President of the Faculty Senate and Vice President Patankar address SGA

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President of the Faculty Senate and Vice President Patankar address SGA

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This week’s Student Government Association meeting was highlighted by appearances from Vice President of Academic Affairs Manoj Patankar and Faculty Senate President Mark Knuepfer concerning the recent controversy surrounding Patankar’s faculty review policy draft.

Patankar and Knuepfer presented their respective sides of the story and fielded questions from students.

Patankar consistently emphasized issues with communication as the source of most of the controversy between the faculty and administration at Saint Louis University.

Patankar talked about various opportunities and initiatives that had taken place over the last year to ensure SLU faculty was engaged in the process of drafting an evaluation policy focused on improving the performance of SLU professors in educational effectiveness and research. There were multiple open forums held in the spring of 2012.Three faculty-administrator committees were formed and worked over multiple months on recommendations for a new policy.

He also pointed out that post-tenure review is not a new concept, citing top-50 schools with similar policies: the list included Washington University, Rice University and Vanderbilt.

According to Patankar, he asked for feedback about his review policy from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) by Sept. 30. The Senate planned for the Faculty Academic Affairs Committee to hold two meetings in September to go over the policy and recommended he release a draft to university deans and chairs so they might also give feedback, Patankar said.

The FSEC labeled the draft policy “irremediably flawed.” The SLU administration withdrew the review proposal on Sept. 17 due to the harsh criticism it faced from various sources.

Patankar announced that a blue ribbon committee was being formed, at the behest of the Board of Trustees, with the intention of “developing better policies and, more importantly, communication processes.” The blue ribbon committee is to include nominations from students, faculty and administrators.

When queried by students as to why there was such backlash concerning the review process proposed, Patankar called it an issue of “operating from different mental models” in terms of what is important and how to communicate. He also attributed some of the backlash to hysteria.

Knuepfer apparently agreed, and opened his presentation by saying, “On almost everything we have a different point of view.”

He defended the FSEC claim of fundamental changes in the policy between their conversations with Patankar and its presentation to the faculty by pointing out that they were discussing proposals until the committee voted to remove them entirely.

“I don’t think the administration has shown that our system has failed,” Knuepfer said. He pointed out that there are already policies in place that allow the administration to remove faculty that are severely underperforming.

“If anybody isn’t doing their job, they’re supposed to be fired,” Knuepfer said.

Knuepfer also stated that the evaluation system the FSEC proposed to Patankar was not present in his draft policy. He stated that the FSEC is in support of a post-tenure review process that’s focused on development. An example he mentioned wassending professors to centers focused on improving educators’ performance.

Knuepfer said the policy was shared with SLU Faculty due to the controversial nature of the proposal. The Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence in Patankar on Tuesday night cited his failure to provide leadership on issues concerning faculty performance amongst others.

Knuepfer stated that his greatest concern with the drafted policy was that, despite the potentially positive effects of a post-tenure review process, the final decision of employment fell in the hands of Patankar.

Another big concern for Knuepfer has been the lack of communication between President Lawrence Biondi and the faculty.

“I know people at other Jesuit universities that sit down with their president quite often and discuss matters,” Knuepfer said, whereas he finds it hard to get in contact with Biondi. SLU faculty is also left out of budgetary talks, one reason Knuepfer believes that the faculty at SLU is the most underpaid of any American Catholic university.

In the debate following the presentations, some students wanted SGA to rail against Patankar and pass their own vote of no confidence due to the constant controversy and perceived failures resulting from his time in his position.

Other students denied a call for no confidence, arguing that removing Patankar would only create more uncertainty and turmoil. No vote was taken.

The assembly concluded with a bill introducing five new senators.

Another bill proposing an amendment to allow SGA to call a special meeting at the end of a school year was brought up. The amendment is a response to the pocket veto SGA President Emeritus Matt Ryan used at the end of the last school year.

Despite the senate’s passage of a bill banning tickets in SGA executive elections, Ryan vetoed the bill before the end of the school year, effectively making the senate’s votes null.