Confidence in Academic Affairs office is put up for vote
By Christine Moukazis
The Kean Federation of Teachers concluded an electronic vote Dec. 4 on whether or not the faculty has confidence in the university’s Office of Academic Affairs after its vice president, Dr. Jeffrey Toney, did not reappoint an unprecedented nine out of 10 full-time professors who joined the college in 2009 and were up for tenure.
Tenure-track faculty who do not get reappointed for tenure are, essentially, fired from the university.
They are allowed to serve out the remainder of their one-year contract, but their employment ceases on June 30, 2014.
While not customary elsewhere, tenure-track professors are often eliminated at Kean over the course of four years of the five-year tenure track process. However, eliminating the candidates in the fifth and final year is unusual, even for Kean.
The decision on tenure is made in the fifth year. If a faculty member is reappointed for a sixth year, then he or she has been granted tenure.
The no-confidence vote was administered by the American Arbitration Association via ballots sent to professor’s homes. The question asked: “Do you have confidence in the judgment and leadership of the Office of Academic Affairs?” The results of the vote were yet not available at Tower press time.
The union membership also began collecting signatures in support of their colleagues who were denied tenure, and will present the petition at the next Board Of Trustees meeting, which is being held in Ocean County on Saturday, Dec. 7. The union is also running special buses to get faculty and staff to join them at the meeting down the shore.
The nine faculty members denied reappointment and tenure followed university policy and were rigorously evaluated every year of the last five years at the department and college levels, including reviews by their deans, and most had unanimous support, said Dr. James Castiglione, president of the KFT, which represents the college’s 300-plus full-time faculty and professional staff.
“Given that Toney is overriding, in most cases, unanimous positive votes at both the departmental and college level, his recommendations lack academic legitimacy and harm the viability, quality and academic integrity of the university’s programs, and hence, undermines the education we provide for our students,” said Castiglione.
Castiglione also explained that each year, tenure-track faculty members must prove excellence in teaching, research and scholarship service, often represented as publishing, so that by the time faculty are up for tenure they have fully proven themselves and, barring some extenuating circumstances, would normally be reappointed with tenure in that last year of the process.
Tenure-track faculty members undergo a multilateral evaluation process: a vote at the departmental level, a vote at the college level, recommendation by the vice president of Academic Affairs, recommendation by the university president and final action by the Board of Trustees.
University President Dr. Dawood Farahi overturned two of Toney’s recommendations after an appeal. However, he upheld the negative recommendations on the remaining faculty members up for tenure.
“A lifetime job in the state university is not an entitlement, it has to be earned,” Farahi said in a statement he released.
Farahi is a tenured faculty member at Kean who not too long ago was under fire for allegedly embellishing his own academic credentials, especially in the area of publishing. Professors typically are required to publish in their field to get tenure.
The revelations led to an investigation by the Board of Trustees under a cloud of widespread media coverage and after the president apologized for what he characterized as errors, he received support from of the Board of Trustees. The board members are appointed by the governor with input from local state legislators.
Still, the university continues to be a center of controversy. Just last month, Kean made headlines when its new associate vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Katerina Andriotis, left amid claims of plagiarism. Andriotis was accused by the KFT of submitting a plagiarized enrollment report in which she allegedly filled in the name of Kean University in place of another college.
The college did not comment on her departure. Andriotis was best known on campus for instituting a controversial “pending registration” system that caused low-enrolled classes to be cancelled suddenly. It was widely criticized by faculty and professors as inconvenient and counterproductive.
This is hardly the first time the KFT has called for a no confidence vote. The KFT has twice conducted similar votes on the leadership of Farahi. Three years ago, 83 percent voted no confidence in the president. Following the publishing scandal, 94 percent of the faculty voted no confidence in the president in May 2012.
Toney redirected a request for comment on his negative recommendations to Kean’s Media Relations office. Emails to Kean’s Media Relations office requesting a statement on the tenure issue were unsuccessful.
According to the Academic Arbitration Association, 96 percent of the 59.3 percent eligible votes who cast a ballot gave a Vote of No Confidence regarding in VPAA Jeffrey Toney’s academic leadership.
James Castiglione, KFT President said in an email, “the overwhelming results of this vote are consistent with the last two votes of no confidence: the 83% vote of no confidence on President Farahi’s leadership three and a half years ago and the 94% vote of no confidence in the Board of Trustees two and a half years ago, both among the most lopsided in the history of academia.”
“Faculty that have long harbored serious doubts about the leadership of Academic Affairs, can now be sure that they are in a resounding majority, “Castiglione continued in the email. “This is the sort of clarity and reassurance that can be achieved through collective action. It is now incumbent upon faculty to continue our collective action by showing up at Saturday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees in support of our untenured colleagues.”
The meeting of the Board of Trustees is Saturday, Dec. 9 at 11 A.M. It will be held at Ocean County College in Toms River in the Gateway Building on the first floor lecture hall.
There will be a bus and lunch provided as well. The bus leaves for OCC at 9:30 A.M. The lunch is scheduled for 1 P.M. at the college’s student center.