Patankar resigns; trustees adress faculty complaints

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On Dec. 15, 2012, the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees met in DuBourg Hall in part to discuss the ongoing concerns on campus surrounding the recent votes of no confidence taken against Manoj Patankar, the vice president of academic affairs at SLU at the time, and against Lawrence Biondi, S.J., president of SLU.

Board members were met that morning by a group of students and faculty who had gathered to show support for the votes of no confidence taken by the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association against both men. Protesters held signs expressing their lack of confidence in the University and called out to Board members passing by to “do your job” and “listen.” The demonstration was followed by a prayer service and a march around DuBourg Hall.

In a letter released the same day by the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Thomas Brouster, it was announced that Patankar had submitted his resignation as the vice president of academic affairs to Biondi. Patankar’s resignation went into effect at the end of the fall semester and he has returned to his position as a professor at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology.

Ellen Harshman, dean of the John Cook School of Business, will serve as the interim vice president for academic affairs as the University prepares a search committee to identify potential candidates to fill the position.

It was also stated in the letter that the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate is expected to have a significant role in forming the search committee, and the number of faculty on the committee itself will be aimed at “reflecting the extent of faculty involvement in this critical position.”

Afer two meetings with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, the Board decided to implement six decisive steps for improving communication. It was decided that the Faculty Senate president will meet annually with the Board to address faculty concerns. The board and the administration will be meeting annually with the Faculty Senate to report on the state of the University. In addition, the board will be reviewing the roles of faculty, staff and students serving on Board committees to ensure effective participation.

The board also decided in their meeting that the Faculty Senate will help to create an annual assessment of the SLU community to be conducted by an external and independent organization. The purpose of this step will be to keep the Board updated on the concerns and interests of students, faculty and staff.

The Board will also continue to support the Faculty Senate’s revisions of the faculty manual and promised to work toward a process that will ensure an effective model of shared governance at the University.

In addition to these steps, Brouster also announced that the Faculty Senate president, Mark Kneupfer, will be invited to present to the full Board of Trustees at the Feb. 9 meeting. Brouster also expressed hope that he and Biondi would be able to meet with the full Faculty Senate later in the spring semester.

The president of the Student Government Association has also been invited to present an annual report in the future to the Board of Trustees to ensure that student concerns are being met as well.

Brouster stated that he believes that Harshman and Biondi will be able to work together effectively to improve collaboration and communication on campus. He said he recognizes that Biondi has been a great asset to the University during his tenure.

A final component of the letter announced that the Board had approved the University’s FY2013-FY2014 budget. While all the details of the budget have yet to be released, Brouster thought it important to share that the University’s compensation pool had been increased significantly. He hopes this will attract and retain the best faculty and staff for SLU moving forward.