There have been several media stories and much discussion among various members of the Gordon community following a regular monthly faculty meeting on April 5th, where all seven members of the Senate resigned their elected role on Gordon’s Faculty Senate (not the from College itself.) While this type of internal disagreement might be considered by some as a matter for faculty only, Gordon is a very relational community where any issue or dispute among one party affects others in the larger community, including alumni and those who have an interest in the College. We hope this brief fact sheet will help put the matter in perspective and answer some of the questions that have arisen.
What is the Senate?
- The faculty senate at Gordon College is different from a faculty senate at many other institutions. At Gordon, the Senate is an elected body (they serve three-year terms) which makes promotion and tenure recommendations.
- Like most other schools, these recommendations are then passed on to the provost and president for a final decision, which is approved by the Board of Trustees.
Why did the Faculty Senate resign?
- This was a decision the senate members announced at the end of their regular monthly faculty meeting. It was not expected, though they did first inform Provost Curry a few hours prior to the meeting, and it is an unusual step for senior faculty members to take. The senators also indicated the letter they read at the meeting would be their only public comment on the matter.
- While it is unusual for an entire committee to step down to make a point, they had concluded most of their essential work for the year, and three of the seven were ending their terms this spring as well.
- In their verbal statement to faculty colleagues, the chairperson affirmed the authority and decision-making role of the administration but said she felt the senators could not reconcile divergent views with the provost and president on the process and how final decisions are made, and could no longer be effective in their roles.
What are the implications of this action?
- First, it’s very important to understand the Senate’s statement did not reference any specific decision or faculty member, or anything about broader College policies, as some of the media stories (particularly the Boston Globe) have implied.
- We believe the decision was a consequence of frustration with a communication breakdown between the Senate and senior administrators, and difference of opinion on the outcome of recent promotion decisions, which are based on standards concerning teaching, scholarship and service. The letter read by the chair of the senate at the faculty meeting specifically reflected their frustration with the process of communication with the provost in this year’s reviews, and it’s clear they felt frustrated enough to decide a new group should serve in the fall.
What are the provost and president doing about this?
- In a message to all faculty after the meeting, President Lindsay referenced some misunderstanding by some members of the Faculty Senate from a conversation with the him earlier this spring.
- He also reaffirmed that 100% of faculty evaluations made or approved throughout his time at Gordon have been based on assessments in accordance with the standards in the Administrative/ Faculty Handbook (teaching, scholarship, and service). He also reiterated that there are no new criteria for evaluating promotion and tenure candidates.
- Both the president and the provost take these divergent views seriously. An ongoing process is already underway where both administration and faculty will focus on bridging the differences, finding ways to work together that are satisfactory for both.
- Much like any family that might have a disagreement, we strive to work together to resolve differences with grace, knowing that our greater mission at Gordon—in which each one of us here shares an important role that we feel privileged to fill on behalf of our students—is to honor Christ and serve the Lord. The ability to keep the focus on our transcendent purpose is both comforting and inspiring, and ultimately reassuring.