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Education

Hobbs vetoes bill that would remove university faculty from governance loop

Bill was aimed at University of Arizona, but would affect all state universities

Posted 6/22/24

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs has quashed a bid by some lawmakers to strip power away from the faculty at the University of Arizona and give it to the university president and Board of Regents.

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Education

Hobbs vetoes bill that would remove university faculty from governance loop

Bill was aimed at University of Arizona, but would affect all state universities

Posted

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs has quashed a bid by some lawmakers to strip power away from the faculty at the University of Arizona and give it to the university president and Board of Regents.

The governor on Friday vetoed legislation that would have removed language in existing law that says the faculty Senate at each of the state’s three universities “shall participate’’ in the governance of their schools, replacing it with verbiage saying they “consult’’ with the Board of Regents and their respective schools.

If that wasn’t clear enough, the proposal by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, would have spelled out the authority to approve academic degrees or creating new departments rests with the regents who can delegate that “only to a university president.” It also said that person cannot then give that authority to others.

While the legislation would have applied to all three state universities, it is a direct outgrowth of the financial problems at the University of Arizona.

Grantham said he attributes at least part of that to the inability of UA President Robert Robbins to have total control. He contrasted it with Arizona State University, saying its president, Michael Crow, “runs the operation from the president down.”

“But what was going on at the UofA was a more holistic approach,” Grantham told colleagues during hearings on the measure, a model he described as “shared governance.”

Only thing is, he said, there’s no basis for that in the law.

“They’re supposed to take inputs from their faculty and students,” Grantham said.

“They’re supposed to allow students, faculty to mold policies and make decisions in the university system. But they’re not supposed to be able to freely spend money, commit the university to things like that.”4

The vote by the Republican-controlled Legislature to approve the change came over the objection of Mark Stegeman, a member of the Faculty Senate.

“The Faculty Senate has very little authority,” he testified at a committee hearing.

While Stegeman said that body has approved creation of new programs and degrees, all of those originated from proposals submitted by university administration.

What the legislation also would do, he told lawmakers, is eliminate the ability to veto a program because “those things would stop coming through the Senate and we would not generate a very fruitful discussion about those programs.” And that, Stegeman said, would be a mistake.

“The Faculty Senate ... asks questions that I think the members of this panel would ask if they themselves are there: Is there a return on investment for this program — or are the new administrative positions justified?” he said.

That question clearly caught the eye of the governor in her veto message on Friday.

“Faculty play a key role in the shared governance of a university’s academic and research affairs.” Hobbs wrote. “Limiting their management participation in the academic affairs of the institution has the potential to weaken the institution and limit the perspectives and expertise included in decision making.”

Grantham, however, argued to colleagues during hearings his proposal really didn’t undermine the role of the faculty.

“I’m actually strengthening that,” he said, even though his bill sought to eliminate the language saying the Faculty Senate has the power to “participate in the governance of their respective universities and shall actively participate in the development of university policy.”

“Universities should be run from the top down,” Grantham said, testifying that his measure “clarifies the president is the president.”

Nor did he believe it would strip the faculty of a role. He pointed out his proposed new language said the regents and the university presidents “shall consult” with the faculty through their elected representatives “regarding academic and educational activities and matters related to faculty personnel.”

Rep. Oscar De Los Santos, the assistant House minority leader, said there’s no basis for the legislation — especially if the underlying issue has been the finances at UA. The Laveen Democrat said the measure “weakens the power of the faculty over academic and educational programs specifically.”

“That has nothing to do with the budget or management,” he said.

Grantham said Friday there are some people in the university system who understood the purpose behind the legislation, while others did not.

“The people who are so married to the term ‘shared governance’ and who are clinging to it so fiercely and are trying to run the universities from the mid-level management down, faculty down, those people I have found to be pretty politically extreme toward the left,” he told Capitol Media Services.

“They don’t seem to want a university president to do a university president’s job,” Grantham said. “They want to do that job for them.”
Grantham said this isn’t an indictment of the entire faculty.

“The faculty and staff that wants so-called ‘shared governance’ the way they would like to define it — definitely left or lefter-leaning of the groups,” he said.