A plan for faculty participation in the governance of Incarnate Word was first introduced by Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery in 1969. She was appointed academic dean in that year and based her plan on the document published in 1962 by the American Association of University Professors. The plan included creation of the Faculty Association and standing committees in curriculum, library, admissions and financial aid, student life, faculty affairs, budget and physical plant, and public relations. With this structure in place, “The faculty became responsible for making changes in the academic program, for formulating policies on admissions, for recommending promotions and tenure, for awarding scholarships to students, and for recommending changes in student life related to the educational process.” (Promises to Keep, V. 2, pp. 353-4) Details with processes were outlined in the first Faculty Handbook published at Incarnate Word.
In this year, the Board of Trustees approved the document, “Board of Trustees on Campus Governance.” This clarifies the basic philosophy of shared governance and summarizes the primary responsibilities and authority of the Board, the president, and the faculty. The first section is titled “Areas of Shared Responsibility” and has been included in the Faculty Handbook since then under the section called the Board Policy on Campus Governance (from the Board of Trustees Handbook, section 5--‘UIW’ has been substituted in the document for ‘IWC’):
The University of the Incarnate Word supports the principle of interdependence among the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and students for effective operation of the total educational program. Adequate communication and full opportunity for joint planning and effort are the means of effecting this interdependence. Recommendations for change in the educational program may be initiated by the Board, the administration, the faculty, or the students. Differences in the weight of each voice from one point to the next are determined by reference to the responsibility of each component for the particular matter at hand.
The Board Policy goes on to enumerate areas of shared responsibility:
The establishment of the philosophy and the general educational policies of the university,
Major changes in the academic program, or composition of the student body,
Major decisions in use of physical resources related to the educational work of the university, allocation of financial resources, and long-range planning,
Selection of the president, provost,
Determination of faculty status, including appointments, re-appointments, decisions not to reappoint, dismissals, promotions, and tenure,
Obtaining and maintaining all accreditation.
The last section of the 1975 Board of Trustees document outlines the scope of faculty authority and responsibilities.
The University of the Incarnate Word [UIW] is dedicated to the free pursuit of truth and the responsible dissemination of knowledge.
Involved in the achievement of these goals is a community of scholars made up of students, faculty and administration.
As members of this community, faculty have the freedom and the responsibility to pursue the truth and to present it effectively….
The faculty of UIW consists of the president and those members of the instructional and administrative staff accorded faculty status.
The faculty has primary responsibility for the curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life, which relate to the educational process. On these matters, the power of review or final decision is lodged in the Board of Trustees or delegated by it to the president….
The faculty is responsible for establishing requirements for academic degrees; for determining when the requirements have been met and for authorizing the president and the Board to grant the degrees.
The university recognizes that scholars in a particular field have the chief competence for judging the work of their colleagues. Thus, faculty members are primarily responsible for faculty appointments, re-appointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, tenure, and dismissal. Determinations on these matters should be by faculty action exercised through established procedures, reviewed by the chief academic officer, and approved by the president.
The faculty actively participates in policies and procedures governing salary increases.
The ideals expressed in the 1975 document have served Incarnate Word well over the years but as with any complex institution, not without moments of tension. The inauguration of Dr. Louis Agnese as president in 1986 added to the complexity. His style of moving quickly to take advantage of opportunities, which contributed, to the rapid growth of the college, addition of a new doctorate and the change to university in 1996 also pressured faculty to speed up their often slow and deliberate processing of new initiatives. In many ways, this dynamic characterizes the administration/faculty relationship during the Agnese years of tenure at UIW.
In the late 1990’s several actions by administration provoked a very serious reaction from faculty. See the biography by Dr. Patricia Watkins: Lou: From Brooklyn to Broadway (San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Co., 2011), pp. 137-45. The new VP for Academic Affairs appointed in 1996 created a committee that led to the change from a Faculty Association of the whole to a representative Senate in 1998. A year later, he proposed replacing the Senate with a provost’s council and having senate and related committees at the college/school level only. This also culminated a period of several years when various administrators were appointed with little or no faculty representation on search committees or no search committees at all. Faculty were questioning Agnese’s leadership and feeling that their role in governance was eroding dramatically.
Fortunately, by mid-April of 2000, the Faculty Senate and Agnese and his administration began productive talks that would assure that the Senate would be a critical voice of the faculty in the traditional areas of curriculum, faculty affairs, and rank and tenure decisions. Better communication strategies were devised that hopefully would translate, and have done so, into a more collaborative partnership between administration and faculty in governance. In addition to the long-standing tradition of the president of the Faculty Senate being a Board of Trustees member, it was decided that the president would also sit on Agnese’s Executive Council, and in the provost’s meetings with the deans. In addition, the provost would now be an ex-officio member of the Senate. Agnese would commit to have regular meetings with the Senate. Faculty membership on the University Planning Commission was also dramatically expanded.
Agnese also initiated his Presidential Teaching Award and other faculty-supportive events were begun such as the annual Faculty Appreciation Lunch and the annual Board reception welcoming faculty back to the new academic year.
Overall, the ideal of shared governance and the role of Faculty Senate weathered a very difficult time. Undoubtedly, there will always be moments of tension, perhaps not as severe as described above. In the meantime, faculty continue to review and adapt the Senate Bylaws to be as responsive as possible to ongoing change, to update the Faculty Handbook as the reference on faculty contracts clearly spelling out their rights and responsibilities, and overall recommitting to the 1975 ideals of shared governance.