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Fall, 2010 Report

Theodore K. Miller (SPEA)
Charles S. Watson (SPHS)
Treasurer: Julie Bobay (Library)

Robert Eno:
Laura Ginger: (Business)
Moira Marsh:
Maxine Watson: (Biology)


Some Q & A About Provosts
The Office of the Dean of Faculties Today
The Office of the Dean of Faculties, 1940-69
The Faculty Leadership Role of the Dean of Faculties

The Provost proposal has generated a great deal of email and telephone traffic to faculty governance leadership. Many messages have simply requested basic information about the nature of the proposal, others have taken positions.  This column is a non-authoritative attempt to respond to questions faculty may have, and to indicate also some of the pro and con views that have been articulated.

What exactly is a Provost?  Provost is a title applied to chief academic officers in higher education.  In some institutions, titles such as "vice-president for academic affairs" are used, rather than Provost.   All Big Ten institutions other than IU have powerful, Provost-type positions.  Typically, academic deans report to Provosts, rather than directly to Chancellors or Presidents.

Why has Bloomington never had a Provost?  In the past, Ken Gros Louis performed many of the functions of a Provost; Vice-Chancellors for Budgetary Administration — first  Ward Schaap, then Maynard Thompson — also  assumed some of those functions.  In earlier periods, the very different  configuration of upper administration allocated these functions successfully in other frameworks, as Don Gray's account further on in this Report makes clear.  Chancellor Brehm believes the campus requires a chancellor more externally directed towards fundraising, community relations, and legislative initiatives.   

Why would adding a Provost eliminate the Dean of Faculties? A number of functions currently under the DoF are central to the role of chief academic officer, such as faculty promotion and tenure.  Chancellor Brehm has announced that this restructuring must be revenue-neutral, and this would not be possible if both Provost and Dean of Faculties offices were maintained.

Will the Provost be an academic?  Chancellor Brehm has indicated that it will be a requirement that candidates for the Provost position have records of scholarly accomplishment appropriate for a senior academic appointment at Bloomington.

What's the problem with switching from a Dean of Faculties to a Provost?  The DoF at Bloomington has been a faculty-oriented office that has provided critical support to many colleagues.  It has often mediated between faculty and chairs, avoiding the conflicts involved in formal grievance; it has provided critical pre-tenure guidance; it has maintained a consistent focus on faculty development, providing an array of funding opportunities for faculty seeking to build or redirect their careers. Although at times, the role of the DoF office has placed it in tension with the role of the AAUP Committee A, which advocates for faculty in grievance processes, the AAUP leadership has generally recognized the DoF office as the most active administrative defender of the values AAUP takes to be central to academic freedom and integrity in the administration of faculty affairs.  This leadership role is discussed more fully in Myrtle Scott's item in this Report.
      Because Provosts are more directly concerned with budget issues and tend to be oriented towards the deans who report to them, rather than to faculty directly, a Provost might be less apt to defend values of academic freedom and integrity in personnel issues against budget pressures and unit efficiency goals.

Could there be advantages from a faculty point of view?  Recent generations of the DoF office have been less powerful than was the case before, and this waning of power seems directly linked to the fact that academic deans do not report to the DoF, and the DoF possesses no budgetary authority over academic units.  Some people feel that the consequence of this has been an increasing lack of coordination between autonomous schools, a centrifugal tendency much increased by RCM budgeting.  The Provost structure may offer to better balance the unit perspectives of the schools with a campus perspective. 

Why is there already discussion of an Associate Provost?  In discussions with Chancellor Brehm, the BFC Agenda Committee proposed and the Chancellor accepted a structure that might help preserve some of the core features of the current DoF office. That design would involve the appointment of an Associate Provost, whose functions would include maintenance of faculty records, faculty development activities, and faculty advocacy.  In the last function, the Associate Provost would report to the Chancellor, rather than to the Provost.  The position would be filled and reviewed through BFC search & screen and review procedures for high academic administrators, and would thus be a Chancellor's appointment.  Chancellor Brehm has indicated that, like the Provost position, this position would also be filled by an academic appointee.

 How will the Provost fit in the upper administration?  On the campus level, the Chancellor has indicated that the Provost will work as a team with the Vice-Chancellor for Budgetary Administration, Neil Theobald, with the Provost shaping the academic side of the budget. The precise division of responsibility will probably be determined only once a Provost takes office.  In the IU system, the Bloomington Chancellor serves as Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and in that sense, there is a Provost on the system level. However, the VPAA position has never been strongly developed, and given the unusually powerful role of the system President at IU, the lack of a strong vice-president with a purely academic portfolio may be a significant weakness. It is unclear how the shift of local academic functions from the Chancellor to the Provost will affect this.

Doesn't this really mean adding more administrators?  It may.  The Chancellor states flatly that the change will be revenue-neutral, but it is difficult to see how this will be accomplished – the proposed plan involves shifting academic administration formerly accomplished by the Chancellor, not simply renaming the DoF.  The DoF has become an office with many portfolios, as Ted Miller's item in this Report describes.  No analysis of how these will be reorganized has yet been undertaken, and it may be that cost-savings can be realized in that process.  The goal of minimizing administrative costs, however, should not dictate a reduction of essential academic support.

What process has been used to consult with faculty on this?  Chancellor Brehm initially discussed this idea with the BFC Agenda Committee.  Over the summer, she met jointly with that group and the BFC Long-Range Planning Committee.  Her plan was placed on the BFC agenda for September 17, but discussion was deferred to October 1, and minutes of that discussion are posted on the BFC website, as noted above.

Who has approved creating this position?  The position was authorized by President Brand.  Appointment must be approved by the Chancellor, President, and Trustees.

What is the timetable for hiring a Provost? The search committee has been formed in accordance with BFC procedures for existing high academic administrative positions, and its work is already underway.

- Bob Eno, EALC

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To understand the nature of the proposal to create a provost, it is important to know what the Dean of Faculties currently does.  The Office of the Dean of the Faculties has several functions important to the life of the faculty.  Primary amongst these is the academic human resource responsibility for the Bloomington campus, exercised by the Dean and supported by the Office of Academic Personnel Policies and Procedures (the faculty records office).  Implementation of the faculties’ policies in the areas of tenure, promotion, sabbatical leave and leave without pay are centered here, as is implementation of the newly revised policy on academic appointments

Currently there is a very significant focus on the HRMS project (PeopleSoft), since that is the environment within which these policy implementations will occur over the foreseeable future.  Once this system is operational, there will be a continuing focus on development of additional functionality in which faculty members have a very large stake.  Faculty interests must be adequately represented so as to ensure that the system will meet our needs rather than dictate how we must do things.  This is but one example of the advocacy role of the Office of the Dean of the Faculties, which allows for the views of the faculty to enter into what many might view as essentially administrative deliberations.

      The DoF also has a significant focus on resolving a wide array of grievances typically brought by faculty, staff, or students against academic administrators or members of the faculty.  This has the objective of resolving issues that could ultimately lead to a formal grievance involving the Faculty Mediation Committee, the Faculty Board of Review, or a legal suit, and has over many years contributed enormously to the well being of the campus community.

      Other components of the office are more logically associated with the domain of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (a title which Deans of Faculties simultaneously hold, and which, presumably, a Provost would also hold).  These include the University Division, Instructional Support Services, Summer Sessions, and the Bloomington Division of Continuing Studies.  The reporting line for these functions could easily be restructured in a number of different ways within a Provost’s office.  On the other hand, significant restructuring the Dean of the Faculties’ functions could affect faculty life in very basic ways.

- Ted Miller, SPEA

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I don't know how the responsibilities of a Provost of the Bloomington campus will be defined.  But if a future Provost will be the chief academic officer of the campus, with significant authority for, among other matters, faculty appointments and deciding and spending the budget, then such an officer has already existed in Bloomington.  He (it was always he) was called the Dean of Faculties.

      My first-hand knowledge of this office precedes even my appointment to the faculty in 1956.  Like many colleagues of my generation, I was taken before the Dean of Faculties as part of my interview on campus. Such interviews were not simply courtesies.  I remember a Dean of Faculties telling my department that we could not appoint someone we were recruiting because he did not think that our candidate would be an effective teacher of Indiana undergraduates.

      But rather than consult my memories of the office, I will summarize what I have learned about it from Thomas D. Clark's multi-volume history of the University (1970-77) and from descriptions available through the home page of the University Archives.

      In 1940 President Herman B Wells created the office of the Dean of Faculties because "the work of the President's office had become too great" and he needed "someone to be in charge of academic affairs in his absences from campus" (Clark III, 20). "Budget control," according to a synopsis of the responsibilities of the office on the Archives web site, "was a primary responsibility.  In this capacity the Dean controlled all academic budgets and played a key role in the development of annual budgets."

      The first Dean of Faculties was Herman T. Briscoe, a faculty member in chemistry and a powerful presence in the campus culture of his time.  In addition to his budgetary responsibilities, he oversaw the creation of new schools (including the Graduate School and the realization of Wilfred Bain's ambitious plans for the School of Music), approved faculty appointments and recommendations for tenure and promotion, acted on "academic problems and proposals," and, curiously, served "as a member of all university faculties."

   After his retirement in 1959 Dean Briscoe was succeeded by Ralph Collins (1959-63), Ray Heffner (1964-66), Joseph Sutton (1966-68), and Joseph Hartley (1968-69).  When the office of Chancellor of the Bloomington campus was created in 1969, some of the Dean of Faculties' responsibilities migrated to the new office.  The duties of the new Chancellor listed on the Archives web site include "Campus academic program development; Campus budget development; Recruitment, promotion, tenure, retention, and termination of faculty and staff members," and "Library development and coordination."  Byrum Carter was appointed as the first Chancellor of the Bloomington campus.

- Don Gray, English

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It has become fashionable to say that a Dean of Faculties in a university is an outmoded concept, one with little power, whose tasks could be better done by others.  I beg to differ.  To say that a DoF has no power implies an immature view of organization theory or management of a complex organization.  He or she has some of the greatest and most important powers in the institution and ones that must be protected for the long term health of the university.

     The most basic purpose, aim, or mission of a university is the production of knowledge. The people who produce that knowledge are faculty. The DoF is the keeper of that flame. Knowledge production or creative activity in a university is different than in other organizations in that it is free, open, and unfettered, versus "targeted," or "focused," as might be the case in a drug company or an automobile plant.  Academic knowledge production also requires a different environment in order to thrive.  The person in a university who is specifically charged with understanding, protecting, preserving, and defending this process is a Dean of Faculties.  This gives the DoF enormous power, enormous responsibilities, and enormous challenges.  To reduce or disperse this role, for example into some sort of "faculty advocacy" role, risks substantially weakening the university.  

    In recent times it has also become fashionable to attempt to tie everything to budgetary criteria. An older and more enduring criterion is an equally (often stronger) force driving the nature of the institution, at least of a research university: curiosity, a drive to understand, knowledge creation.   Yes, yes, I know that without dollars...  Well, actually I don't know that.  And neither did Barbara McClintock or Gregor Mendel or Carl Sandburg or Maya Angelou.  And the argument that "the times have changed" doesn't cut much ice either.  No matter how big "big science" gets, what could possibly come of it without a curious, seeking, human brain behind it? 

     A far more important power is the keeping, the protection and preservation of the very bedrock values of the institution, i.e. the production of knowledge and the people who do this as their basic job definition.  That important power is lodged in the Dean of the Faculties.  To simply put those functions "somewhere" or tuck them into some office because it is not clear what immediate purpose they serve is shortsighted indeed and can weaken the institution in both the short and long runs.  Susan Walton Gray once distinguished between the immediately urgent and the ultimately important.  The preservation of the long term values, indeed the raison d'être, of the institution is surely one of the most ultimately important tasks of a university.  The leadership role of the Dean of Faculties must be protected if the institution is not to be substantially weakened.  Herman Wells spoke repeatedly of need to understand these important distinctions and preserve them while also addressing increasingly complex needs.  Let us not weaken our university because we cannot keep straight our basic mission versus an increasing number and variety of demands made on us.

-- Myrtle Scott, Education

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