No Respite From Faculty-Administrative Conflict at Idaho State

May 11, 2011

Efforts to reestablish shared governance at Idaho State University appear to have gotten off to a rocky start. Months after the State Board of Education scuttled the institution's Faculty Senate after it had voted no confidence in President Arthur Vailas, the faculty this week elected a new provisional senate charged with writing a constitution and bylaws to pave the way for a new permanent body, the Idaho State Journal reported. So far, so good. But when the leaders of the provisional senate -- many of whom were on the panel that was disbanded in February -- sought to begin work this week, they were told, to their dismay, that Idaho State administrators would not clear the way for them to do so until the fall, Phil Cole, an associate professor of physics and the provisional senate's new chairman, confirmed Tuesday.

Cole found this out, he said, when he sought a key to the Faculty Senate office, which had had its locks changed in February when administrators disbanded the panel. “We have not given an official charge to the provisional senate yet. That will happen in the fall," Provost Gary Olson wrote. "Until then, the senate is not yet in operation. The structure, scope and background information will be provided to you in the fall. We have not authorized an election of officers at this point either. I hope you have a productive summer.” The Idaho State Journal quoted a spokesman for the State Board of Education as saying that he was "surprised" that administrators were not permitting the senate to begin work. Officials at Idaho State could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Idaho State professors got more bad news Monday, when the faculty ombudsman, John Gribas, informed his colleagues that administrators at the university had informed him that they had suspended the office -- which is designed to help faculty members resolve conflicts or problems affecting them -- until the new senate constitution and bylaws are in place. "Therefore, no ombuds office services will be available to ISU faculty during the summer 2011 session or through the 2011-2012 academic year," the office's website says. "It seems to me that this upcoming year will be one of continued transition and uncertainty, a time in which an ombudsperson’s assistance would be greatly desired," Gribas, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies, said in an e-mail to the faculty. "Therefore, until a Faculty Ombuds Office is reestablished and staffed, I encourage us all to look for ways to provide professional, supportive, and confidential assistance to our fellow colleagues in need."

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