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Administrative changes become official

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In a message to Saint Louis University on Jan. 27, SLU President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. announced that, effective immediately, the provost position would be eliminated, creating instead three senior vice presidents: one for the Frost Campus, one for the Health Sciences Campus and one for the Madrid Campus.
The decentralization of the Graduate School will also go into effect in the coming months, as the colleges and schools will have responsibility over their respective graduate programs.
“I am convinced this new structure will result in increased collaboration, more nimble decision making and a greatly enhanced way for each academic unit to have a voice in future decision making at the University,” Biondi said, in his email message to the SLU community.
On Monday, Jan. 25, Biondi called a meeting of his Executive Staff, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Chairs of the two Senate Task Forces to discuss the task force reports that were presented at the last Faculty Senate meeting on Dec. 15.
With the decision made to eliminate the provost position, the University will be searching for a person to fill the Frost Campus senior vice president position that Manoj Patankar currently holds. According to Biondi’s email message, Patankar will serve as the interim-vice president during the search process that will begin in the next few weeks.
“I think [the elimination of the provost position] will certainly simplify a lot of things; we will be able to respond to things more quickly and it will increase the agility of the institution,” Patankar said at the Student Government Association Town Hall on Jan. 21.
A report of the President and Executive Committee after Monday’s meeting with the administration stated: “We are especially gratified that the administration reaffirmed a commitment to open communication, timely consultation and collaborative decision-making.”
These sentiments weren’t expressed by members of the faculty earlier this semester, as the Faculty Senate passed resolutions calling for a halt on these changes, citing what they saw as the administration’s failure to meet the standards of faculty review and consultation as stated in the faculty manual.
“They feel we didn’t have sufficient participation from the beginning of this process,” Patankar said.
The next meeting of the Faculty Senate has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 3:30 p.m. in the Busch Student Center’s Saint Louis Room. The meeting, originally scheduled for Jan. 26, was rescheduled because of a budget meeting that was scheduled by Biondi, which Faculty Senate President Joanne Langan is attending.
“I don’t care to miss a Senate meeting,” Langan said. “We always have interesting Senate meetings and I expect another interesting Senate meeting.”
Patankar has been invited to attend the meeting that will include the motion to demand his removal.
The revised proposals will also be presented during the meeting to raise questions for clarification of the academic restructuring.
During the Dec. 15 faculty Senate meeting, Langan called it “huge” that their resolutions had stopped the Administration from going through with the changes immediately as originally planned.
She also denounced at the meeting the way the proposed changes were handled, calling on the upper administration to “inform the faculty early, not when the decision has been made.”
This sentiment of lack of consultation was strongly expressed at that meeting, as a motion demanding the removal of Patankar from office was tabled.
Patankar later responded to this motion by stating, “that is a faculty issue. I mean, they certainly have the right to pass that type of a motion or to entertain the discussion around that.”
The possibility of a vote of no confidence against the upper administration, including Biondi, was also discussed.
Langan didn’t support a response that would include a vote of no confidence in the upper administration, stating at the time that it “would hurt SLU.”
“[A vote of no confidence] is symbolic. It doesn’t mean that anyone is going to be removed, and I think it is unnecessary, but yet I respect the right of the faculty to bring forth such a motion if it comes seconded. We entertain that because that is how the system works,” Langan said at the SGA Town Hall.  “I am personally opposed to it.”
Biondi responded to the sentiments of the supposed lack of consultation in these proposals at the Town Hall: “I did consult Joanne Langan and the former President of the Faculty Senate Miriam Joseph back in January of ’09, and I did mention it in our very first meeting in August after classes started.”
Biondi said he later asked Langan why she didn’t tell other members of the Faculty Senate about the changes, and he stated that her response was that she didn’t tell other members of the faculty because she thought that everything in the President’s Coordinating Council was confidential.
“I had presumed that she was talking to other people about it and informing them.  So, did I consult? I consulted with the primary person representing the faculty; I can’t be dealing with each faculty member or each student, and that is why we have [Student Government Association] and Faculty Senate,” Biondi said.
At the last Faculty Senate meeting, the Graduate School Task Force presented some primary concerns that, according to the official report, “marketing might suffer without a central body overseeing graduate education, and that the reputation of the University would suffer.”
At the time, the Task Force concluded that it could not support the Administration’s graduate school reorganization plan.
The Provost Task Force also identified some issues with the provost elimination proposal, stating in the official report that the proposal was vague without “fiducial analysis or due diligence justification.”
The Graduate School Task Force and the Provost Task Force were formed in a special meeting of the Faculty Senate on Nov. 10, 2009, to review the proposals of the academic restructuring by compiling faculty responses to surveys and making recommendations to the Executive Committee and the Senate.

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Administrative changes become official