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What's Up, Chuck? 

A year has passed since the last protest of Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty. The signs students hoisted -- "You Can't Censor Us Dougherty" -- have been put away, and the chants they shouted -- "Charlie Dough has got to go!" -- have long been silenced. 

From the outside, it appears as though Dougherty's December 2008 removal of law-school Dean Don Guter, which sparked the protests, has largely been forgotten. 

From the inside, however, it's clear that frustration still festers on the Catholic campus.

As City Paper reported last February, some worried that Guter's ouster was emblematic of a campus where collegiality was disappearing and academic freedoms were at risk. At the time, such concerns were mostly bubbling below the surface. But recent administrative decisions may be bringing tensions between faculty, students and administration to a boiling point.

In recent months, Duquesne has announced that the school will cut four men's sports teams and sell local NPR affiliate WDUQ-FM. Both decisions, say some faculty members and others, were made with no input and with little explanation. 

"There are differences of opinion about the substance of these decisions, but everybody agrees that there is a problem with a lack of respect for shared governance," says Matt Schneirov, a sociology professor and member of Duquesne's faculty senate. "This is clearly a hierarchical corporate model, with the business side of the university running the show."

 

The university's executive resolutions say "[t]he purpose of the Faculty Senate shall be to provide greater opportunity for mutual understanding and effective communication" between instructors and "other interdependent components" within the school.

But often, senate members say, the administration simply ignores the body.

Take, for example, the university's recent decision to sell WDUQ, which has been owned by Duquesne since 1949. At the time of the announcement, administrators said the sale would generate millions of dollars -- money that could be invested in academic programs.

Even so, the administration's decision "didn't smell very good," says journalism professor Robert Bellamy. "There may be a good reason for selling, but [the decision] is something that probably could have been handled better."

For one thing, he says, no one from Duquesne's journalism department was involved in discussions about WDUQ's future -- even though its students often intern and work at the station.

Notes from a Jan. 25 faculty-senate meeting echo Bellamy's concern. "There was no discourse in advance of the decision," reads a section of the senate notes, which were recently included in e-mails to Duquesne's faculty. The move causes "faculty to have questions about the state of the university and lose faith in its administration."

Similar sentiments followed the administration's decision to cut four men's sports programs -- swimming, wrestling, baseball and golf -- affecting roughly 70 student-athletes and five coaches. In a Jan. 25 press release, the university announced the move as a "strategic restructuring," which would help Duquesne strengthen its other 16 sports teams. 

"The sports cuts and the WDUQ sale were, in both cases, just announced," says law professor Nick Cafardi, who will take over as the faculty senate's next president this summer. "There was no request for the university community to participate."

Duquesne's administrative spokesperson, Bridget Fare, argues that faculty members don't have a say in every university decision. "In matters that are closely related to academic affairs, the faculty is consulted," she says. She notes that faculty members are represented on a number of university committees, including those that advise Dougherty on budget issues, and academic planning. "Typically, faculty aren't involved in athletic decisions, just as coaches aren't involved in academic decisions."

"These decisions involve our students," Cafardi counters. "It doesn't help our university if professors are uninformed."

Faculty members say their exclusion from such decisions follows a change in the format of meetings of the university's board of directors. The board runs the university under the oversight of a board of four priests, or Spiritans -- known as Corporation Members. 

In November, Duquesne's student newspaper, The Duquesne Duke, reported that the board changed the format of its tri-annual meetings so that the faculty senate president -- currently Paula Witt-Enderby -- must leave after giving a report to the board and participating in a question-and-answer session. Previously, the faculty-senate president was allowed to stay for further discussions at an executive session. 

"Does the Board value communication with faculty?" read notes from the Jan. 25 faculty-senate meeting.

According to the notes, Marie Milie Jones, an attorney who chairs the university's  board, responded to faculty concerns in November, arguing that faculty representation had not been diminished. At each meeting, the board now invites a different dean, chosen on a rotating basis, to attend the full discussion. 

"[Faculty's] input is always considered," Jones tells CP. "The university is doing phenomenally well. There could be people who are not happy at any given time."

Phone calls to a half-dozen other board members were not returned for comment. Similarly, Duquesne's highest-ranking officials are keeping quiet. Father John Sawicki, a political science professor and Corporation Member, declined to comment for this story. A secretary for Father Jeffrey Duaime, another Corporation Member, told CP that Duaime was "not in a position to address" the faculty's concerns.

To help support the faculty senate, Duquesne faculty members recently revived its long-dormant chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a national organization that helps professors fight for academic freedoms and shared governance. The chapter was originally formed in 1936, but Schneirov says it's been inactive for decades -- with a moribund membership and no officers chosen. But Schneirov says that there is renewed interest in AAUP, now that faculty feel the senate isn't taken seriously. The group has recently chosen officers for the first time in years.

"It's a good thing," says Bellamy, an executive committee member of Duquesne's AAUP chapter. "There needs to be other ways for the faculty to express their opinions."

 "[W]hen you leave faculty out of the decision-making process," says Greg Scholtz, an associate secretary for the national AAUP, "bad decisions are made."

"From what you're telling me, people clearly want more proactive communication," says Fare, the university spokesperson. "That's always something that can be addressed." 

 

But the tensions between Duquesne's faculty and administration sound familiar to James Regar, president of the school's Student Government Association. 

"I do see a lack of communication," he says. "When big decisions come up, there is always a thought that the administration is making these decisions without much input from students and faculty."

And once decisions are announced, says Regar, "It usually takes prodding by faculty and students to find out the reasons behind the decisions." 

Just ask Matt Gregg, a junior wrestler who says he was blindsided by the administration's decision to eliminate four sports teams. But while he was angry about the move, he's even more upset by the administration's unwillingness to discuss the decision. He says teammates and parents have sent e-mails to both President Dougherty and the athletic director, hoping to talk about the sports cuts, "but you can't really get through to anyone." 

 "It makes you feel like they don't really care about you," Gregg says.

Darren Hill says the swim team's luck hasn't been much better. Just days after the sports cuts were announced, the junior swimmer says a couple of his teammates delivered a letter to Dougherty's office, asking the president to meet with the team. Hill says a secretary accepted the letter on the president's behalf. Shortly after, though, the secretary called the athletes and said the president would not meet with them.

"It's absolutely mind-blowing and frustrating," he says. "How do you have the president telling us that our opinion is just meaningless?"

Some parents, too, complain of trouble getting through. 

To help save the men's swimming program, parents, students and alumni recently developed a fundraising proposal, called "Go For 5." But the administration "won't answer anybody's questions," says Sharon Doyle, the mother of a swimmer. "The door is shut."

"The idea that there hasn't been any time spent with [parents and students] is completely inaccurate," counters Duquesne spokesperson Fare. She says administrators just received a copy of the "Go For 5" proposal on March 8. Now that they have it, she says, the athletic director and the president plan to set up a meeting with swimmers, parents and alumni. 

Records of e-mail correspondence, however, show that the fundraising proposal was first sent to President Dougherty on Feb. 4 -- though Fare says she doesn't "know anything about that." Jim Doyle, Sharon's husband, attached it to an e-mail asking for a "short meeting ... to discuss the proposal." The same day the e-mail was sent, however, Jim says he received a phone call notifying him that Dougherty "will not meet with you. His decision is final."

"I don't know why the people who run the university put up with this," Doyle says.

click to enlarge Nick Cafardi, president-elect of Duquesne's faculty senate, says the faculty is being left out of important decisions at the school. - RENEE ROSENSTEEL
  • Renee Rosensteel
  • Nick Cafardi, president-elect of Duquesne's faculty senate, says the faculty is being left out of important decisions at the school.

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