Auburn University General Faculty Meeting
October 2, 2001
Broun Hall Auditorium
The meeting was called to order at 3:00 p.m.
The minutes for the previous General Faculty meeting in April were approved as posted on the web. They may be viewed at the Senate Home Page at http://www.auburn.edu/administration/governance/senate/schedule.html.
State of the University – Interim President William Walker
Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about the state of our University. Clearly, remarks along these lines must be framed in relation to the events of September 11, and so that is where I am going to begin.
The events of that day three weeks ago changed the way we think about many things. They awakened our sense of vulnerability. How easy it had become for us to forget the fragility of so many things that we take for granted.
Our lives will never be the same. You may already have experienced heightened security measures while traveling or simply in gatherings of large numbers of people. I expect that increased security and the associated inconveniences will be the norm, both here at Auburn and elsewhere.
Our concerns locally are for those who are, or expect to be, traveling in foreign countries, as well as for security at large gatherings such as sporting events. With regard to the latter, you can expect to see much more stringent security this weekend and beyond at Jordan Hare Stadium.
The principle of tightened security will also include measures to prevent the trashing of buildings. During the Ole Miss game on September 8, Biggin Hall was vandalized from top to bottom, as were some other facilities. I am determined to prevent similar occurrences in the future, and I will ask your understanding and support for the measures we will be taking to achieve this goal.
The events of September 11 have reminded us of the importance of community, and of the values that bind diverse people into strong communities. We have also been reminded that our individual well-being is wrapped up in the strength of our institutions.
Auburn University is our institution. And it is a strong institution. My remarks on the state of the university are intended to confirm what I see as our strengths, and to share with you some of the things we are doing to preserve these strengths and enhance them where possible.
Let me review with you now some of the underpinnings of our strength. These are things about Auburn that others respect and that I take pride in.
Arguably, one of our strengths is that we are in the midst of one of our greatest periods of growth ever. For the past three academic years, we have set records for freshmen enrollees. This semester, fall 2001, Auburn University has the largest enrollment in its history, 22,469 students. And applications for fall 2002 are up 42% over those a year ago at this time. Remember that enrollments are declining at many other universities. In addition, we have had record numbers of students graduate in the past three spring terms.
One of the things in which I take the greatest pride is the quality of students who choose to come to Auburn. I honestly believe that Auburn attracts some of the finest young people anywhere. They come to us with a strong work ethic. And I note with pride that many of those students invest countless hours in service to the community. The qualities of a strong work ethic and altruism, in conjunction with a good education provided by first rate faculty, go a long way in my opinion to explain why Auburn is consistently recognized as one of the top producers of successful people.
As a leader in research, instruction and outreach, Auburn University successfully leveraged a $185 million 1997-98 state appropriation into a $4 billion impact on Alabama’s economy. This includes over $2.4 billion in human capital, which is the value added in a knowledge based economy. You might be interested to know that there are over 74,000 AU and AUM alumni living in Alabama who produce this economic engine.
Our athletic program also continues to achieve national recognition. Last year, thirteen of our teams qualified for NCAA competition with two teams, women’s golf and women’s swimming, finishing fourth in the nation, the highest finish ever for both teams. Auburn consistently finishes in the top 25 in the Sears Cup rankings. Last academic year, 103 Olympic sports student athletes were named to the SEC honor roll, an increase of over 20 from the previous year. I make a point of mentioning our athletic programs because I know that many members of our General Faculty take a genuine interest in the successes of our student athletes, and are very supportive of them.
Our physical plant is undergoing significant improvement as a result of new construction and renovation. Just a few weeks ago we dedicated the new Earlon and Betty McWhorter Center for women’s athletics. New facilities that will be showing up on the landscape within the next few years include the student union facility, the Ag Heritage Park complex, the poultry science building, the forestry building, the science laboratory building, a transportation technology facility, the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum, and a large animal teaching hospital. Current and future renovation activities include the Wilmore Laboratory building (completed), O. D. Smith Hall (completed), Biggin Hall, Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park, Jordan-Hare Stadium and Haley Center.
In addition, the infrastructure system is being scheduled for refurbishment at projected costs in excess of $150 million. This system includes the heating, cooling, electrical, and storm and sanitary sewer systems that all of us take for granted.
Auburn and its programs continue to be recognized nationally for various achievements. For example, U.S. News and World Report magazine has just ranked us as one of the top 50 public universities for the ninth consecutive year. Our Industrial and Systems Engineering program has been ranked as one of the nation’s best according to a national report that rated undergraduate as well as graduate programs.
Recently, our School of Architecture was ranked second in the south among some very prestigious architecture programs. Architecture’s Rural Studio has amassed international acclaim (including Macarthur award) for its leader, Professor Sam Mockbee. The Princeton Review recently rated our library, the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, as one of the nation’s top college libraries.
Auburn has ranked among the best colleges and universities in the United States for several years. We have also received high accolades for the quality of programs in campus life, academics, and admissions and financial aid.
Some new areas at Auburn University promise to be the source of significant attention in the years ahead. Our new program in Wireless Communications in the Samuel E. Ginn College of Engineering is one of the first in the nation and is dedicated to being the leading educational and research activity of this kind anywhere, here or abroad.
I suggest that these examples of achievement and quality, taken together with the programs we have designated as Peaks of Excellence, and with our many other programs that rightly boast wide acclaim, represent a level of intellectual vigor and international respect to which all Auburn faculty should legitimately be able to aspire, and in which the entire community can take pride.
In saying this, I recognize that enhancing our quality and sustaining our aspirations will require us to address two issues that both have played prominently on our agenda in recent months.
The issues in question are governance and vision. We have spoken a great deal in recent months about governance. I believe it is time to begin focusing attention on our vision for Auburn University.
In terms of governance, I believe we have made progress and that we have several opportunities to make further progress.
Specifically, we are finding we have several ways for the constituent groups of the university to talk with one another and work with one another. These are some examples.
First, Board members are visiting schools and colleges. At the most recent meeting of the Trustees we heard two very favorable reports on what they are learning through these visits.
Second, faculty members are in the process of being appointed to serve on Board Committees.
A third noteworthy development is that the Board of Trustees has decided to postpone the presidential search. This action is consistent with a request for postponement made by the University Senate.
Fourth, it is my intention to promote open discussions about governance issues among representatives of the Board of Trustees, the Auburn Foundation Board, and the Alumni Association Board. The Arthur Andersen recommendations along this line were unanimously supported by all who reviewed them.
Fifth, Dr. Bill Weary, who is formerly of the AGB, has suggested a series of tasks that Auburn University might undertake to prepare for a successful presidential search. The point is that we can select and design tasks that will strengthen our governance processes and involve trustees and other major stakeholders in the process.
Please understand that the list of tasks Bill Weary put forward was tentative. His immersion process in Auburn is not complete. We are working right now on a schedule that would bring him back to campus from October 17th through 20th.
I expect these visits to be followed by a report that presents Dr. Weary’s observations and recommendations based on all he has seen and heard.
I will share this report with you, and will ask the campus leadership and the trustees for everyone’s best judgments about which tasks we feel we should address prior to beginning the presidential search.
A sixth and very important point with respect to governance is that a SACS Committee will visit the Auburn campus to review issues of governance with us. The date of this visit is still to be determined, but it is my intention that it take place in time for the results to be considered at next June’s meeting of the SACS Commission on Colleges.
I do want to take a few minutes to talk about the court action that I have initiated with respect to SACS. I have read the text of the resolution that is on the agenda. As you debate this resolution, I ask that you consider the following.
The statement that the lawsuit resulted in an indefinite delay in SACS investigation is misleading, and indeed inaccurate. I gather that some members of the faculty believe in good faith that I filed this suit to prevent the assessment visit from taking place.
I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. As I stated at the June 12 meeting of the Senate: “If errors have been made I want to know that and I will correct them and make whatever changes are needed.”
Delays have taken place, but they have not been requested by Auburn. We have responded in a timely fashion to every deadline that has been set, including SACS’ original deadline for our institutional response to the complaint.
Finally, I ask you to try to understand what is at stake. SACS will carry out a review process. This review can result in sanctions, one of which is complete loss of accreditation. Loss of SACS accreditation would destroy this university. In an e-mail message yesterday I outlined both the financial impacts and the loss of professional accreditations to colleges, schools, and programs in which many of you have invested a professional lifetime’s worth of work and caring. So, this is a matter to take very seriously.
Many of you may feel that realistically Auburn has nothing to fear in terms of loss of accreditation, so we should not take that possibility into account when making decisions. If I were confident we would be on a level playing field during SACS visits both now and down the road, I might agree with you.
But that is not where we are. The level playing field we are calling for involves simple fairness based on the rules of due process, not to mention SACS own policies. These are the same rules of due process, incidentally, that underlie many of the procedures in the Faculty Handbook that we as tenured and untenured faculty rely on very heavily.
It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn that SACS apparently does not believe it should be required to treat Auburn according to rules of due process. The language of the SACS attorneys on this subject two weeks ago is so striking that it deserves to be quoted directly.
“We think the law is clear . . . that SACS is not a federal actor governed by the U.S. Constitution, [and] that Auburn is not a person protected by the due process cause.”
Equally striking is a comment made by Judge Forrester. Speaking with respect to SACS’s role in accreditation, he stated: “I have a question as to whether or not this whole scheme passes constitutional muster.” Judge Forrester is, incidentally, the second judge who has concluded that this case raises issues that merit judicial review.
Given the potentially grave and lasting consequences for Auburn University, I have concluded that it would be irresponsible for us not to raise the questions that we have asked the court to consider.
If the court concludes that our position is without merit, I will most likely accept that result. If, however, the outcome is different, then I will most likely conclude that we would have been badly mistaken not to proceed as we have done.
Now I want to turn to the issue of our vision for Auburn as we approach our sesquicentennial year. The Auburn I envision is ranked among the best universities in the country, and therefore in the world, in research and instruction. I envision a faculty each and every one of whose members feel entitled, and expected, to aspire to excellence.
As we pursue national recognition we must also remain mindful of our grounding in the State of Alabama, and that we remain conscientious in discharging our obligations to the people and communities of this state. The outreach mission of the university is clearly one important way in which we do this: our outreach programs help the people and communities of this state to use knowledge to improve their lives.
I envision Auburn providing an added benefit for the people of this state. The benefit I have in mind is that Auburn University can serve as a powerful catalyst for economic development. Economic development is not what the university is principally about, but it certainly is something that can come about as a result of what we do.
I think here not only of our many graduates who will go on to be leaders in the state and region, but also of the powerful role our faculty and research programs are already playing in bringing cutting edge industry to Auburn from around the world. This state has great human and natural resources. It desperately needs a catalyst to help it develop these resources and to strengthen its economy.
The history of the century just ended is a history of failure on the part of Alabama’s political institutions to meet this challenge. I suggest that our vision for Auburn in the century just beginning should consciously incorporate the fostering of economic development. Our knowledge resources can help to fill the vacuum that currently exists in this regard.
This approach resonates well with some of the best current thinking about the future role of land grant universities. For example, Iowa State, which has announced the goal of becoming the “premier land grant university in the nation,” speaks about its “engagement” with society in these terms:
“Iowa State . . . will become more responsively and productively involved with our constituent communities . . . . We will work in collaboration with others and expand partnerships with other educational institutions, government, and the private sector, building on each others’ strengths and focusing on what each can do best.”
This kind of thinking, coupled with a vision of economic development, offers what I believe is a promising paradigm for a kind of progress that Auburn is uniquely positioned to help this state achieve.
To be useful, a vision requires one or more paths through which it can be reached. Doing more with less is not the path I have in mind. Rather, the path I believe we should take involves estimating the resources we need, and then devising ways to obtain them.
In order to achieve and to sustain the national recognition to which we all should be aspiring, we will need to raise a great deal of money. We need to be able to attract the best students and faculty possible.
Funds for scholarships and professorships can play a critical role in this regard, and one of my first objectives is to estimate the resources we need to compete effectively with our peer institutions at the national level. I have asked a broad-based committee, which includes the faculty leadership, to help me develop these estimates. I am hopeful of seeing results before the end of the fall semester.
The estimates of what we need will help clarify our objectives, and give us a clearer picture than we now have of how much money we need to raise and a time frame in which we can plausibly expect to raise it. The recent changes I have made in our Development Office and our Alumni Office are intended to increase our effectiveness in generating the additional resources we need.
One thing is certain with respect to raising these resources. We shall not be able to get it all done overnight. It will take a period of years to raise our endowment by one or more orders of magnitude. I ask your support as Auburn embarks on this challenging but important course.
Thank you, and I’ll be happy to take some questions.
Richard Penaskovic, Philosophy: I suggest that the problems Auburn University faces are largely structural or systemic in nature. For example, I believe that the Alabama Constitution gives the Board of Trustees far too much power. Most of the Trustees are decent individuals, practical businessmen. But just as the core Board are the powerbrokers in Auburn Athletics, including coaching changes, budgets, and ticket prices, so do those in the core Board have far too much to say in the appointment and continuation in office of Auburn’s top-level administrators, from Deans to Vice Presidents to Presidents. I feel that the core Board holds this University hostage and tries to intimidate those who disagree with them, saying that if they are unhappy with the way this University is run, they should leave. I think it very sad that the core Board does not tolerate any opinions but their own.
Jim Bradley and Isabelle Thompson wrote an article suggesting how this University could heal itself in a short amount of time without costing any money whatsoever. This article was very well-thought-out, insightful, and even brilliant. But no one in the administration has commented on it publicly. In fact, recently, Jim Bradley and his wife were humiliated and intimidated by Trustee Lowder at a reception they were invited to at the Presidential Mansion. I was told of this by someone other than Dr. Bradley and his wife, who stated that you stood next to Mr. Lowder and said nothing as Mr. Lowder excoriated Dr. Bradley on the article he wrote with Dr. Thompson. This, unfortunately, is not the first time Dr. Bradley has been dressed out in public. Trustee Miller did the same thing several months ago, and again, you did not intervene on Dr. Bradley’s behalf. I find this very disturbing.
I feel that the Board has put you, Dr. Walker, and most other top-level administrators, in an impossible situation. What can be done? Long-term, we need to work hard to reform the State Constitution, so that the power of the Board is limited. Short-term, you, Dr. Pritchett, and Dr. Large have to make a pact to stand together against Board intrusion. This will take guts. You are as interim President in a very strong position. The Board cannot fire you very easily because they have no one to replace you. If they do, they would have to admit that they made a mistake in hiring you in the first place. You are bright, you are strong, and you can do this. As long as you see yourself as merely taking marching orders from the core Board, this University will not move forward, and you will not have the respect of this faculty. Auburn University will be like a 12-cylinder car running on 6 cylinders.
[Dr. Walker declined to comment.]
Robert Greenleaf, Music: I view the Auburn lawsuit against SACS as continuing intimidation on the part of the administration and the Board of Trustees. If the Board and administration are acting in a proper manner, there is no need to be afraid of SACS, or any SACS review. I hope that you as a member of the Auburn faculty will stand for that fact and not against us in our efforts to make this a truly excellent and comprehensive University. I ask you to join with us, because you are a tenured faculty like us. If we stand together, we can get rid of those who are trying to dominate this University. I urge my colleagues to vote for the resolution.
[Dr. Walker declined to comment.]
Paula Backscheider, English: Could you comment on the role you see Development playing in funding some of the vision that you described?
Dr. Walker: I think it will clearly be one of the most important elements in funding. I have asked the group that I have established where are we going, how much is it going to cost, and how do we get the money? There is more than one way to get the money. Clearly, the state appropriates money. My feeling is that the state will not be able to be counted on to provide the consistent funding that we need. I agree with Dr. Penaskovic; I think that constitutional reform is an absolute necessity. I think many issues could be resolved with good constitutional reform. But, I do not believe that constitutional reform will provide this University with the level of funding it needs to achieve the goals that we have. So, the best we can realize from constitutional reform is a consistency of funding, that we won’t see these wild, absurd fluctuations that arise because of the crazy funding structure that supports our education.
Another source of revenue is tuition. We could raise tuition to the level of a Duke University, to around $30,000 a year, and that would, in theory, solve our problems. I think it would also cause serious concerns by the people who own the University, the taxpayers, that this is becoming an elite institution. We have heard that cry before from the Trustees. I think what we can expect to see is reasonable increases in tuition to help offset costs. I think we can also rely on things like patent and royalty funding to develop revenue.
When all is said and done, I think our fundraising and Development activities are going to be where our funding issues rest. Our endowment, the last time I looked, was at $234 million. It ought to be at a magnitude greater than that. What we receive typically from our endowment is a 4-5% payout. The return on the $2 billion investment paying out about 5% or whatever that return is would provide a sizable boost to the funding of this University. I think that is where I see this institution headed. I think in order to achieve that, it is going to take a dedicated effort over a period of years that will exceed many of our tenure. It seems to me to be a very reasonable and logical path to cover, and I think development is the key to success at that.
Larry Gerber, History: With regard to the SACS situation, I think the issue doesn’t really focus only on the legal action that you have recently initiated. It goes back to the official response of you as the President of the University and the hiring of an attorney to prepare a legal brief that many faculty took exception to as a way of responding to the complaint initiated by the faculty, SGA, Alumni Association, Staff Advisory Council. The University response to that complaint to SACS was hiring a lawyer to prepare a legal brief which certainly does not seem to be a balanced approach to the issues we face. I see the current action that you have authorized with regard to the suit against SACS as a continuation of a process that I think was flawed from the very beginning. When you put that in the context of a court suit directed against the Board with regard to the Sunshine Law, where the University is also appealing in another legal context seemingly to block it from a directive, and when you look at the whole picture, I’m sure you aware of why many faculty are quite upset with the way in which you are representing the position of the University. The position of the BOT is not that of the University itself.
[Dr. Walker declined to comment.]
Debra Carey, Staff Council: I am wondering exactly what the plan of action is over the next several months about the SACS visit.
Dr. Walker: All we have asked SACS to do is to be fair. We have asked the SACS Executive Director to recluse himself of involvement in the process because he has been involved in discussions with various people. That seems to me to only be appropriate. As a matter of fact, the first judge in this case reclused herself because her husband was a member of a law firm that SACS retained. That is an appropriate thing to do. When you have an involvement in something, you recluse yourself from it. That is really all we have asked for. We have asked for fair treatment. I don’t consider that to be any kind of violation of confidence. It seems to me that is simply shepherding the responsibilities I have here.
What is going to happen in the next few months? There has been one hearing. The judge delayed the proceeding because he has too many trust cases before him. He has asked for responses from the parties to various motions that have been made.
My hope is that the judge will be able to rule on this within the next few months, but I don’t know anything about timetables. We asked the judge for an expedited hearing, and I suppose in the wheels of justice this is expedited. I can’t really tell you what is a reasonable timetable for all of this.
Judy Sheppard, Steering Committee: When I read your email, I was disturbed by the fact that it seemed to be suggesting that those of us who might have supported the JAC complaint should think very carefully about these concerns about reaccreditation and thatwe haven’t taken these things seriously enough. I am wondering why is he telling us this, when we are the ones who really understand what is at stake here. What are you telling the Board of Trustees? They are at the heart of the whole thing. It is out of the faculty’s control. You can tell us all day long here’s what we can lose, but we know that. What do they know? Do they understand that they are the problem and they are the thing we are complaining about? They are the core of this issue. What have you told them? What can you do to communicate this issue to them? The issue is whether or not we complain but what we are complaining about.
Dr. Walker: I think some of the Board members do realize that they bear responsibility for some of the problems, but some do not. Just like some people in this room feel like they bear no responsibility for anything that happens. I can’t do anything about that and that is the position I am in. I remember at the last faculty meeting David Bransby stood up and said you either have to be with us or against us. I rejected that then and I reject that now. My job is to try to push this University forward. You guys have a disagreement or the BOT has a disagreement with you, I am sorry about that. You have to settle your disagreement. What I can’t do is endanger the future of this University while you are settling your fights.
Dr. Sheppard: Do you have a part in this?
Dr. Walker: Yes, I have a part in it, but I am also, supposedly, the captain of the ship right now, a position, by the way, that I didn’t want or ask for.
John Cochran, Aerospace Engineering: I was wondering about the lawsuit. When we turn it over to attorneys, sometimes the particular issue becomes one in which both sides try to make a living. I just wondered what kind of cost we were talking about here. The only thing that Marty and some of the people from the library could find for me on SACS being sued by a University was something attached to a School of Cosmetology. In that case, the court basically told SACS that they had to be fair with people. So, did they learn anything from that?
Dr. Walker: I don’t know, John, but I’ll be happy to make available to you the transcript of the proceedings. I’ll be happy to put that on the web if I can get a cleaned up copy; the one I have has marks all over it. As far as I know, the filings are also public information. There are a lot of references and stuff I don’t understand in there, but you probably would being an attorney. I suspect the case is cited in there, if not they would probably like to see it.
Conner Bailey, Rural Sociology: I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know exactly what it is you mean by “due process” or “level playing field.” It seems to me the complaint to SACS is a reasonable set of concerns. To think that somehow would precipitate an unlevel playing field that would require legal response remains yet unclear. Since we are going to be debating a resolution, this is an opportunity where you could lay out in greater detail what is unlevel about this playing field and specifically what in regard to due process are the administration’s greatest concerns?
Dr. Walker: First of all, I have no problem with the complaint that was filed. It seems to me that groups of faculty and various constituencies had very serious concerns and said where can we register these concerns where they’ll be heard. SACS is an appropriate venue for those concerns. My concerns about due process have nothing to do with the complaints. My concerns have to do with the actions of SACS. The fact that we were given 30 days to respond. In 30 days there was no way, with the staff I have, that I could respond in such a short time. So I went outside and hired a consultant. I even asked for some more time and SACS said no. So, we met the 30-day deadline and got the material in.
On a Wednesday after the stuff was turned in on Friday I received a call from SACS saying that even before the material had been received, SACS had decided to have an investigation of Auburn. That raised my concerns a bit, because they had not even reviewed the response that we had sent. This, we contend, violates their own written statements of the process that they would follow. They have tried to rebut that and say that this is an entirely separate action and that in this action we are not due to have due process. This is an argument I’ve never heard in my whole life. That is the reason the suit was filed, because of that kind of activity on their part and because there have been these ex parte discussions by the individual who would be making the decision for the SACS short of loss of accreditation.
Dr. Bailey: Ex parte discussions were when people associated with what?
Dr. Walker: People associated with Auburn University. With Bill Muse, for example. I have no idea about anyone else associated with the University.
Dr. Bailey: Due process is specifically related to the timing of SACS making the decision about investigating us, not about record-keeping or interviewing of people on this campus and then those names would become available to central administration?
Dr. Walker: No. As a matter of fact, at the hearing that was held two or three weeks ago, the judge stated very unequivocally to our attorneys that he was very, very protective of what he called “whistleblowers.” Our attorneys said that’s fine. I have no interest, personally, in knowing who said what to SACS. But from our jurisprudence system I assume that once discovery took place I would probably know, but I really don’t care.
Marsha Boosinger, Steering Committee: I wondered if you could answer the first part of Dr. Cochran’s question about the cost that this proceeding has been so far, the brief and the case to this point?
Dr. Walker: I have not received any bills, so I don’t know.
Dr. Boosinger: Has Dr. Large received any bills?
Dr. Large: I have not received any bills.
Marty Olliff, Library: Will you make those figures available to us when they come in?
Dr. Walker: I presume. I do not know what the usual policy on that is.
David Bransby, Agronomy and Soils: You mentioned progress in the University governance. Sure, we have some faculty on Board committees now. What we asked for was a position for the Senate Chair on the Board. We haven’t gotten that yet as far as I know. Why do you think that is and what do you do about that?
Dr. Walker: I think the faculty at Auburn and the faculty at AUM ought to have a position on the Board, and I have told the Board that. Why it has not taken place probably reflects the long-term feelings of acrimony between these two bodies. I think some lessening of tensions has taken place and I hope to see a lot more. I hope that in a short time we will see a faculty member on the Board. I think it is a mistake that has been long overdue in rectifying.
Rik Blumenthal, Chemistry: I am still a little bothered with this analogy of a level playing field. Do you view SACS as our competitor and we must beat them on the playing field of accreditation? I understood SACS to be a review that comes in and assesses what we’ve done. They are not out there with a goal of denying us accreditation. Is in fact the level playing field you are talking about a playing field between combatants of this body and the Board and you are filing this lawsuit to level the playing field because the Board thinks maybe the playing field has shifted from 90 degrees up hill for the faculty to 70?
Dr. Walker: If the analogy of the playing field is incorrect, I apologize. Let me resolve one other issue as well. The Board of Trustees did not file this suit; I did. I sent a fax to the BOT the day I filed the suit telling them I had done so. It came as a surprise to them, all of them except for maybe Jimmy Samford, whom I had discussed it with. They are not the ones who filed the suit. It is really not their suit.
The level playing field I’m talking about is an issue of fairness. I want to know how this institution is going to be judged. I want to know what standards it is going to be judged against. I want to know how they are going to measure that standard. It is, basically, the same expectation I have with any accrediting agency. I want to know what their criteria are, I want to know what standards they are comparing us against, so that we can tell people what they have to do when they need to improve what they are doing.
They sent me a one paragraph letter telling me that they were coming to visit and they were going to look at these issues, which were fairly ill-defined, as far as I can tell. I have no idea what the standards are that are going to be applied. It seems to me that we are entitled to know more than that. After the process is done, I would like to know how they reached their decision.
I would like the same consideration from the SACS that we get from every other accrediting agency that comes to this University. It just turns out that this one is central to the whole University as opposed to one specific discipline. Most of the other program-accrediting agencies start out by saying the first thing you have to have is accreditation by SACS. That is the critical issue.
Ralph Mirarchi, Forestry and Wildlife Sciences: This is a follow up to what you and Conner discussed. I think it is a problem of perception that we are dealing with. All of the faculty I have talked with about this don’t perceive there to be any fear about being mistreated or treated unfairly by the SACS review team with regard to their program, departmental, college, or whatever level. I think that the problem here is that the faculty perceives this as a way, once again, or perhaps trying to shield the Board from closer scrutiny by SACS. I think that’s where the perception problem comes in, at least for me. The way I look at it is bring SACS on, whatever. I’m not worried about our program and I think we do a good job as faculty. But I have some serious concerns about how this University is governed in certain instances. If they find something wrong with it and say “you better fix it or else we won’t accredit you,” that’s pretty much the way the ball bounces. I think that’s where the faculty and the administration disagree on this whole thing.
Dr. Walker: Conner, did you have something else to say?
Dr. Bailey: I do, but only after everyone else has had a chance to ask questions.
Michael Robinson, Architecture: I don’t want to change the subject, but I did come here to hear what you and the faculty have to say about this. During your remarks, a couple of things came to mind that I was wondering if you might forecast for us. One of those is that sales tax revenues in the state are down substantially. Two, looking for additional funds through the Foundation during a time when we have an interim President and conflict between the alumni, BOT, and long-term acrimony between the BOT and faculty, and we have a threat of losing our regional accreditation as a University. I was wondering if you could give us any kind of idea what things we will be discussing in the Faculty Senate six months from now.
Dr. Walker: In terms of finances?
Dr. Robinson: Yes.
Dr. Walker: Yes, I can. The prognosis for the economy is bleak. I am perplexed and deeply concerned about what this state’s leadership is going to do to address some of the financial problems that the education area faces. It is an election year. We are told that the Governor is not going to declare proration in the 02 budget. We already see, based on sales tax and income tax revenues, that there is not going to be enough money, so even the most optimistic person is predicting 3% proration. I have heard figures as high as 7%. Then the governor is saying we won’t have any proration. I don’t know where he thinks we are going to find the money. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say that to ridicule the governor. He may have some plan. I am anxious to hear what it is. I think, realistically, six months from now we are going to be concerned with the finances of the education trust fund.
I can tell you that the hard-nose business approach that this Board caused this University to take four or five years ago is pulling us through right now. I have asked Dr. Large if we can handle 3% proration without going into the Schools and Colleges, and he said he thought so. Of course, that is money bags he is sitting on. He won’t even tell me how much money is spent. I think if there is any bright spot in this financial future that is it. September 11, as you know, exacerbated what was already a declining economy.
I think, however, it is a good opportunity to advance the notion of constitutional reform. If people can’t see the need for it now, they will never see the need for it. People tell us there are three tax legs to a good education funding basis: sales tax, income tax, and property tax. Our property tax leg is virtually non-existent. Therefore, our tax base for educational funding is highly dependent on the state economy.
Renee Middleton, Counseling and Counseling Psychology: I really just wanted to make a clarification. When you said earlier that there was a group of faculty that put forward the resolution for the JAC. That really is a little bit misleading.
Dr. Walker: I said a group of faculty and others.
Dr. Middleton: It was this body.
Dr. Walker: It was the Senate, the Alumni Association, and several groups of people that went together.
Conner Bailey, Rural Sociology: You are thinking alike in terms of Development according to David Housel. He says Development is the next challenge in Auburn Athletics. I have a concern with that. As we are looking at a Development campaign, we have at least two sides of the house: the academic side and the athletic side. Can you tell me how these means will articulate and what the timing will be?
Dr. Walker: Yes. I have instructed Dr. Miller to proceed with due haste to institute a feasibility study so that I could recommend to the Board a combined campaign within the next few months. I am not going to give you an exact deadline because I don’t want to read about it in the paper. Within a reasonable period of time, in less than a year, I would like to start on a campaign.
Dr. Bailey: Simultaneously?
Dr. Walker: Yes, but if one starts a little earlier that doesn’t matter. Let me disavow you of a notion that is held by a lot of people. I have raised a lot of money, and I have yet to find an individual who can be enticed to give to something they don’t want to support. So the notion that Athletics is going to steal some donor from some other area is not quite an accurate representation. What I have found is that, almost without exception, the people we approach for money already have their charitable giving plans established in their own minds and they are prepared to give certain amounts for entertainment and certain amounts for other areas. Some want to only support Athletics and that’s fine. Some don’t want to support Athletics at all.
I think it is also a mistake, and I have trouble with some Deans in this area, to think that just because a person graduated from “college A” that person is the “property” of “college A.” A good example of that is Al Smith. Al Smith is an engineering graduate and he wanted to do something for Auburn. What he settled on was the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum, which is going to be a wonderful addition to this place. So, Al did not belong to the College of Engineering. Al could have chosen to give that money to Athletics or whomever. We are simply the vehicle that accommodates what donors want to do.
Joe Buckhalt, Counseling and Counseling Psychology: It seems that the complaint that was filed to SACS was done with the involvement of a great many stakeholders. You mentioned a few minutes ago that when you were filing the lawsuit you consulted with Jimmy Samford. Could you tell me specifically who else you consulted with in making that decision?
Dr. Walker: Just Jimmy Samford, if I remember correctly. Jimmy comes by my office about once a week and I have a discussion with him. He wants to know what is going on and I talk with him.
Barbara Struempler, Chair-Elect: You said you had asked Dr. Miller to start the feasibility study. How is he going to start that? Are we going to do a national search for some organization to take us on?
Dr. Walker: Yes, I told him to give me a list of the best organizations. There are four or five organizations that will do a good job. There is some chance that that group would also be the ones you would look at to help provide consultation for the campaign. That is what happened last time. It is not a predetermined conclusion that who you get for the feasibility is who you get to do the consulting, but typically that’s what has happened.
Is Will Miller here? I guess I can say whatever I want.
Richard Penascovic, Philosophy: You said a few minutes ago that a hard-nosed approach taken by the BOT five or six years ago is paying off now. I presume you mean merging programs. Is that correct?
Dr. Walker: And, in terms of causing us to begin to look at costs, the reallocation thing. A lot of places in the University downsized as a result of that, not the least of which are some of the areas of Facilities, Don Large’s areas. They cut personnel in order to free up dollars.
Dr. Penascovic: I have difficulty with that and here’s my problem. My own program was merged with Philosophy, yet no money was saved. It happened in other departments like Communications and Journalism. This was a top-down decision. Also, on the one hand, the Board was interested in saving money, but I noticed that today we have hired Bill Weary full-time, Peter Degnan, a lawyer, the suit vs. SACs, the suit vs. the Sunshine Law, the appeal of the suit, the restructuring of the Alumni and Development offices, yet no one sees a problem with this.
[Dr. Walker declined to comment.]
Yvonne Kozlowski, Library: On Friday, September 21, late in the afternoon, you communicated with the Auburn community in a detailed email about re-organizational changes concerning the Facilities Division, Alumni and Development, and University Relations. Bright and early Monday morning, on September 24, we pick up the Birmingham News to find out that there is a major re-organizational change in Athletics that you never mentioned. Why have you not explained this re-organizational change to us?
Dr. Walker: Which one are you talking about?
Dr. Kozlowski: In the Athletics Department.
Dr. Walker: I presume you are talking about the assignment of Hal Baird as number two.
Dr. Kozlowski: Yes, and a Development officer.
Dr. Walker: Every School and College has at least one Development officer. In fact, some Schools and Colleges have two or three. With respect to the other, I told David to do that. I didn’t tell him who to pick, but I told him to make that change. I asked David the same question I used to ask my Department Heads when I was a Dean, and it’s the same question I asked the Deans when I was a Provost. It is an impolite question, but the question is this: “Who do I turn to if you drop dead?” If the answer is, “I don’t know,” my response is “you better pick someone because I need to know.” David’s response was “I don’t know.” So I responded very quickly, ”You better pick somebody quick.” Not that I am worried about his health. I have done that with virtually everyone, unless there is a person there who is clearly the number two person. I apologize for not mentioning it, but I don’t consider that to be a major issue.
Announcements – Dr. Jim Bradley
To begin, I would like to say how proud I have been at Auburn's response to the events of September 11. The coming together of the university and city communities to provide comfort, courage and aid and to learn from others to increase tolerance and understanding has been inspiring. An Interfaith Town Hall Meeting designed to nurture the latter—tolerance and understanding—is planned for this evening at 7:00 in Langdon Hall, and promises to be very beneficial for the community.
I also hope that each of us will continue to be vigilant for ethnic profiling that may occur on campus or in the community and be prepared to speak out and act against it.
Now, because you deserve to know where I stand on some important issues facing the university, I will mix announcements with some thoughts on the current state of the university. If I appear to be reading, it’s probably because I am. I have put my words to paper in hopes of not being misunderstood.
Nearly 7 months ago Bruce Gladden commented that things often start looking darker just before they get black. The skies over the university were certainly not clear back in March, and now in October they remain threatening, although not yet entirely black. The DARKEST clouds over the university, ones that are simply not blowing over, are called DISTRUST and LACK OF CONFIDENCE. But before speaking of those, I would like to acknowledge some patches of brightness that I see at Auburn.
1. The first hopeful news I have to report is that at next week’s Senate meeting, recommendations to establish criteria for OUTREACH SCHOLARSHIP will be voted upon. If they are approved and ultimately incorporated into the Faculty Handbook, which I hope they will be, persons who are active in outreach will finally have a way to be credited for their contributions at tenure and promotion time.
2. Another noteworthy development is that faculty now have non-voting positions on Board committees. This means that the faculty will have one voice that can be heard at each committee meeting and be recorded in the minutes. A summary of the procedures for selecting faculty representatives on the committees and a call for nominations are available as a handout at the back of the room today.
Those are two of the bright spots I see at the university right now. But as I said earlier, there are still dark clouds overhead that are not blowing away. The so-called Auburn Family is not united in ways that it needs to be and deserves to be. So I wish to speak for a few minutes on what I see as CAUSES, MANIFESTATIONS, and some proposed TREATMENTS for the university’s disharmony.
CAUSES of disharmony include lack of confidence, lack of trust, and lack of money, with “money” taking a distant third in importance in this list, in my opinion. Some of the reasons for lack of trust in those we should be able to trust were listed in a formal letter of complaint from an Ad Hoc Senate Joint Assessment Committee to SACS, our accrediting agency, back in April. This committee and its charge were established by a vote from the University Faculty at its last meeting in March.
MANIFESTATIONS of our disharmony. These are multitudinous. They include votes of no confidence, calls for resignations, time spent in court during Homecoming Weekend, the hiring of expensive public relations firms and of expensive consulting groups during a period of near fiscal crisis, a lawsuit to halt secretive illegal meetings, thinly veiled threats to the financial stability and independence of a too vocal Alumni Association, and finally, the hiring of a high-powered institutional defense lawyer, Peter Degnan, to prepare a 500 page rebuttal to a 3-page letter of complaint prepared by faculty, staff and students hoping to help the university move on to a better place. I believe these all to be MANIFESTATIONS of our disharmony.
TREATMENTS for our disharmony. Various treatments for our “trust” problem have been proposed or are ongoing. They include a Board visitation program for colleges and schools, a lunch with a Board member program, and the hiring of an outsider, Bill Weary, to listen to our problems and suggest remedies. One TREATMENT with which I am familiar and continue to feel very positive about is the JAC itself . It was the “brain child” of the Engineering Faculty Council, became overwhelmingly supported by the university faculty, and has representatives from all of the major stakeholding groups in the university. Its purpose was to arrange for an external assessment of the performance of the Board in order that we might extract ourselves from the destructive cycle of accusation, defensiveness and distrust in which we had become mired last spring.
Jimmy Samford, President Pro Tem of the Board, is a member of that committee and Dr. Walker attended as a guest. Both of them recommended using SACS to carry out the assessment that was mandated in the charge to the committee. Other consultants were considered, but it was felt that receiving an assessment from SACS would be most valuable in helping to prepare the university for its upcoming accreditation review in 2003.
So where did we go wrong? How did we get to where we are today? I believe we got off track when the university hired a lawyer to respond to the SACS complaint. I encourage you to read even the first 2 pages of the voluminous University Response prepared by Peter Degnan to the JAC’s complaint to SACS. It is on the AU webpage under Special Reports. I find it degrading and arrogantly dismissive of faculty concerns. For example, it states that the Complainant's points are either ...
(1) “factually incorrect”,
(2) reflect “nothing more than a policy disagreement between the Complainants and the Board”, or are
(3) “an attempt to enlist SACS in their campaign to oust the Board.”
An example of a "factually incorrect" point is when we argued that Trustee Barron gives the appearance of having a conflict of interest when he sits as chair of the Property and Facilities Committee of the board and also obtains a contract for installing dormitory windows. The factually correct statement would have been to say that it was Barron's son's company, not Barron's company, that obtained a sub-contract for the window work. We stand corrected.
The accusation about using SACS in a campaign to oust the Board is especially vexing given the many hours of research, deliberation, and preparation performed by the JAC members as they carried out the charge to the committee. Never was there even a hint of any committee member thinking to use SACS as a means to oust the Board. Rather, we were thinking about how best to prepare for the upcoming SACS review. This accusation is insulting.
Aside from the question of why a document like this Response was ever allowed to leave the university, I am left wondering why Degnan’s next assignment was to prepare a lawsuit against SACS. Particularly when the university maintains that the original complaint lacks validity.
I have asked about this and was first told that SACS was not following its own rules—that the decision by SACS to investigate the complaint was made before the university response was received. I have researched this and learned that the Commission on Colleges reserves the right to launch an investigation into compliance with accreditation criteria even in the absence of a complaint, let alone needing a response to a complaint. Bottom line: SACS IS following its own rules.
Another reason given for the lawsuit is fear that an alleged friendship between the Executive Director of SACS and former president Muse might somehow prevent us from receiving fair treatment by SACS. This, in my opinion, is not deserving of comment.
Yet another claim stated in the lawsuit itself is that the JAC discussed its complaints with SACS prior to filing its complaint, apparently something that is not supposed to be done. You have a right to know that THIS IS A FALSE CLAIM. On behalf of the JAC, I did call SACS to ask about the proper procedure for filing a complaint, but never did I discuss the substance of our complaint with any SACS official. Nearly two months ago I inquired about the basis for this claim in the lawsuit and have not yet received an explanation.
Finally there is the argument that SACS may not provide Auburn with “due process.” What exactly does “due process” mean in this context. I have also researched this and understand it to mean essentially this: that any person interviewed by SACS and providing information that SACS uses in its deliberations must have his/her identity made public and his/her testimony made public. Now, if you fear for your job or for your physical well-being when confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, are you going to tell SACS investigators what you know? Probably not. And who, I wonder, might want to impose this kind of hush order, and why?
As a faculty member at Auburn University, I have serious questions about who the lawsuit against SACS is representing. I read that it represents the university, a legal entity just like you or me. But if none of the vital components of the university feel represented by it, then just what IS this legal entity called "the university?" The suit does not represent me. Nobody asked me, as an elected representative of the university faculty, whether the faculty would like to represented in this way. I have had no indication that the opinion of the SGA was solicited, nor that of the GSO, the Staff Council, the Administrative & Professional Assembly, or the Alumni Association. I specifically asked whether it represented the Board of Trustees and was told, no, that the decision to file the lawsuit was solely Dr. Walker's, on behalf of the university. Well, the university is composed of many groups, all with a keen interest in its well-being, and each necessary for its existence. So far as I can determine, none of them were consulted about their desire to be spoken for in this way. IN FACT, it is the original complaint to SACS that broadly represents the university, NOT the lawsuit against SACS.
Frankly, and personally, both as a faculty member at Auburn University and as a citizen of the city of Auburn, I feel deeply embarrassed by the filing of this lawsuit.
We are rapidly becoming an interim university. It's time we got back on the road toward becoming a bona fide university again with real Deans, a real Provost, a real President and a real chance at filling vacant faculty positions with excellent scholars and dedicated teachers. Don't misunderstand me. I believe we have good people as interim administrators. Although the elected faculty leadership and they do not always march to the same drummer, they do listen to our concerns.
But it's time for this forced paralysis in the area of assessment to end. We must fill the university from the top down, beginning with a new President. To help ensure an atmosphere conducive to a successful Presidential search, an atmosphere in which the next President is allowed to function as a President should, and a successful re-accreditation review, this faculty called for an external assessment of the performance of the Board of Trustees. The stalling tactics and the scare tactics delaying this assessment need to end.
That's the way I see it. Let's get on with it.
That concludes my announcements and my assessment of the state of the university. Are there questions or other announcements before we proceed to the action item?
Renee Middleton: Counseling and Counseling Psychology: I would just like for you to hold that notebook up and the invitation that went to SACS up because that is where the unlevel playing field exists
Judy Sheppard, AAUP President: I just have a few announcements from the AAUP. We are holding our annual faculty reception October 10. This announcement may not have gotten to you but this includes all faculty, new and old. It is also a general membership of AAUP. We are also planning a forum with Dr. Weary.
Action Item – Resolution Calling for Withdrawal of Lawsuit Against SACS – Yvonne Kozlowski
As a member of the Joint Assessment Committee, I wish to present the following resolution to you, the faculty, for your consideration and vote.
Beginning of resolution-
WHEREAS, in March, 2001, the Auburn University General Faculty established by resolution a Joint Assessment Committee to identify and arrange for a means by which an external assessment of the performance of university's Board of Trustees could be accomplished; and
WHEREAS, the Joint Assessment Committee identified and arranged for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to perform this assessment by investigating the state of shared governance at Auburn University; and
WHEREAS, the purpose of this assessment was to help prepare the university for a successful SACS review in 2003; and
WHEREAS, the lawsuit filed from the President's Office against SACS has resulted in an indefinite delay in SACS' investigation of shared governance at Auburn University; and
WHEREAS, this delay compromises the value of the assessment by reducing the time between its completion and the initiation of the SACS review; and
WHEREAS, the potential healing effect of such an assessment for the university is also being indefinitely delayed,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Auburn University General Faculty respectfully calls upon Interim President Walker to withdraw the university's lawsuit against SACS so that the assessment may proceed in a timely manner.
End of resolution-
There is one editorial correction that we have accepted as a friendly amendment in that the correct name for this body is the University Faculty. We have left the correction indicated there for you.
I urge your serious consideration of the need for resolution of the problems that the faculty, staff, students, and alumni have experienced in their interactions with the BOT. Before we move forward, we must address the grievances of the past. The sooner we can cooperate to identify the areas of needed correction, the sooner we can agree on a means to solve the problems of shared governance at Auburn University.
Do I need to read the resolution? I don’t think I need to right now. I put this resolution before you for consideration and vote.
Dr. Bradley: Since the resolution comes from the executive committee of the University Faculty, it requires no second. It is an active resolution to be considered. What I’d like to do is ask any visitors who are not faculty, such as retired faculty or members of the community, to share their comments or questions if they would like to. After a couple of minutes, all debate will restricted to Auburn faculty members as the definition of Auburn faculty, including all the instructors and administrators.
Is there anyone who is not a faculty member who would like to speak to this resolution?
[question about electronic voting]
Dr. Bradley: We made a mistake in offering electronic voting. So, about an hour and a half after the electronic voting began, we discovered that absentee voting is allowed by our bylaws only for elections and not for resolutions.
Are there any others who would like to speak?
Mary Boudreaux, Pathobiology: I just have one question. If this lawsuit was dropped, would this process be sped up or not? In other words, if we dropped the lawsuit today, are we buying time here?
Dr. Bradley: Of course, I do not know for sure. All I can cite is that originally, the investigation was supposed to come here Oct. 1 and it was delayed because of their dealings with the lawsuit until Nov. 5, and now most recently, indefinitely. Now I understand that they will probably come before June, but there has been no date set. So, my presumption is that if we suddenly don’t have a lawsuit, all of this would be expedited. That is my assumption.
Renee Middleton, Counseling and Counseling Psychology: I think that on principle it ought to be dropped. So, for me I would vote not simply because I think it will speed up the process, but to me on principle for many of the reasons stated we ought to drop the lawsuit. Sometimes we have to stand for principle as well.
Curtis Jolly, Ag Economics: I’m looking at your statement here, and I am seeing that the statement about an indefinite delay in SACS’s investigation of Auburn University. All the time that I was sitting here, I was under the opinion that the lawsuit was to ensure that we had an equal playing field and would receive fairness, so I am rather confused now, with the word indefinite, will it go on forever? What are you saying?
Dr. Bradley: The reason for the word indefinite is simply because there has not been a specific date identified for the visit now after the last postponement. Nov. 5 was originally the date; we learned last week from Dr. Walker’s email that that has been postponed and there is no new date. That is the reason for the word indefinite. Yvonne, you should be answering these questions and I call on people to speak. If she can’t answer them, we’ll have someone else answer them.
Dr. Kozlowski: I’d have to say we are in a really grey area here, and I would call on anyone who has such knowledge. I do believe that this is rather unusual. You need to know that SACS has a printed policy that was shared with the JAC on the whole process. It is an 8-10 page document, and of course, there is nothing in there about handling lawsuits, dropping lawsuits, because I don’t think they anticipated that.
Dr. Bradley: I have a mailing address for Dr. Lord who is responsible for the accreditation process for Auburn University. If this passes, I will stick a copy of this into the mail for him.
Tom Sanders, Library: I had two questions. One is if we relay to SACS that we resolved for the lawsuit to be dropped, does that not make the claim that we are siding with them against the University administration? The second question is if the Alabama judge decides that the whole accreditation procedure may be unconstitutional, how does that affect the visitation?
Dr. Bradley: I guess I should answer this since I spoke earlier. As for the first, I was just commenting off the top of my head, if somebody has a good reason or argument as to whether or not this resolution, pass or fail, should be stuck in the mail to Dr. Lord, I would be happy to do it. I really haven’t thought about it that much. As for the second question, I really do not know.
Dr. Sanders: I am just wondering that if the accreditation procedures are unconstitutional, where does that leave Auburn University?
Dr. Bradley: I think the question is that if the accreditation procedures that are being used now by accrediting agencies across the country are not legal, where does this leave the whole accrediting process in the U.S., and could an appeal possibly go to the Alabama Supreme Court and beyond that?
Dr. Walker: I don’t think there would be any way that this suit could end up in the Alabama Supreme Court. This suit was filed with the U.S. Federal Court in Atlanta. If this visit takes place before May or April, the decision by SACS would take place in June. If the visit took place in November, the decision by SACS would still take place in June. If the court were to rule in favor of SACS, my position would be that ends it. I was wrong. I have no position there. If the court ruled in favor of the position that I have taken, then I don’t know what the appeal process would be. I am reaching here because we’re not asking the judge to rule that anything is unconstitutional. So, I would vote that he wouldn’t step that far if he felt so. SACS may appeal this thing if they don’t like the ruling. That’s their right. That appeal would go to the 11th circuit, then if they didn’t like it, it could go to the Supreme Court of the United States, as we could. I don’t anticipate that. My anticipation is for one court and that’s it.
Curtis Jolly, Ag Economics: Because I have to vote on this, I need to ask for clarification. Are you doing it as an individual faculty member yourself, or are you doing it for the University? Did you consult the Steering Committee you appointed?
Dr. Walker: No, as I pointed out months ago when this thing was filed, I found myself in a situation where Auburn was, in a sense, complaining against itself. The combatants in this issue are people that make up Auburn University. There are faculty, staff, students, and the Alumni Association on the one hand—those who composed the JAC. On the other hand is the BOT. A complaint was filed, as it should have been, if these groups felt compelled to do so. I was presented with the task of responding on behalf of the University. Now, what do I respond on behalf of a broken University, where we have groups that are opposed to one another? I thought that the position I took with obtaining outside counsel was a reasonable thing to do. It is the same procedure that we follow when the NCAA says we have a complaint. We obtain outside counsel and ask them to study the case. That is what got us to that point. I did not have a Steering Committee, but you may consider John Heilman, John Pritchett, and Don Large my committee. They are my executive committee.
Dr. Jolly: What about the faculty SACS committee, were they consulted?
Dr. Walker: No.
Dr. Kozlowski: I’d like to make a point of clarification here because we are confusing the reaccreditation process, which we have begun, with the filing of a complaint. We need to understand that SACS has a completely separate unit from the reaccreditation unit, and that is where we filed our complaint. People who feel they have the basis of a complaint may do so at any time, but it just so happens that these two events coincide. That is not why we filed the complaint.
David Carter, History: I don’t mean to put Dr. Walker on the spot any further, but I gather that he said he would be prepared to abide by whatever the district ruling. Would you categorically state whether you would accept the ruling of the district court, or would that be a matter that had to be dealt with by the legal team for Auburn? It seems that in terms of indefinite delay, it would be nice if we had a feeling that closure would be right around the corner rather than dealing with the whole appeal process?
Dr. Walker: As I said, I am prepared to accept whatever the court rules. I have no intention of dragging this thing out any further. What we have asked for started out as fairly simple. We asked to be treated fairly in this process because I had serious concerns about that. No offense to the lawyers present, but when you get those folks involved, things tend to escalate. It is not my intention to go any further. But, as I have said, I have no idea what SACS’ position will be on this.
Isabelle Thompson, Senate Secretary: I wanted to follow up on what Yvonne said in terms of some of the practical issues that will probably arise if this suit continues. We have undertaken our 10-year self-study. We have started that self-study. The principal committees have been meeting and gathering information. The reports are due from the principal committees in May 2002. If this complaint is not resolved before then, we are going to be dealing with this complaint as well as the ten-year reaffirmation report. From my very small-minded way of thinking, this brings us much closer to losing our accreditation than if we go ahead and investigate this complaint now, handle whatever the ramifications are from the complaint, and go on with the reaffirmation report that could then follow rather than be entangled in the complaint.
Jean Weese, Nutrition and Food Science: Since I haven’t been in the Senate and we haven’t had a General Faculty meeting in a while, tell me what the plan to go to SACS was. What was the goal of the JAC in filing the suit?
Dr. Kozlowski: We investigated many avenues whereby we could address our grievances with shared governance and the BOT. This is what looked like the best avenue to go down. It looked like an arm of SACS that tries to be objective. I know the President has contradicted that, but from the best information we had, SACS would provide us with analysis, look at our grievances, and investigate. They would say whether we had a grievance or not and then suggest they could help us proceed from that point. From what I understand, losing accreditation in a grievance like this has never occurred. That is not standard and is even rare. You might be cited and told that you have two or three years to address a certain administration problem or something else. Then, we would address it. We would sit down with the Board and find some solutions to our long-term problems with them. We might have to change also and we realize that. It was simply the best avenue we could find.
Gene Clotheauix, : What SACS will do in a case like this is ask members of other universities to serve on a committee and come here and assess what the complaints were. No one from SACS itself will be on that committee. There are 25 people who will be coming in from across the Southeast and will represent various departments and it will be chaired by a president from a land-grant University very much like ours. This is something that will decided by the Executive Director and Dr. Walker. If Dr. Walker doesn’t like what is suggested, we go to the second. There is a reasonable way to set up the committee. It is the same thing with the complaint. This committee will probably be very small, 5 or 6 people. But I don’t know.
Dr. Kozlowski: Thank you, Gene, that is a very good addition.
The question was called and a paper-ballot vote was taken.
The resolution passed with 97 votes “yes,” 26 votes “no,” and 6 abstaining.
[The electronic straw poll was 203 “yes,” 17 “no,” and 2 abstaining.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.