of Power/Responsibility Asymmetries: Administrative Power and Faculty Responsibility at the College of Saint Rose

As universities come under greater financial pressure, as the function and role of universities change, university administrations are showing themselves sometimes unequal to the task of responding to these challenges in an ethical and orderly way. 

It is easy to be a highly paid administrator during good times.  It is tempting to embrace the increasingly separate cultures of administrations during these good times.  The logic of administration at the contemporary university increasingly sees administrators as a privileges class with obligations to manage their resources, and the factors in the production of their "product".  These resource management cultures increasingly dehumanize and objectify labor--and especially the expert professional labor of faculty.

It comes as no surprise, then, that in the face of challenge, administrators seek to preserve their privileged position and to export their mismanagement--without any accountability for their decisions--onto the "factors" in the production of "product."  That process of redirecting responsibility is particularly ironic as it also serves as the culminating point of a process in which  administrations acquire all responsibility for decision making at the university but insist that all responsibility for the consequences of operation fall to the faculty.  The consequences are perverse: administration retains an increasing monopoly on decision making, but faculty increasingly bear the burden of accountability for these decisions.

It is this pattern--this perversity of accountability--that marks university administrative decision making in many institutions today.  It is in this light that one might consider the recent evaluation of the actions of administration in the College of Saint Rose in New York, which has been the object of an investigation by the Association of American University Professor (AAUP).  The press release and links to the report follow.

Dear AAUP Member:

Today, the AAUP released an investigating committee’s report on unilateral actions taken by the administration and board of the College of Saint Rose in New York to reduce or eliminate twenty-seven academic programs and thereby to terminate twenty-three tenured and tenure-track appointments. The report concludes that the cuts and layoffs were “the result of a lack of responsible stewardship at the board and presidential levels” and that they undermined academic freedom and rendered tenure virtually meaningless.

The program reductions and closures followed a three-month “academic prioritization process” that ended two weeks before Christmas, at which time the affected faculty members received their termination notices.

The investigating committee finds that the administration and governing board terminated the appointments in disregard of AAUP-recommended procedures for financial exigency and for discontinuing programs for educational reasons, thus violating the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and Regulation 4 of the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. It also finds that the process by which programs were selected for reduction or elimination departed from the college’s own regulations.

The investigating committee visited the College of Saint Rose in January to meet with the involved parties. Prior to publication, the AAUP sent the draft report to the principal parties with an invitation for comment and corrections of fact.

At its June 3–4 meeting, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will determine whether to recommend that the Association censure the College of Saint Rose administration. Censure can be imposed only by vote of delegates to the annual meeting, which occurs this year on June 18.

I invite you to read the report at and register for this year’s annual meeting at

Henry Reichman, Chair
AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

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