Brooks resigns as chair of the Committee on the Faculty

by Abigail Mihaly | 4/1/18 2:15am

Former chair of the Committee on the Faculty and government professor Stephen Brooks resigned from his position on the Committee on Feb. 8 in protest of recent actions by College President Phil Hanlon, which Brooks said restrict his role as Chair, and faculty governance at large.

In a memo to the Committee on Organization and Policy on Jan. 21, Brooks expressed frustration with growing restrictions on faculty governance. He pointed to two recent actions by Hanlon that he said limit vital communication between faculty and upper-level College administrators. According to the memo, Hanlon prohibited any meetings between the Committee chair and executive vice president Rick Mills. Brooks also wrote that Hanlon strongly discouraged direct correspondence between Hanlon and the Committee, instead directing any communication with upper-level administration to the Dean of the Faculty.

“We cannot comment on a personnel matter,” College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement.

The College website explains that the Committee has a “broad mandate to consider matters that affect the professional development and well-being of the faculty of the Arts and Sciences” and to advise the President and other upper-level administrators on these matters.

Chair of the Committee on Organization and Policy Lindsey Whaley, who is also a classics and linguistics professor, explained in an email statement that these matters include compensation, service and support for teaching and research.

History professor Udi Greenberg, who is serving as the chair of the Committee on the Faculty for the spring term, said the Committee serves as an advocate for the faculty, connecting faculty and the administration.

Former chair of the Committee and chemistry professor Jane Lipson also emphasized in an email statement the importance of “trust and open communication” between the chairs of faculty committees and members of the upper-level administration. She wrote that “a clear understanding of institutional resources, constraints, and budget planning is essential” for the Committee chair.

Greenberg said faculty members have felt a disconnect with upper-level governance in recent years.

“It’s no secret that communication between faculty and the administration has not always been as effective and as open as it could be,” he said. 

He added that Brooks’ resignation was “a sign things are not working as smoothly as possible.”

However, Hanlon has expressed regret over Brooks’ resignation and emphasized his commitment to open communication between all members of his administration, according to Greenberg. This includes all members of the faculty, including the Committee on the Faculty, as well as Hanlon himself, he said.

In an email statement discussing his resignation, Brooks wrote that he “wanted the people receiving [his] resignation letter to understand why [he] was taking this action, and so [he] sought to fully outline [his] concerns” in a detailed memo.

In his memo, Brooks expressed the hope that his resignation would allow for a “clean slate,” if Hanlon’s actions were directed at him as an individual for his “contentious negotiations” over faculty compensation.

“My hope is that this resignation would enable us to develop a much more open, healthy and productive relationship between faculty and the administrators because that’s everyone interest in the end,” Greenberg said. 

Whaley, Lipson and Greenberg all agreed that Brooks’ dedication to the committee will be missed.

“Brooks invested an admirable amount of time on issues related to faculty life and the [Committee on the Faculty] was very effective under his leadership,” Whaley wrote in his email. “He embodies what being a tenured faculty member means — someone who is invested in the College and acts to promote its mission.”

Lipson called his “tireless” efforts “unprecedented,” writing that Brooks “worked imaginatively and tirelessly on behalf of his faculty colleagues on issues of great importance. … The Arts and Sciences faculty owe him a strong vote of thanks and appreciation.”

In her email statement, Lipson specifically highlighted Brooks’ work on faculty compensation, one of his largest efforts as chair of the Committee. When the College fell behind peer institutions with regard to faculty salaries, Brooks advocated for higher compensation, according to Greenberg.

Greenberg said Hanlon has responded to Brooks’ resignation and corresponding memo by meeting with several faculty members serving on committees, including the Committee on the Faculty, and will meet with the entirety of the Committee later this term.