Friday, December 12, 2008

Response to New York Magazine December 12 article

The following quotes are taken from:
"Old School: Q&A with Bob Kerrey on His Faculty's No-Confidence Vote"

What do the protesting faculty want you to change?
I didn’t even know about the vote. I still don’t know what they want me to do.
The New School President, Bob Kerrey, made this statement a day after receiving the 'Statement of Concerns' voted on by the faculty, and the 5th resolution passed by the faculty which quite clearly demanded that the Deans be granted access to the Board of Trustees of the New School to develop a way forward in relation to a re-empowered Provost and Provost's Office. Those resolutions are available on this website.

Response to Bloomberg December 12 article

The following quotes are taken from:
"New School’s Kerrey Plans to Stay After No-Confidence Vote Loss

Kerrey said he and the school’s chief operating officer have been working to produce a budget surplus during an economic crisis, and talk of productivity and efficiency hasn’t been popular.
This is the spin that Kerrey is trying to put on the vote of no confidence. It is erroneous. The Statement of Claims voted on by faculty makes no mention of any reaction to any currently proposed or implemented financial constraints. This is because the faculty is not concerned about any 'productivity' or 'efficiency' measures necessitated by current economic conditions. As a faculty committed to civic engagement, operating as effectively as possible with as few resources as possible is a core value of the faculty. To claim that the faculty is merely complaining about cost cutting is to fundamentally misunderstand and disrespect the extent to which the faculty are committed to the founding principles of the New School.

Response to the New York Times December 12 article

The following quotes are taken from:
"Kerrey Moves to Bolster Support at the New School"

“If the times were fulsome and every aspiration and tenure interest of that group was being fulsomely met, there would have been no vote last night,” [Mr Hindley] said Thursday
The current concerns of faculty have nothing to do with the current financial situation of the university. The concerns of the faculty with the actions of the President's Office predate the current economic downturn. The faculty of the New School, as a not-wealthy institution, are accustomed to operating in lean ways. If anything, the faculty's current concerns are about the ways in which the inability of the President to function productively with any sort of Provost have been the single greatest obstacle to the faculty developing fundable research initiatives and new degree programs in areas likely to see an increase in enrollment during periods of economic downturn.

The current concerns of the faculty have nothing to do with the conditions of tenure at the New School, as they have been established in the handbook developed in consultation with the faculty over the last year. If there is a concern in this area, it has to do with the turnover of Provosts, whose key function is making recommendations to the President about tenure cases. That Kerrey decided to unilaterally make himself as President also the Chief Academic Officer evidences how little he understands about the position of Provost and the issue of tenure.

“We know that the job Joe wanted to take would have kept him busy to April.”
This crucial claim in the dubious narrative that the President's Office has constructed to explain the departure of Joe Westphal must be investigated. The various statements made by Kerrey about Joe Westphal's departure to the Deans, to the faculty via a general email announcement and to the public via interviews with journalists are not consistent.

“There is nothing in the administration of Bob Kerrey to indicate that he would not have welcomed” an honest expression of grievances.
The growing grievances of the faculty have been communicated to Kerrey repeatedly through the Provosts who have each in their turn be made to step down.

Response to the New York Times December 11 article

quotes taken from
New School Faculty vote No Confidence in Kerrey

Mr. Kerrey has clashed with some professors since the day of his appointment
The current motions of no confidence in the New School President have absolutely nothing to do with initial concerns about his appointment or his record prior to joining the New School. The current motions have been put forward by a much larger body of faculty from across the divisions of the New School than those voiced during his appointment. The current motions concern a more recent pattern of behavior in the President's office. And the current motions do not only refer to Kerrey but also his Vice President.

The no-confidence resolution, which has no direct impact
The motions are historic. For the first time ever in the history of the New School, faculty from across its previously federated divisions have come together, quickly, and spoken decisively and almost uniformly.

conflicts over governance have ranged from the profound to the mundane... Some said the disagreements were as much about Mr. Kerrey’s style as substance.
Whilst there are concerns about way in which the New School president conducts himself given the mission and values of the university, the current dispute centers on a fundamental issue of governance: that the President has summarily dismissed the Provost without explanation and unilaterally appointed himself the Chief Academic Officer; and in that capacity is halting restructuring plans that have been elaborated and approved by all divisional Deans.

he defended his decisions to replace those [provosts] he deemed ineffective.
In none of the dismissals of any of the provosts during his time as President has Kerrey ever explained to the faculty the nature of that ineffectivity. Kerrey is now on record for the first time that those provosts were replaced for being ineffective.

He said that much of the anger directed his way is rooted in deeper and more complex issues about the nature of the New School
This is not the case. The faculty for the most part have come to be in agreement with the vision of a new New School, mostly as a result of the hardwork of previous provosts. It is the faculty who have rewritten the faculty handbook and the faculty who are now working toward divisional restructures. If anything Kerrey appears to be frightened by the consequences of the extent to which faculty are embracing a new New School.

“The problem at the New School is not necessarily me.”
The problem at the New School is the structural nature of the President's office that Kerrey has established. The solution is not just the removal of Kerrey and his Vice President but the creation of an autonomous Provost's office.

Mr. Kerrey said the most contentious issue has been his attempts to transform the way professors are appointed and tenure is granted.
Whilst the negotiations of tenure and extended employment arrangements that traverse the previously federated divisions of the New School have been robust, there is now an emerging consensus at the univeristy on these matters. What concerns faculty is that in unilaterally appointing himself the Chief Academic Officer, Kerrey can now violate those consensual tenure and extended employment arrangements without any accountancy.

But he views himself as battling an entrenched culture, where the various schools protect their turf even as he tries to create a more central authority.
This is a mischaracterization of the current nature of the New School and its faculty. The divisions, through their Deans have embraced collaboration at all levels. This is however an accurate characterization of the problem. What faculty were working toward was a more functionally integrated university, not a Presidential autocracy

Motions from the Extraordinary Faculty Meeting

Summary of the results of the emergency meeting of senior faculty, held on December 10, 2008, from 2:00 – 4:00

In order to discuss, and respond to, the current crisis at the University, the co-chairs of the Faculty Senate called an emergency meeting of the University’s senior faculty. Due to concerns of some faculty about employment security, the chairs invited only tenured and extended-employment faculty from all divisions. A few additional senior faculty chose to attend as well.

Seventy-seven faculty members were in attendance at the start of the meeting. As the meeting went on, some faculty had to leave to teach, so that by the end of the meeting there were fifty-nine senior faculty.

Thirty-five senior faculty members came from Parsons; twenty-four came from the New School for Social Research; six from Milano; five from Lang; and five from the New School for General Studies.

The senior faculty discussed and voted on a total of five motions, the first two by secret ballot, the last three by a show of hands.

Submitted by Jim Miller and David Howell, senior co-chairs of the Faculty Senate.


First motion

The senior faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of Bob Kerrey.

Vote: 74 in favor, 2 against, 1 abstention


Second motion

The senior faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of James Murtha.

Vote: 67 in favor, 0 against, 1 abstention


Third motion

Statement of Concerns

The Senior Faculty lacks confidence in President Bob Kerrey and Executive Vice President James Murtha.

We can no longer tolerate the constant turnover of provosts – five provosts since the appointment of President Kerrey in 2001.

This turnover has made it virtually impossible for the faculty to be properly involved in thoughtful and effective academic planning; for our staffs to provide proper and consistent academic services; and for the Deans and faculty to help the Provost develop University-wide employment systems that appoint, review and promote faculty in a timely and fair manner.

There is a widespread perception that the President has allowed the Executive Vice President to frustrate and sometimes sabotage many of the academic initiatives of the Provost, Deans and faculty, as a result of which there has been a substantial reduction in the effectiveness and efficiency of all those directly involved with academic affairs.

Besides such costs, we also fear that the reputation of The New School is at risk, as is our continuing ability to recruit and retain the best candidates for top academic positions, and our future ability to recruit and retain students.

We are appalled by the abrupt and unexplained dismissal of Provost Joe Westphal, who represented a welcome transition towards better academic leadership and a greater openness in shared governance with the Deans and faculty. We reject the appropriateness of President Kerrey unilaterally appointing himself the acting Chief Academic Officer of the University for an interim period that is likely to last months if not years. In both cases, there has been no reason given why there was no prior consultation with Deans, the Faculty Senate, or senior faculty.

These events appear to be part of a larger pattern, characterized by unilateral, impulsive, and sometimes secret decision-making, concentrating power in the hands of the President and Executive Vice President, without due deliberation or proper consultation with Deans and Faculty.

The founders of the New School hoped to foster democratic ideals of governance and open inquiry. It is ironic, and deeply troubling, that Bob Kerrey and James Murtha have governed the University in a way that subverts one of its constitutive ideals.

Vote: 65 in favor, 1 abstention.


Fourth motion

The senior faculty has full confidence in all the Deans.

Vote: 65 in favor, 0 against


Fifth resolution

Given the exceptional nature of the votes we have taken today, the senior faculty strongly recommend that the divisional Deans be allowed to meet with a sub-committee of the Board of Trustees and select faculty, in order to help develop a plan for the University as it moves forward.

Vote: 59 in favor, 0 against.