UT faculty laments staff shortage; President Kapoor criticized for closing information meetings to public

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The University of Toledo’s administration is hurting its academic programs by not hiring more tenure-track professors, according to a resolution passed by the faculty senate yesterday.

Earlier this year, UT President Vik Kapoor had asked the senate’s executive committee to list its three biggest concerns about his administration. According to the resolution, they are:

* “Lack of permanent faculty replacements to maintain the viability of current programs and develop new innovative programs.”

In part because of an early retirement program begun in 1998, more than 100 faculty members have left the university in the last two years. The administration has mostly brought in temporary visiting faculty to take their spots, rather than permanent replacements.

* “Poor communication prior to and lack of consultation about decisions” that affect the university. Faculty members have criticized Dr. Kapoor for making important changes to the university, such as the elimination of the Center for Teaching Excellence, without asking faculty about their impact.

* “Cuts in support staff” and reorganization of departments that make it harder to get information and teach effectively.

In an administration statement responding to the criticisms, UT officials said that the university will begin hiring permanent faculty shortly, as a university-wide faculty hiring freeze is lifted.

The statement said the administration is committed to open communication with faculty, and that the reorganization of departments will leave the administration more efficient.

But Dr. Andrew Jorgensen, an associate professor of chemistry and regular opponent of the administration, said Dr. Kapoor and others still do not appear to understand their concerns, and asked the senate to approve an outside survey asking faculty their opinions about the administration.

Dr. Jorgensen pointed to the Dec. 1 meeting of the UT board of trustees, when then-senate chairman Dr. Jack Maynard presented the senate’s concerns to board members. But board Chairman Ronald Langenderfer rebuked Dr. Maynard, saying that the concerns he raised were not shared by the faculty.

When the idea of an outside faculty survey came up for a vote, it ended in a 17-17 tie. Harvey Wolff, the senate’s chairman, cast the deciding vote in favor of a survey. The senate voted unanimously to condemn the administration for keeping reporters out of meetings Dr. Kapoor has been having with faculty.

At the meetings, the faculty questioned Dr. Kapoor about his plans for the university’s future. But at one of the meetings on Thursday, reporters from The Blade and from the student newspaper, The Collegian, were removed from the room when university spokesman Joe Brennan said the meeting was private.

A UT police officer was posted outside the meeting room to prevent reporters from re-entering.

“This is outrageous,” said education professor Mary Ellen Edwards. “I felt very uncomfortable being at a meeting the public couldn’t attend.”

“This is contrary to my understanding of democracy,” said Sammie Giles, Jr., professor of electrical engineering.

But Mr. Brennan said the meeting was not covered by Ohio’s public meetings laws and was simply “a meeting between employer and employees. “This was not a meeting to set policy,” he said. “We wanted to provide employees with the opportunity to engage in a frank, open dialogue with us without worrying whether their comments would be printed in a newspaper.”

He said the officer “was really there to help us manage the door, so to speak. The meeting was by invitation, and it was the president’s desire that it not be open to other people. We wanted to have someone at the door who could explain that it was a closed meeting.”

In hindsight, Mr. Brennan said, “We probably could have done that better” without an officer. The decision to place the officer at the door was “a collectively made decision by the senior leadership.”