Architecture faculty raise new questions about competence of leadership, reject Provost & Head’s accusations of bullying, argue decision to reject new hire is retaliation

Sorry for the long post. Those who know the history should cut to the bottom for the new letter from the faculty.

The UO administration has a long history of making vague charges of bullying, harassment, and “incivility” against faculty who complain about administrative misfeasance and malfeasance, or otherwise question their leaders. They are trying it again on the Department of Architecture faculty. Those faculty are fighting back.

On Feb 15th the faculty held a department-wide meeting and voted by secret ballot, 20 to 9, to protest a series of decisions by their new dean Christof Linder. Full minutes here. The gist:

MOTION

In response to input from a substantial group of self-organized Department of Architecture faculty, the Department of Architecture Ad Hoc Committee, whose members were elected by a vote of the Architecture faculty, advanced the following motion (made by Tice):

As one of the best known programs of architecture in the United States with a distinguished legacy of faculty, students and alumni going back over a century and to best serve our current and future students, the University of Oregon, the State of Oregon, and the profession of architecture:

–  the faculty of the Department of Architecture believe it is imperative to expeditiously create a School of Architecture at the University of Oregon that is autonomous and independent of the College of Design, and

–  the School of Architecture should oversee, direct, and manage all academic and budget matters within its purview on the Eugene and Portland campuses, and

–  initially this School of Architecture should include three departments: Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Historic Preservation.

The need for an independent School of Architecture is driven by the necessity to address at least 10 issues with the current structure of the College of Design:

 

  1. Fiscal autonomy (example: lack of budget control – it is now primarily at the SAE and CoD level)
  2. Program autonomy (example: closure of summer academy)
  3. Assignment autonomy (example: Portland criteria)
  4. Communication autonomy (example: lack of input on website – may seem minor but may have significant recruiting impacts)
  5. Hiring autonomy (example: inability to forward needed positions outside of the CoD)
  6. Administrative autonomy (example: SAE office staffing shuffles may have driven retirements and limited retention)
  7. Endowment autonomy (examples: Ross and Baker endowment fund allocations)
  8. Outreach autonomy (example: Dean’s Advancement Council rather than a true advisory council we can outreach to for advice)
  9. Access autonomy (example: Architecture is not even represented at the Dean’s level and accessing the Dean through additional layers is time-consuming and inefficient)
  10. Strategic autonomy (example: the CoD Strategic Plan (draft) has been developed with little to no input from architecture faculty and says nothing directly relevant to a professional program)

 

One marvels at the level of incompetence it must take for a dean to let things deteriorate to the point where the faculty would find it necessary to organize such a meeting and then vote 2 to 1 against his leadership.

Three weeks later, on March 8th, Head of School Liska Chan held a meeting of the School of Architecture and Environment and doubled down. The notes from her speech, which do not address the substantive issues raised by the faculty, but which instead focus on accusations against them regarding their “tone” and “bullying”, are here. An excerpt:

 

Intentionally or not, this movement threatens our school, and impacts every one of us in it. To summarize my assessment of it I will say this: It is harming our reputation within the University. It is stalling some of, and impacts all of, the progress we are making. It is taking emotional energy away from building this place and putting energy into tearing it down. Moreover, some individuals in the department of Architecture (this includes some NTTF, some TTF, junior faculty, and leaders) have been excluded from these discussions—discussions that aspire to abolish the very School in which these individuals work!

I further object to the tone of this movement. I honestly do not see how any concerns are going to be resolved with the independence movement or under the divisive tone it sets. The brinksmanship it creates, whether intentional or not, creates a climate of fear. I have heard accounts of, and seen first-hand, that faculty members in architecture feel intimidated and silenced either through exclusion and/or hostility. I am talking about eye-rolling and other gestures of dismissal in faculty meetings, communications that imply that someone who isn’t with the movement “lacks courage”…snide comments behind people’s back –I’ve seen colleagues attempt to undermine other faculty members who stick their necks out and ask for clarity, explanation, and a voice for the less dominant voices in the room. I’ve seen gender discrimination. Let me be clear: the hostile work environment in Architecture is totally unacceptable.

This kind of behavior has NO PLACE HERE.

In my role as a faculty member in the department of landscape architecture for the past 17 years, I have been consistently treated with respect, trust, kindness and compassion. This is true even when I make mistakes, go against the grain, or disagree with my colleagues. Yet in my short time in this role I have seen some faculty members gas-lighting other faculty, some faculty members using abusive language, yelling profanities and making snide comments in faculty meetings. I have seen attempts to undermine others in the form of rumors, half-truths, and baseless claims. Again, this kind of behavior has NO PLACE in the School of Architecture and Environment. Regardless of what the argument is, what the conversation is, this behavior – this bullying – has NO PLACE in a professional environment. Period.

 

This speech was delivered to the architecture faculty – or those who stayed to hear it all – with Dean Linder watching from the back.

The next day, Provost Banavar sent a letter to the faculty, previously posted here. This letter repeated the themes in Chan’s speech and was presumably drafted by her. One snippet:

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not express my disappointment in the tenor of this conversation and the actions of some that have led multiple faculty members to express fears of retaliation and describe a hostile environment and bullying by their faculty colleagues. Such behavior – intended or unintended – is not welcome at the University of Oregon. It too must end.

 

Shortly thereafter Provost Banavar told the Department of Interior Architecture that he refused to approve the hiring of their top choice for a previously approved search.

Today faculty from architecture sent two letters to the Head, the Dean and the UO Senate and the faculty union eviscerating Chan’s speech and Provost Banavar’s letter, and making it pretty clear who has been bullying and retaliating against whom:

The second, longer letter is under revision as signatures are collected. It will be posted when available.

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6 Responses to Architecture faculty raise new questions about competence of leadership, reject Provost & Head’s accusations of bullying, argue decision to reject new hire is retaliation

  1. Mahatma Gandhi, jr. says:

    A very sad commentary on the increasingly deletarious relations between faculty and the central administration. And alas not the only one. I believe that the Prez and the Provost want to do the right thing but the comments of the latter serve only to alienate well-meaning faculty. Surely the central administration can find language that is more conciliatory?

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  2. SAP says:

    Architecture is a discipline that is built on a truckload of privilege and patriarchy. So generally, when you hear women from architecture calling out exclusion, discrimination and bullying, please believe them. When you hear entitled people in architecture (full professors!) saying that their voices are not being heard, you should suspect that they may be feeling the pain of walking on a more equal ground.

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    • Peter Keyes says:

      Please read the letter from two well-respected, long-term, female members of our faculty. You must have missed it – or perhaps dismissed it, as their opinions don’t dovetail with your agenda. But thanks for the generalizations. And thanks for skipping all the substance of the issues, and defaulting to accusations, just like the administration.

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    • Unhappy in COD says:

      SAP, what a pitiful exercise in deflection. You dismiss the substantive concerns raised in these faculty members’ letter in a blatant attempt to placate/justify the inaction, or worse retaliation by the dean and provost’s targeting of faculty members exercising their academic freedom. As if tenured professors have no rights. What a fraud, or SAP.

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  3. A Friend says:

    If Provost Banavar were in similar position at another AAU university he surely would lose his job for his blatant retaliation against faculty for exercising their right to free assembly and their right to responsible dissent. Does the UO wish to live up to the standards of that select group they hope to emulate? Let them earn it!

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  4. CGNS says:

    Rather than address the actual issues raised by the architecture faculty vote, the strategy of the administrators appears to be:

    1. make unproven personal attacks on the characters of unnamed faculty in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of a democratic vote and distract attention.

    2. take punitive actions against the department, and then blame the faculty who called the vote.

    Neither of these responses by administrators would seem to be designed in any way to solve any issues. But they are really effective at being divisive.

    A shining example of great “leadership.”

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