Texas A&M faculty leaders say President Kathy Banks leaves them out on important decisions

COLLEGE STATION, Texas– Faculty Chair at Texas A&M University at College Station are asking President Kathy Banks to work better together and be more transparent with professors about changes at the university.

The above video is from a 2021 report when Banks became the second female president of College Station’s flagship university.

Just weeks before the start of the new academic year, the faculty Senate passed a resolution this week stating, “Joint leadership no longer works the way the faculty at Texas A&M University.” The faculty group said it wants to reset the relationship with administrators to get more faculty involvement.

“It’s a matter of mood,” said Kathryn Falvo, senator and history professor from Texas A&M Galveston, said at a Monday meeting. “I hear from a lot of teachers and a lot of students that there is a lack of trust in the administration.”

The largely symbolic vote signaled an escalation of tensions among faculty members who are frustrated with Banks’ leadership at the university of 73,000 students. Faculty have agreed to take additional action if the relationship does not change. Meanwhile, the university argues that it included faculty in many changes made in Banks’ freshman year.

Banks was Dean of Texas A&Ms engineering school before becoming president of the flagship university in June 2021. She immediately hired MGT Consulting to review A&M’s organizational structure and make recommendations for changes. In December, she announced 41 recommendations that she had accepted and would implement over the next year.

The resolution argues that Banks failed to obtain sufficient faculty input prior to approving these changes, which has led to distrust from faculty in the administration’s decision-making process.

“(Sustainable and lasting change at a great university does not come about through presidential decrees, but through the development of a collective buy-in for new ideas from its constituents,” the resolution reads. It also calls on banks to re-engage with the academic to commit to the principle of joint governance.

Shared governance is the long-standing academic principle at universities across the country that the internal operations of a university are managed through the collaboration of board, administration and faculty. It’s a principle adopted by several national organizations that govern universities across the country, including the Association of American Universities and the American Association of University Professors.

The resolution was passed by 80% of the 77 faculty senators who attended the Zoom meeting and voted on the measure, according to Faculty Senate President Dale Rice.

While faculty had raised concerns about various changes discussed throughout the spring semester, the resolution signals they could become a collectively more outspoken group against the bank’s leadership moving forward.

At least one faculty senator said at the meeting that if the status quo persists, there could be a vote of no confidence.

“I want President Banks to succeed, but if things continue the way they are, things could go that way,” said Adam Kolasinski, finance professor and senator. “I see this resolution as a way to try to avoid that outcome.”

Among the recommendations that the bank has started to implement is the combination of A&Ms College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and College of Geosciences into one College of Arts and Sciences. It also launches a new school of performance, visualization & Fine Arts to house performance studies, dance and visualization programs under one roof. According to a press release from the university, these changes will come into effect on September 1st.

In a statement, the university dismissed the notion that faculty was not involved in any changes under Banks’ tenure.

“It is disappointing that this resolution does not recognize the faculty’s extensive input, which has been heard on all major issues and changes over the past year,” said NK Anand, vice president for faculty affairs. “There were several ways for faculty opinion to influence decisions. There is simply not a single example where both the spirit and the letter of the policy have not been followed.”

But Rice, president of the faculty senate, said there’s a difference between notifying the faculty of upcoming changes and “meaningful” shared leadership.

“You have to invite faculty early in the process, and that hasn’t happened in many situations,” he said. “And you also need to address faculty concerns or provide a full explanation as to why decisions are being made that do not address those concerns. You can argue all day that we followed the rules to the letter, but that doesn’t mean there was meaningful joint governance.”

Other changes include a restructuring of university libraries so that they no longer house permanent staff. Permanent librarians can keep their jobs, but new hires are no longer eligible for employment, according to university spokeswoman Kelly Brown.

The banks also approved a reorganization of the campus in Qatar, a branch of Texas A&M in the Middle East, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.

According to a July 14 memo sent to the Qatari community, faculty working in fields outside of engineering will no longer be able to conduct research from September 1. Faculty teaching in degree-awarding fields will move from rolling contracts to fixed-term contracts of up to five years, and faculty teaching in non-degree-awarding fields will have annual contracts, which critics say will create more job insecurity. Eventually, Banks consolidated the school board under one dean.

Critics have argued that changing the contracting process for faculty will make recruiting quality professors more difficult and many will leave Qatar.

In addition to the 41 reorganization recommendations, Banks made other changes over the past year that were rejected by faculty and students.

In February, Banks announced that the student newspaper The Battalion would immediately discontinue the paper’s print version and publish it online only. The move triggered a violent outcry from students and alumni. But Banks took a step back and allowed the paper to keep the print edition through the end of the spring semester.

Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Ramirez apologized for the way the changes were announced. The school eventually added representatives from the battalion to the task force discussing ideas for implementing another Banks recommendation: reviving a journalism school in Texas A&M

Banks and administration officials have also been criticized for withdrawing funds and support for an annual on-campus drag show called Dragglieland. Students told the Houston Chronicle that they felt previous protests by conservative students and alumni against the event led to the university’s decision to no longer participate in the event. The show was performed last year after LGBTQ groups on campus raised funds to support the event.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates and collaborates with Texans on public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

https://abc13.com/texas-am-president-kathy-banks-organizational-changes-cause-distrust-faculty-leaders/12116183/ Texas A&M faculty leaders say President Kathy Banks leaves them out on important decisions

Dais Johnston

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