In 2010, members of the Boston College faculty mobilized to form a BC chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)-an organization with a mission to “advance academic freedom and shared governance,” according to the organization’s website. For members of BCAAUP, an increased role in shared governance has led to a petition for two main initiatives: forming a standing committee for the faculty handbook, and reinvigorating a faculty senate.
Susan Michalczyk, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences honors program and the current president of BCAAUP, recently began a petition that calls for both of these to be instituted within the University. As of publication time, the petition has garnered more than 200 signatures from a wide range of faculty.
“Our faculty are committed, and they want the best for our University, and they want to maintain the best practices,” Michalczyk said. “I think this is an opportunity for us to stand up as faculty.”
The first resolution of the petition calls for the formation of a standing committee to monitor the faculty handbook. According to Michalcyzk, a substantial number of other research universities, including numerous other Jesuit institutions, have unified committees that monitor and enhance university handbooks on a semi-annual basis in an effort to foster faculty input by making revisions to it when needed.
“This is not about politics,” she said on the maintenance and perpetual revision of a faculty handbook. “This is about best practices at a Research I university and remaining competitive and in good standing compared to other [Research I universities] across the country.”
The second resolution of the petition calls for the reestablishment of an independent faculty senate within the University to help govern internal policies and to improve school representation among faculty members throughout the University. Although a senate currently exists within the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), Michalczyk noted that it has remained largely dormant for several decades, and, in the long run, she hopes it will encompass members from all schools, not just A&S. “If you’re going to elect people and they don’t do what they’re elected to do … then you’re not having any kind of governance,” she said.
While BC is now an officially chartered branch of the AAUP, however, its executive board is comprised of faculty members who are elected by the AAUP national council, not University faculty, and thus are not official representatives of faculty decisions. Responsibilities-regarding a standing committee for a handbook and an active faculty senate-called into question by the BCAAUP are currently administered to by the Provost Advisory Council, which consists of about 27 faculty members from each school at BC.
According to Michalczyk, discussion of the potential resolutions has been tabled at the past two PAC meetings on, Feb. 27 and March 27, and has yet to gain significant attention from the PAC. Although the petition has not been formally recognized or approved by the administration, Michalczyk and other members of the BCAAUP hope the two resolutions put forth in the petition will gain the attention of administrators and fellow faculty members.
“This is small,” she said. “Having a faculty handbook is not that earth-shattering-it doesn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities, and it does demonstrate a real commitment to engaging our faculty.”