Friday, December 12, 2008

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