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September 24, 2012

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Lowell

It's not quite accurate to say that the College of Law faculty have been inactive since Annette Clark's resignation. Things haven't exactly been out in the open, but members of the Law faculty have quietly been very active in helping to end Patankar's vice-presidency by exposing the corrupt and discriminatory system of faculty evaluation--spearheaded by Patankar--that has led to several lawsuits and/or EEOC investigations. SLU faculty operate against a significant headwind from the Board of Trustees, which supports the actions of Biondi and Patankar. The Board has been conspicuously silent about the more recent proposal to effectively end SLU's tenure system, which triggered the no-confidence vote of 35-2 against Patankar and Biondi.

Savvy insiders on campus suggest that the Board's silence is about to end because of the damage done to SLU's reputation and donor base, which was already low in comparison to other universities. The Law School fiasco and the abysmal judgment displayed in the proposed new tenure review system will be the reasons most commonly cited in the press, but the real reasons are related to fundraising problems and a number of lawsuits that have compromised Patankar's ability to make personnel decisions, one of the most important roles of his office. Look for a new vice president by the end of the month, and an announcement later that Biondi will take his well-deserved (and long overdue) retirement at the end of this academic year.

Phil Pucillo

I appreciate your sharing these very interesting (and encouraging) developments at SLU, Lowell. But if Biondi and Patankar are as vulnerable at the moment as you suggest, it strikes me as all the more reason why the Law faculty should not hesitate to demand publicly that its proper role in the Law School's governance be restored immediately. If the Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences could negotiate such an overwhelming no-confidence vote, what is holding back the Law faculty?

Lowell

The main reason why the Faculty Council was able to get such a clear vote of 'no confidence' last week was that the Jesuit faculty, who are primarily in Arts and Sciences, have lost faith in Biondi and Patankar. They pushed aggressively for the vote, which otherwise would have been postponed until next month. That cannot be a good omen for Biondi, who ultimately serves at the discretion of the Jesuit Order. My sources tell me that the Jesuits are profoundly disappointed and insisted on the no confidence vote last week because they want Patankar and Biondi out yesterday. I think it's probably wise strategy for the Law College to let Arts and Sciences take the lead; they are by far the most influential unit on campus with respect to shared governance and if they can't shake Patankar and Biondi out, then the Law College won't either. It's not clear what kind of loose cannon the Law College has as their new dean. This is a fight that is very relevant to the Law College, but better to let the main infantry in Arts and Sciences wage the battle.

Recent SLU Law Grad

If Biondi and Patankar are vulnerable, the Board of Trustees are expressing the exact opposite sentiments by announcing public confidence in both of them. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees issued this memo (pasted below), affirming the Board's confidence in Biondi and "all of the University's Vice Presidents," just today.


******************************************************************

September 24, 2012
TO: SLU Faculty, Staff and Students
FROM: Thomas H. Brouster, Sr.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees

I write to communicate to the SLU Community that at its September 22, 2012, meeting, the Board of Trustees unanimously affirmed its approval of the University’s strategic planning efforts, its goal to rank the University among the top 50 universities in the United States, and the efforts necessary to achieve the goals of the Strategic Plan and to advance the excellence of the University.

The Board of Trustees also approved the appointment of a blue ribbon committee, made up of representatives of the academic deans, the academic department chairs, the faculty, the administration, the staff, and students, to identify and recommend processes and criteria to achieve the objectives of the Strategic Plan.

The Board of Trustees further affirmed its confidence in the University President and all of the University’s Vice Presidents to continue to lead the strategic planning process to its successful implementation.

In advancing the University’s efforts for excellence, the Board of Trustees further stated its support of the September 14, 2012, agreement of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, the Academic Deans, the Vice Presidents and the President to proceed with meaningful and continuous faculty development within the context of a collaborative process and implementation in order to continue to advance the University.

On behalf of the University’s Trustees, thank you for your service and commitment to Saint Louis University.

Anon. SLU Law Prof

The SLU law faculty have not been inactive, as Lowell says, and not everyone has been silent. At the same time, the faculty lacks consensus on publicly fighting with the administration. For one thing, at least some faculty don't believe that there is much to be gained by such a public fight. There does not seem to be any authority that could remove the president or change the administrative structure of the university that could be appealed to--as the letter from the trustees quoted above shows. And some, at least, perceive significant damage in a public fight. The students and faculty of the law school (and the rest of the university for that matter) don't deserve to bear the fallout of any reputational damage such a fight would do. Without consensus on these kinds of things, those of us who want to speak out (and do so privately) can't.

Shocked but not surprised

I'm sure there will be many faculty who will be disappointed in the message from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I'm sure they would be even more disappointed to learn that the chairman of their board of trustees has been accused of running an international 'advance fee fraud scheme' by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (see http://www.fma.gv.at/fileadmin/media_data/1_Ueber_die_FMA/3_Presse/3_Warnmeldungen_international/2007/01_11_07_forbes_en.pdf). In that context, it seems easier to understand how the Board could support Biondi and Patankar.

It's a fantasy for SLU to think of itself as a 'Top 50' school. It is certainly a 'Top 50' Jesuit school (since there are only about 25 of them!), but they keep freezing faculty salary under the fantasy that spending more money on research and faculty development will somehow lead to a waterfall of research dollars. There are plenty of university presidents who have the same fantasy and have access to state funds in order to build infrastructure that supports research. SLU's primary strength has always been quality instruction and diversity of options. I fear they are destroying what made them great in order to gamble--against Powerball odds--that they could start reaping from a dwindling pot of external funds. Oh well. If I had to choose a college for my kids (thankfully now grown), SLU would be very low on the list. I can't see sending my kids to a college where experienced PhD faculty make less than elementary school teachers in Webster Groves.

Concerned SLU Law Faculty Member

The irony of the reaction to Biondi's and Patankar's post-tenure review (or, rather, tenure-elimination) proposals is that the faculty who have tenure and who refuse nonetheless to speak out about the Annette Clark debacle themselves demonstrate the current meaningless of tenure at Saint Louis University. So much for being able to speak out because it is simply right, and because a colleague was grievously wronged. Biondi wins, even when he loses.

SLU Law prof

Phil: why so much interest in SLU? Besides the obvious entertainment value of a law school reality show, do you think SLU's experience reveals a greater issue that has yet to be discussed?

Sue Dox

SLU's Faculty Senate voted no confidence in the Vice President of Academic Affairs:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/slu-faculty-panel-recommends-firing-manoj-patankar/article_bbc0730d-6f48-5463-99bf-68328c4478e5.html

Time4Patankar2Go

Here's a thought that is pertinent to 'SLU Law prof's last comment: what IS the greater issue? The Board of Trustees clearly knows that the entire campus has lost confidence in the Vice President of Academic Affairs (Manoj Patankar), and yet they issued a statement to emphasize their support of all the vice presidents, including Patankar. Why? There are several possibilities but it is worth noting that the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Thomas H. Brouster, Sr., is well-known for his bank 'turnarounds', where he takes over management of a bank and then casts off the less successful parts of the business. According to one source, he's done this at least 14 times (I can imagine what his footsteps must sound like to the president of a struggling bank...) One of the reasons Patankar is a pariah on campus is his overarching emphasis on the acquisition of research funding and his desire to divest less-profitable units (i.e., departments). Sounds like the reason the Board of Trustees continues to support him is because he is doing exactly what they want: letting cash flow drive the curriculum. Not the best way to run a university, IMHO.

Ranger Rick

Since this is now a publicly released document, it might as well be added to the discussion here:

------
Faculty Council

College of Arts & Sciences

Minutes of Special Session - September 18, 2012, 3:30 pm

A second special session of the A&S Faculty Council was convened to discuss the four evaluation proposals that were distributed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and consider the tabled motion of a vote of no confidence in the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Mark Knuepfer, President of the Faculty Senate, was asked to attend this meeting, and gave a summary and his perspective on Friday's meeting (Sept. 14) between the President, VP and Faculty Senate Executive Committee, in which the VP's four evaluation proposals were officially retracted.

Following Mark's presentation, the Faculty Council continued discussion on both the VP's proposal and the VP's ongoing pattern of destructive leadership. Many examples of the VP's pattern of destructive leadership were discussed among the council. The attached appendix highlights some of the key points from those discussions.

A motion was presented to the FC to request the Board of Trustees develop, in cooperation with the Faculty Senate, an effective succession plan for senior leadership at the University to reverse damage done and to ensure a strong future for the University. In a secret ballot, that motion was rejected with a vote of 17 to 20 (no abstentions).

A motion was then presented to un-table the motion of a vote of no confidence in the Vice President for Academic Affairs. A secret ballot was taken and the motion passed with a vote of 30 to 7 (no abstentions).

Finally, the meeting culminated in the vote of no confidence. The official motion was: Motion to the Faculty Senate:
Vote of no confidence for Vice President for Academic Affairs


In a secret ballot, the motion passed with a vote of 35 to 2 (no abstentions). The result of that vote was communicated to the Faculty Senate that evening. The meeting adjourned at 5:10pm.


Appendix

The Faculty Council were in strong agreement that the VP's recent proposal on faculty workload and evaluation, which has been devastating to the university's reputation, was also only the latest example of the VP's ongoing pattern of destructive leadership and incompetence. In all the discussion, no argument was put forward at any point in defense of the VP's competence. In consequence, it is fair to say that the meetings were rather guided by the faculty's sense of responsibility, requiring them, in the absence of effective leadership, to protect and defend the welfare of a beloved institution.

In the discussions of both the VP's proposals and leadership, faculty raised several points concerning the VP's actions and competence. These points revolve around five key areas of concern:
- discernment and judgment
- ineffective governance
- workplace morale
- contractual violations
- responsibility for the image of the university

The following is a list of sentiments and grievances that were brought up in discussion by the Faculty Council.

Note: This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it contains the bulk of the feelings expressed. Their being listed here is not an endorsement of them by any body or individual; it is a mark of what transpired.


1. Discernment and judgment

* The recent proposals demonstrate the administration's complete lack of understanding of the importance of academic freedom in pursuing academic excellence.
- they promote only low-impact research, discouraging long-term research and creative risk-taking endeavors
- they focus principally on quantity of work, indicating the administration’s ineptitude in promoting and evaluating excellence in teaching and research
- they demonstrate a lack of judgment about the institutional structures required to pursue the university's mission;
- in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education, the faculty evaluation policy was described by the associate secretary of the AAUP as "among the worst I've seen ... it's hard to imagine a policy that could be much worse than this one."

* The recent proposals contravene best practices in higher education.

* While this administration's stated goal is to become a US News and World Report "top 50" university in the nation, the administration demonstrates a lack of understanding in how to achieve that goal.

* This administration has proposed many initiatives and reorganizations that are poorly conceived, counter-productive, and/or have little foundational basis or support.

* In putting forth the latest proposals, this administration did not have the competence to predict the response they would elicit from the university (see 2., below), nor the foresight to see that faculty, chairs, and deans would adamantly oppose the policy.


2. Ineffective governance

* This administration has repeatedly initiated substantial reorganizations without seeking input from those most affected, in total disregard of shared governance.

* This administration continually fails to transact routine business in a timely fashion.

* The recent proposals demonstrate the administration's long-standing shortcoming in shared governance by not consulting with any SLU faculty body for input regarding formation of these proposals.

* This administration proposes policies without providing any rationale.

* This administration purports to "consult" faculty, but in practice ignores their insights and views.


3. Workplace morale

* This administration has consistently evinced a flagrant disregard for the professionalism, integrity, and worth of the faculty.

* This administration has engendered a climate of fear of retribution for those vocally expressing opposition to its policies, or even questioning those policies.

* The administration has advanced many demeaning actions, proposals, and requirements.

* The recent proposal recommended a quantitative evaluation metric that was functionally unworkable and punitive in nature.

* Constant, widespread fear of arbitrary decisions pervades the workplace.

* There is no accountability for the upper administration.


4. Contractual violations

* The VP's recent proposal on faculty evaluation contained in excess of 50 violations of the Faculty Manual, which defines the rights and responsibilities of the faculty.

* The administration has frequently used school and departmental reorganization as a mechanism to circumvent faculty contractual rights.


5. Responsibility for the image of the university

* SLU's national ranking has consistently declined under this administration; SLU risks soon dropping out of the top 100.

* In putting forth the proposal, the administration did immediate and lasting damage to the university, harming the reputation of the university at the national level.

* The recent proposal had immediate impact on faculty hiring, with the top candidates for current faculty searches withdrawing their applications.

* Low morale and fear have impelled many faculty to begin pursuing jobs elsewhere; without sufficient damage control, the majority of our top faculty may be gone within the next few years, and the university's ranking will rapidly decline.

* There is widespread belief that the damage will persist as long as this administration is in place.

Law Student

Interim SLU Law "Dean" Tom Keefe was recently elected to the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees and is serving in this position while he is interim "dean". (http://www.slu.edu/x68083.xml) Is this a conflict of interest or does it possibly violate an ABA Standard for accreditation?

SLU Law prof

Although I applaud the initiatives taken by the College of Arts & Sciences, they do not go far enough. Everyone at SLU knows that Patankar does what Biondi tells him to do. These are Biondi's policies, and Biondi should live and die by them. Patankar is just a 2-bit sidekick with no moral standing or intelligence. If Patankar leaves or is ousted, Biondi will find someone else to fill his shoes, or will just eliminate the position altogether.

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