Faculty in Action at Bowie State

By Gwendolyn Bradley

Faculty members at Bowie State University in Maryland were concerned early this fall when a new provost, Stacey Franklin Jones, began reorganizing the staff in preparation for programmatic academic changes and demoted or removed some staff members, and faculty serving in staff positions, without appropriate notice or due process. Members of the faculty report that she went on to circumvent established governance bodies and to use informal meetings with selected faculty members to launch new academic initiatives, such as first- and second-year experience programs. This management style rapidly undermined shared governance processes and generated mistrust of the administration.

The faculty had reason to worry— the same administrator, in an earlier position at Benedict College in South Carolina, had been involved in what a college grievance committee termed an “extreme violation of academic freedom.” But faculty members at Bowie State University were well positioned to push back because they had a strong tradition of faculty governance with high levels of participation.

“After more than three months with Dr. Jones as provost, we were faced with a rapid slide toward an administrative governance model,” says Frederick B. Mills, president of the new AAUP chapter and professor of philosophy. “But since we had been an active faculty and had not abdicated our role in shared governance, we were able to resist this slide.” Faculty committees continued their business, despite being shut out of decision making and major reorganization plans. Faculty members attempted to resolve the problems by explaining their concerns to the administration. After that failed, the faculty association voted no confidence in the president and provost and appealed to the chancellor of the University System of Maryland. In mid-November, the provost resigned.

The events stimulated BSU’s faculty to restart a dormant AAUP chapter. During the crisis, the fledgling chapter’s role was to voice concern over the erosion of shared governance by contrasting the shared model with the administrative model of governance, pointing out that BSU was in a slide toward the latter model and disseminating AAUP policies and information about shared governance to the faculty.

“The moral support of the AAUP, both from the state conference and the national office, was important during the re-formation of our chapter in the midst of a struggle to begin the restoration of shared governance on the campus of Bowie State University,” says Mills. He emphasizes that in order to protect and maintain shared governance, faculty members must work together not only on their own campuses but also on state and national levels.

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