Lawrence term filled with many injustices
With a sense of irony, I read Friday's The Daily Targum (Feb. 22) commentary by six BOG presidents, "Lawrence tenure productive." In the wake of any leadership term, positive signs can be sought in some quarters. So it is with Lawrence's tenure. You just have to look terribly hard in this case for any evidence. But, the "BOG 6" overlooked the real impact of the Lawrence administration, progressive erosion of administration relationships with faculty, students, staff, and state leaders. He has led the university autocratically-more like a cartoonish CEO than university president. He has shown disdain for the American tradition of faculty-administration shared governance. No critic ever had substantitive access to him or to the BOG. Rather than appoint to important committees any whose views might differ from his, he meticulously selected only those willing to parrot back clichés he wanted to hear. Below are listed some extraordinary failures of President Lawrence and BOG chairs under whom he served:
Usage, in 1992, of Star Chamber tactics to condemn certain faculty for finding fault with departmental leadership that infringed their tenured rights. Lawrence then ordered eviction of three faculty members via plainclothesmen.
Subversion of the initiative of a BOG chair and a group of faculty to create a university ombudsman. Lawrence's reactions included solicitation of complaints under false pretenses, creation of covert disciplinary files, and punishment of whistle blowers.
Elimination of the office of New Brunswick Provost on grounds of self-interest and to escape Faculty Council review of his presidency.
Maintenance of a secret program of 30-year low-interest home mortgages offered with discriminatory features to some 35 faculty. Some mortgage awards seem to possess an odor of cronyism.
Implementation in 1995 of a retrogressive university patent policy that discourages and inhibits faculty invention disclosures and patent applications. The Lawrence-approved patent policy committee methodically excluded from participation all faculty with ongoing entrepreneurial research programs, even the highest revenue earners.
Waste of countless millions of dollars to upgrade and sustain a prodigal intercollegiate sports program administered with prejudice to academic norms.
Duplicitous conversion of a ONE-TIME student computer fee into a permanent tax.
Maintenance, under dubious pretexts of greater costs, of differentially higher tuitions at Cook and other professional colleges, so as to generate more income for the Central Administration.
Thoughtless promotion of student over-enrollment and over-crowding to increase university revenue without consideration of the needs of faculty and students.
The "COKE DEAL"
Adoption of Teaching/ Learning Excellence Centers and "smart classrooms" (that many consider educational window dressings) while allowing dilapidated facilities, inadequate student aid, and discriminatory compensation to subvert the educational goals of the university.
Non-stop, heavy-handed violations of the faculty contract, including methodical failure to meet contractually guaranteed grievance deadlines, stonewalling on issues of due process in every conceivable way, and unilateral termination of an ongoing grievance hearing not going Lawrence's way.
Sinking limited funds into research centers, bureaus, and institutes, thus creating an unhealthy division between two research functions. Such policies pit groups of faculty against each other in "zero-sum" games that demoralize both groups and open the doors to cronyism.
Starving faculty research in peer-supervised programs in favor of non-transparent, "back-door" funding that robs its recipients of their honor in the face of their colleagues.
The point of this letter is not chiefly to denounce lame-duck Lawrence so much as it is to lay the burden of responsibility on the signatories of the "BOG 6" letter of 2/22/02. It is they who have been the derelict parties in Lawrence's transgressions. It is time for massive restructuring of the university. It is time for each of us to demand accountability and transparency at the very top - not only accountability and transparency from the president but also accountability and transparency from our governing board.
William W. Ward is an associate professor of biochemistry.