Blog

November 30, 2020

One of our tenured colleagues is in the process of being dismissed, and she has requested that her Faculty Discharge Hearing be open to the public. We agree with her request for transparency in this high stakes hearing and sent an email in support of openness. The faculty member gave the chapter permission to post the email:

Dear Dr. [Last Name]:

We are writing to ask that you agree with Dr. Ora Gelley's request to have her discharge hearing open to the public, as allowed under REG 05.25.05.

The firing of a tenured professor at NC State is an extraordinary event, and thus is of great interest to both the AAUP and the NC State community. In addition, Dr. Gelley alleges that she was targeted for heightened scrutiny by the administration because she revealed that a professor in her department was sexually harassing students. Her allegations raise serious concerns about both the post-tenure review system as well as the university's handling of sexual harassment claims.

A decision by the faculty panel to close the hearing over Dr. Gelley's objections would give the impression that the university has something to hide. Given that this hearing has the potential to end Dr. Gelley's academic career, Dr. Gelley's troubling allegations, and her request for a public hearing, we believe the choice is clear: keep the hearing open.

Respectfully,

Paul Umbach, President

David Ambaras, Vice President

Stephen Porter, Secretary-Treasurer

NC State AAUP Chapter

Panel Members:

Dr. Bartley Danielsen, Associate Professor, Business Management- College of Management

Dr. Tiegang Fang, Professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Dr. Carolina Gill, Associate Professor, Graphic & Industrial Design

Dr. Richard Spontak, Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Dr. Eileen Taylor, Associate Professor, Accounting-Poole College of Management

October 15, 2020

The illusion of transparency and faculty participation

The NC State Chancellor, Provost, and Faculty Senate recently held a general faculty meeting facilitated by the Chair and Chair-elect of the faculty about spring 2021 plans. Faculty left the meeting frustrated because they were not given the opportunity to discuss the issues and many of their questions were left unanswered. The meeting lacked transparency and felt like a report from campus leaders rather than a dialogue aimed at faculty participation.

NC State will make better decisions if it allows meaningful faculty participation in decision making and engages in genuine dialogue. We encourage campus leaders to rethink their approach. We offer a few suggestions should NC State leaders want to engage in a truly meaningful dialogue about spring 2021 plans or other important issues.

  1. Do not talk at us; have a conversation with us. We recognize this is somewhat difficult using Zoom, but a series of presentations and talking points by various leaders is not a way to meaningfully engage faculty. It quickly becomes a reporting session and usually leaves little time for dialogue and faculty feedback. Explain the plan and the reasons for your approach and then open up the conversation.

  2. In Zoom meetings, open up the Q & A so that we can see all participants’ questions, as well as allow upvoting and comments. During these unusual times, transparency seems particularly important. Blocking access to questions gives the appearance that leaders are hiding something by filtering out questions. We want to know what our colleagues are thinking, and upvoting allows us to understand the prevalence of their concerns. It also is useful to see what questions are not being answered. It also may be helpful to allow questions using audio. Without full transparency, it seems as though leaders have something to hide and they only want to give the illusion that they are engaging faculty.

  3. In Zoom meetings, display the list of participants. Part of building a community in an online environment is understanding who is engaging in the conversation. Who is in the meeting? How many of our colleagues are concerned enough about the issue to take time out of their busy schedule to attend the meeting? If we held this meeting in person, we would have ready access to this information by looking around the room. It seems to make little sense not to provide this in an online environment.

  4. Do more than say “we’re still working on a plan.” We understand the fluidity of the current environment, but it is unhelpful to say the campus is developing plans but that leaders have not made any decisions they are ready to present publicly. This approach prevents faculty from participating in the decision making and understanding the process for making decisions. Instead, we recommend complete transparency and ask that leaders explain the options they are considering and the pros and cons of each option, then allow faculty to give feedback on the various options. This would allow for faculty to truly participate in the decision making by providing their feedback on the various options. This also would allow leaders to collect valuable data that could better inform their decision making.