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JMU’s Faculty Senate heard two new resolutions today — one calling for the Senate to condemn recent actions by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Heather Coltman, the other demanding more accountability and transparency in the faculty hiring search process. Hala Nelson, faculty senator for the College of Science and Math (CSM), read and explained the two resolutions, which will be discussed and voted on at the next Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 23.
The resolution on transparency and accountability argues Coltman mishandled a perceived conflict of interest, showed bias and dismissed faculty feedback in a hiring search for the dean of CSM. It calls for JMU Policy 1106 (Conflicts of Interest) to be revised or for a new policy to be written to spell out a process for faculty to not only raise concerns but verify that conflict of interest claims are dealt with properly. It also asks to rewrite policy language on confidentiality agreements for faculty members serving on hiring committees to clarify that raising perceived violations of the search process isn’t breaking confidentiality. The condemnation of Coltman’s recent actions, according to the resolution, stems from a “culture of fear and systemic intimidation.” The resolution alleges that Coltman demanded to know who authored the accountability and transparency resolution and threatened to have them investigated for libel.
For more details about these two resolutions, check out The Breeze’s preview for this Faculty Senate meeting. In the Provost’s Report before the resolutions were read to the Senate, Coltman said she and President Jonathan Alger met with Senate leaders to discuss concerns about a hiring search and that those discussions “seemed productive.” In addition, she said they agreed that before a new resolution is introduced, the authors and those affected by the resolution should have an opportunity to discuss it, cover goals and get context.
“It is disappointing and unfortunate that the process we agreed on was not followed in these two instances,” Coltman said. “And I really worry that this diminishes trust and opportunities for future collaboration.” With that said, Coltman continued to say beginning this semester, a task force will review administration and professional (A&P) hiring guidelines at JMU. She said she’s unable to comment on the specifics of the CSM dean search addressed in the resolution because it would violate confidentiality rules. As for the resolution condemning her recent actions, Coltman said the resolution didn’t seem to offer any suggestions.
“I do see that the authors disagree with some leadership decisions. This is of course, not unusual at university,” Coltman said. “But how we resolve those disagreements really matters. It has been and continues to be a priority of my office, to work with faculty collaboratively to operationalize shared governance.”