Provost eyes faculty credentials

By Assistant Campus Editor

A new policy requiring full- and part-time faculty to submit updated curricula vitae and academic transcripts has some of those faculty members less than thrilled.

On Aug. 25, Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost, requested that all faculty members submit current CVs at the beginning of each academic year. For this year only, they are required to submit information by Dec. 13. Similarly, Wearden is also requiring copies of all academic transcripts. 

Wearden said his recent request is intended to keep up with industry standards and follow the practices at other high caliber institutions. 

“We are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission [of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools], and they have been very strict in recent years about making sure we are able to accurately report on the qualifications of our faculty,” Wearden said. “[In fact], a lot of the accrediting agencies and the federal government are being much more strict about having these kinds of records available. We just want to make sure we are aware of faculty’s accomplishments.”

However, Columbia’s part-time faculty union, P-Fac, has objected to the new requirements. P-Fac is disputing the request for updated records, stating it goes against the college’s collective bargaining act agreement.

Diana Vallera, P-Fac president and an adjunct faculty member in the Photography Department, said she is unsure why there is a need for updated records.

“The issue is strictly the collective bargaining act,” Vallera said. “We want the best teachers for our students, and we want the college to honor our agreement.” 

P-Fac is planning to meet with the provost Sept. 22 to discuss the issue, Vallera said.

According to Wearden, colleges are required to annually report any new publications, exhibitions and other accomplishments because of the increases in for-profit universities and online learning.

 Wearden said he has tried to ensure the faculty knows there will not be any changes to the status of current employment nor will the updated records serve as grounds for termination.

“This isn’t an effort to re-qualify [faculty members] who have already been qualified,” Wearden said. “If their records are current and truthful, then their qualifications won’t change at all and I have no reason to think that they won’t be accurate and honest.”

Wearden said he is not asking for updated records to search for evidence of wrongful behavior and that he would address any inaccuracies or questionable discoveries. 

However, the records could pinpoint which faculty members need to catch up on developments in their fields, he added.

“It’s just a matter of having proper records,” Wearden said. “If someone isn’t staying current in their field and they’re teaching it in outdated ways, it should be addressed. However, I don’t have any evidence that that’s happening and I’m not looking for any.”

Robin Bargar, dean of the School of Media Arts, reiterated Wearden’s statements. He said the need has to do with the continuous transformation of the college and its need to be conducted more like a university.

“The request is likely because the records were never complete in the first place,” Bargar said.

Bargar said the provost’s request for CVs and transcripts is a completely normal procedure for a college to impose because it is simply keeping up with standard university practices. 

He also said the currently employed faculty should not be worried about job security because there are no known reasons to terminate, employ or change anything taking place around the college. He said there are contractual practices already in place that will stay that way.

Suzanne Blum-Malley, interim dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also said it is just a standard practice for universities and colleges to keep their records current and updated.

“I think what’s happened is it wasn’t an active practice to make sure that we know where and what people were doing and to also make sure that we acquired official transcripts when we hired the faculty,” Blum-Malley said.

Transcripts do not need to be on a constantly updated basis unless a faculty member has earned a new degree and needs to update and re-submit the relevant documents, she said. 

“I know from talking to the provost that the intent behind this is just to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row,” Blum-Malley said. “We’re going to have to go through the process accreditation again to have all of our records up to date.”