February 15, 1999
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
RS.99.05 Reaffirmation of the Senate Vote on the Procedures to be Followed in Transfers of Departments
On November 6, 1997, Dean Delia of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences distributed a memo announcing that the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry had formally requested transfer from the School of Chemical Sciences to the forming School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and his intention to endorse this transfer. On July 27, 1998, at a general meeting of the School of Chemical Sciences, the Dean presented a document announcing his intention to carry out the transfer himself by administrative action, with a projected effective date of August 21, 1998.
Subsequently, several faculty members called attention to the fact that this proposed action was in violation of Article VIII, Sections 2 and 1 of the Statutes governing changes in academic organization. This article calls for Senate and Board of Trustees approval before formation, termination, separation, transfer, merger, change in status, or renaming of academic units becomes effective.
In addition, Standing Rule 13 of the Senate, entitled Hearings on the Termination, Separation, Transfer, or Merger of Units, was also not being followed; this rule calls for the originator of such a proposal and the Senate Committee on Educational Policy to sponsor a hearing well in advance of the proposal being forwarded to the Senate.
In a memo dated December 10, 1998, Dean Delia announced that he had consulted Campus Legal Counsel, concluding that such transfers "are within the college's autonomy and jurisdiction." He added that he had sought and received "Provost Herman's approval to proceed with Biochemistry shifted to the molecular and cellular biology area of the School of Life Sciences." These statements and actions violate the letter and intent of Article VIII of the Statutes.
Dean Delia met with the Senate Council on December 16, 1998, and was told that the Council concurred with the Dean's interpretation and disposition of the matter. In a memo dated December 21, 1998, Dean Delia stated that the "realignment of Biochemistry stands as completed." This administrative action is being taken without the issue ever being brought to the Senate floor or to the Senate Committee on Educational Policy.
Dean Delia's December 21 memo adds that appropriate Senate bodies would be asked to resolve "potential conflicts in the Statutes, so that there is not similar ambiguity in the basis for realignments that might be undertaken in the future."
In fact, however, the Senate already ruled on this issue in 1990. Senate Resolution EP.87.28/SC.90.19 "Proposal to Terminate Department of Genetics and Development" contains, among others, the following statements:
"The major concern of the EPC [Educational Policy Committee] was that it had been presented with a proposal to take an action (namely, termination of a department) after the action had, in fact, already been taken.... Clearly, the letter and intent of Article VIII, Sections 2 and 1 of the Statutes were violated."
"The Senate Council believes we must be able to have confidence in the wisdom and efficacy of educational policy decisions. That confidence is seriously impaired if members of the academic community believe that they are empowered at will to ignore the established delegations of authority from the Board of Trustees."
"...it is also important to emphasize that the role of the Senate in preventing such actions taken in violation of the Statutes before they are finalized should be a powerful one. The Senate is an appropriate avenue of recourse for those who seek to halt violations of the Statutes."
"The Senate further urges the Chancellor to report to the Senate Council in due course what steps were taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents."
On April 13, 1990, Wesley Seitz, at that time Chair of the Senate Council, transmitted a copy of Senate Resolution EP.87.28/SC.90.19 to all Deans, Directors, and Department Heads. He added in his cover letter "It was the express wish of the Senate Council that this Senate action be reported to you directly, in part as a reminder that the procedures for forming new units and for changing existing ones are described in Article VIII of the University Statutes... Procedural checks and balances are not only safeguards for protecting academic freedom, but they also provide the framework within which we strive to fulfill our stated institutional mission of providing leadership in education, research, and public service... If anything positive can emerge from this case, perhaps it is that we have all been sensitized to the very real harm that can befall both the institution and individuals when the Statutes are disregarded and subsequently violated."
Although EP.87.28/SC.90.19 deals with the termination of a unit, Article VIII of the Statutes and Senate Standing Rule 13 call for identical procedures to be followed for transfers of academic units and similar kinds of organizational changes.
History will repeat itself unless the Senate takes action to protect faculty rights in such matters. In the spirit of the Senate Resolution cited above and Professor Seitz's comments, we offer the following resolution.
WHEREAS, in 1990 the Senate voted in favor of the resolution proposed by the Senate Committee on Educational Policy and the Senate Council expressing strong disapproval of the procedures followed to make a change in the status of an academic unit, these procedures being against the letter and intent of Article VIII, Sections 2 and 1 of the Statutes;
WHEREAS, administrative action to transfer the Department of Biochemistry is now being carried out in a manner that also is not in accordance with that Article;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate hereby reaffirms its previous sentiment and directs our administrative officers to effect the transfer of the Department of Biochemistry, and to change the status of academic units in general, by following the policies specified in Article VIII, Sections 2 and 1 of the Statutes.
Senator Gregory S. Girolami (LAS 26-1)
Senator Ralph G. Nuzzo (LAS 26-2)
Senator Alex Scheeline (LAS 26-3)