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Springfield AAUP and Faculty Senate co-sponsor statement about decision making post-coronavirus

The Springfield College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is a membership organization that includes faculty members at Springfield College. The AAUP is a national organization that works to ensure that the goals of academic freedom and to protect faculty on campuses where the AAUP statement of principles has been violated. Springfield uses these principles as part of its charter and other bylaws. The AAUP chapter at Springfield drafted this statement that seeks to direct the decision making about the school post-coronavirus in ways that faculty believe best reflect AAUP principles but also, most importantly, Springfield values.

The AAUP chapter approached the faculty senate to co-sponsor the statement with the AAUP. Last Friday, the Senate voted to endorse the statement.

 

From: The Springfield College AAUP Chapter and the Faculty Senate To: The Springfield College Community

Values & Budgetary Principles for “A Financial Future for All of Us”

We share significant concern about the grave impact of the current public health crisis on the well-being of so many of the things we care about: our families, our colleagues, our students, our larger communities, and Springfield College itself. We are well aware of the many challenges in college operations and planning imposed by the current situation. We understand and share in the confusion, the uncertainties, and the fear surrounding the current and future health of the people and institutions we care for. We know we will not emerge without sacrifice. We grieve for our individual and collective losses.

Values

We are committed to vibrant Humanics education. We are committed to the College’s core value as stated in its mission “to educate the whole person in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others.” That mission drives our daily work lives, and its values are all the more relevant in the current moment.

We cannot abandon our Humanics philosophy in response to the global pandemic and the consequent health and financial challenges we face together. It is in crisis that we test our commitment to the College’s core values, and it is crucial that decisions moving forward must be made with the good of everyone’s safety and health at the forefront.

We must create policies that prioritize the safety of our community and allow for the flexible allocation of resources to enable faculty to provide the best possible education consistent with the health and safety of students, staff, faculty, and our neighbors in our community. Our financial priority must be the core educational purpose of the College without requiring students, staff, and faculty to bear the brunt of the burden.

Our decisions must also be guided by academic freedom and shared governance. Whatever instructional scenario we decide to adopt for the upcoming semester(s) should be arrived at only after substantial input from faculty, who are both content and pedagogy experts, and according to the SC shared governance statement, bear primary responsibility for the curriculum. The Faculty Senate should have primary responsibility for determining institutional policies and practices around whatever form of instruction is adopted for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The College’s own policy on shared governance states, “The sustainability of the practice of shared governance is reliant on the clarity of our collective understanding of what it is, how it works on our campus, our institutional governance structures, their relationships, their lines of

communication and the ongoing evaluation of the functions and outputs.” If we are committed to this agreement we expect that the Faculty Senate President should be at the table at relevant meetings, including the President’s cabinet. There should also be a faculty member who is a medical professional or expert in public health at the high-level conversations about the future of Springfield College during COVID-19.

Communication

We ask that the College and PLT pledge full transparency in decision making. We share a commitment to sustaining each other, our students, and the college in this unprecedented time. We request more frequent and thorough communications from the Trustees and Administrative and Faculty leadership teams. We work more effectively with firsthand information. As recent examples would suggest, we are not receiving the information we need in either a timely or complete manner. For instance, the news of layoffs at Springfield College were circulating in the community in advance of the President’s notice to the college’s faculty and staff. Much that was not said in that particular communication left faculty to wonder and speculate about things such as the magnitude and implications of the financial shortfall, the nature and reasons for proceeding with capital projects, the depth of staff layoffs and the potential for job protection for the long term. A recent communication from the Provost to graduate students was not shared with faculty teaching those graduate students. The faculty are on the front line. Students talk with faculty about issues such as those the Provost addressed. More recently, through College Connection, students got a message that we “expect” to be face-to-face; while faculty were told to prepare for online. These messages end up being read by many members of the community; these different messages become confusing. Sharing more, and more complete, information with faculty will help foster consistent messaging and better clarity about the direction forward.

Our ability to do this work, to continue to respond and adapt as the landscape continues to shift, and to provide the best service possible to our students and the institution as a whole, would be better served by more consistent, clear and transparent communications from the PLT. We care about each other, and we care about this place. When information is sparse, we are left to speculate and to find our own ways. We can continue to limp along largely in the dark, doing our best with what we know at any point in time. We would rather be guided by good information and stride strongly and with a shared purpose toward a common end and prosperous future for each other and for Springfield College.

Budgetary Principles

We realize that the financial situation we currently face is complicated with both short- and long- term implications. It makes sense to balance the need to meet current expenses with ensuring the financial viability of the college into the future. That said, it is also important to recognize that in a crisis general budgeting rules may not work effectively. While we need to build and protect the endowment, we also need to ensure that the financial interests of the College, as a whole,

are not met by disproportionate and crippling sacrifices of faculty, students, and staff that impair our abilities to do work effectively.

Traditional performance metrics must be adapted to reflect current circumstances. The financial interests of students, staff and faculty do not neatly coincide, and proposals that ask us to trade off compensation against student aid, or faculty compensation against staff compensation, serve only to stoke resentments and stifle creative approaches to extraordinary situations. As decisions are made about the budget we need to put people ahead of buildings and to make sure that our decisions reflect the ethical and social qualities, based in Humanics, that we expect of our community members and are committed to developing in our students.

People, not the physical plant, define the Springfield College community, and funds otherwise set aside for infrastructure should be diverted in a crisis. We assert that the SC community is generous and supportive. We must make sure that the decisions we make preserve the essence of SC in this period of crisis by ensuring that our faculty, staff, and students are able to stay employed and enrolled. We can fundraise to adapt to our new circumstances and to replace funds lost in the effort to sustain ourselves now.

In the event that more staff furloughs and layoffs are deemed necessary, we expect the college to adhere to our institutional values. Short-term furloughs and layoffs must not be made without an evaluation of their long-term consequences: for example, how will the loss of potential 401B contributions affect eventual retirement decisions, for example? We recommend that budget and staff cuts be made within these contexts:

… the first option must be deferment of any expenditures not related to the short-term functioning of the college

… the burdens must be progressive, with the burden falling first and foremost on the institution’s highest earners.

… there must be specific and credible commitments to their restoration.

… these should recognize the cuts implicit in the otherwise unpaid summer work of faculty and some staff.

… these should ensure benefit continuity.

The success of SC rests on its people and on the values that shape the decisions that are made in this crisis period. We hope and expect that these decisions are transparent and collaborative and respect the knowledge and skills that are found among all members of the community. We hope that ongoing deliberations follow the Shared Governance Statement and include, at the minimum, the Faculty Senate President at all cabinet level meetings.

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