The following letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style. It was approved by the Seton Hall AAUP advocacy chapter on Friday, Sept. 3.
This summer, The Setonian published an article noting that the New Jersey State Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) had issued a warning to Seton Hall’s administration regarding its reorganization plan. Specifically, the NJ AAUP argued that the process through which the administration was proposing to reorganize the University’s colleges and departments was in violation of shared governance standards. The article also described the outraged response of hundreds of Seton Hall students, particularly those in the College of Communication and the Arts, one of the colleges targeted for merger (with Education and Human Services) in the reorganization plan.
Why are both professors and students so upset with the proposed reorganization? Essentially because the process was carried out in secret, with minimal input from faculty, zero input from students, and sprung on us at the end of an exhausting pandemic-era semester when we were all focused on surviving exams, final papers, and COVID-19.
Moreover, for many of us, the plan itself did not make sense either in an academic or a financial sense. And, as the article noted, the administration clarified that faculty votes on the plan would be non-binding. Overwhelmingly administration-heavy committees dotted with a few hand-picked professors, combined with information sessions, comment boxes, and non-binding polls do not constitute shared governance.
Should the administration carry out the reorganization plan despite the fact that the majority of the faculty voted “No” in three of the four colleges targeted for merger, Seton Hall would not only be in violation of broadly recognized shared governance standards, but in direct violation of Seton Hall’s own Faculty Guide, which states, in Section 11.4: “Changes in the internal academic organization of a college, including the number of departments/divisions therein, are determined by majority vote of the full-time college faculty holding tenured or probationary appointments, and approved by the dean.” Any merger of colleges would by necessity rearrange the internal organization of those colleges.
We, the Seton Hall AAUP Advocacy Chapter, with nearly 80 members representing 18 departments in six colleges, call on the administration to rethink the reorganization plan based on shared governance principles, with proper faculty and student representation.
Faculty are ready and willing to pursue change, but the process of deciding how we should reorganize the University should work through the Faculty Senate and the colleges, with full transparency regarding the options for both faculty and students. More broadly, we call on the administration to return and recommit to standard shared governance practices, which will result in higher quality decisions that benefit the entire Seton Hall community.
SHU AAUP Advocacy Chapter