ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNANCE
The power to promote public schools in Rhode Island is vested in the General Assembly under Article XII of the State Constitution. The legal authority for the Board of Governors for Higher Education -- with jurisdiction over the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island -- and the Office of Higher Education is generally set forth in Title 16, Chapter 59 of the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island. The Board consists of 15 members, 12 of whom are public members chosen by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. They serve three-year terms and may serve a maximum of three consecutive terms. Under a law enacted in 1993, one of these seats is reserved for an in-state student from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College or the Community College of Rhode Island. The student serves a single two-year term and is chosen by the Governor subject to Senate confirmation. The chair of the board, who may serve indefinitely, is chosen by the Governor from among the Board's public members. There are three ex-officio members: the Chair of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, the Chair of the House Committee on Finance or a designee, and the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee or a designee. The public members of the Board are entitled by law to be paid. However, legislation passed in 1991 suspending compensation until June 30, 1992 has been extended annually.
The Board's activities and procedures are prescribed by law and enunciated in its Bylaws. It has six subcommittees that meet separately and report to the full [STX]oard: Finance and Management, Planning and Program, Evaluation, Facilities, Student Liaison, and Athletics.
Under the law, Board meetings are open except for executive sessions on personnel and collective bargaining matters. A minimum of eight meetings per year are required by law; meetings generally are held monthly, usually on the campus of one of the public institutions. By law, an annual meeting is held each January to which the full membership of the General Assembly is invited.
Other legal entities are vested with certain responsibilities for higher education. The Commissioner of Higher Education serves as chief administrative officer of the Office of Higher Education, which exists to perform the research and administrative functions required by the Board. The OHE is organized into four units: Finance and Management, Programs and Planning, Legal and Labor Relations, and External Affairs. An Operating Executive Committee--the Post Secondary Education Executive Committee--is composed of the presidents of the University, Rhode IslandCollege and the Community College of Rhode Island and chaired by the Commissioner. It meets monthly to assess educational needs and to develop plans to eliminate unnecessary duplication in public higher education.
The administration of the University of Rhode Island is hierarchical, with the President as chief executive officer. The Provost is also Vice President for Academic Affairs, and there are vice presidents for Business and Finance, Student Affairs and University Advancement. Each has responsibility for the departments and units under her or his jurisdiction; these are generally headed by directors or, in the case of academic units, by deans. Vice provosts for Academic Programs and Services; Marine Programs;Information Services (and Dean of University Libraries); and Graduate Education, Research and Outreach coordinate related programs on campus. The current administrative organization appears in the Table of Organization in the preface of this document. A similar table appears in Appendix D of the University Manual , and descriptions of the responsibilities of administrative officers of the University are stated in various sections of the Manual .
Procedures for the selection of a president are prescribed by the Board of Governors for Higher Education. The Manual provides for the formation of search committees in the selection of other administrative officers. The selection of deans requires a presidentially appointed advisory committee under the provisions of the URI-AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement . The Deans of Nursing, Arts & Sciences, Business Administration and Resource Development currently are interim appointments. A search is underway for the Business post. Department chairpersons are appointed by search procedures specified in the Agreement.
The University's personnel policies and practices relating to recruitment, appointment, termination, promotion, salary and fringe benefits are defined in a variety of legal and policy documents. In addition to federal Affirmative Action requirements, state personnel regulations and Board of Governors' policies, the University's personnel policies can be found in the various collective bargaining contracts and in the University Manual .
Policy and practice provide wide opportunity for advisory and legislative processes at the University. The General Faculty usually meets three times a year to vote on the granting of degrees and to hear from the President. Academic and some administrative legislation is formulated by the Faculty Senate, which represents the faculty and derives its authority from the State Legislature. The Faculty Senate includes the President, the vice presidents and deans, certain administrative officers, and the presidents of the Student Senate and Graduate Student Association as ex-officio, non-voting members, as well as wide representation of the faculty. Its power and duties are enumerated in its constitution which can be found in Appendix B of the University Manual . Its activities are assisted by a staff and a number of standing committees. Meeting at least monthly during the academic year, it is the principal legislative body at the University and plays a central role in reviewing and approving academic programs and policies, subject to the approval of the President and, in certain cases, the Board of Governors. For example, all courses, additions and deletions of degree programs, the general education requirements, academic regulations relating to students, and the creation of centers and institutes require Senate approval. The Senate annually hears reports from its standing committees. It also is the appointing authority for faculty representation to many campus committees.
The policies of the Graduate School are formulated by the Graduate Council which is chaired by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Research and Outreach. Its regulations are published in the Graduate Student Manual. Each college has its own deliberative, legislative and committee system, and each of the unions has its system of internal governance. The University Manual provides for democratic procedures to be followed in academic departments. Undergraduate students exercise their legislative authority in the Student Senate under a Student Senate Constitution, and graduate students through the Graduate Student Association. In addition, undergraduate and graduate student representation on University committees is mandated.
The President obtains advice on campus in a variety of ways. The President's Team, which meets weekly, consists of the four vice presidents, the President's ExecutiveAssistant, the Legal Counsel, the Affirmative Action Officer, the Athletics Director and in 1996-97 the Special Assistant to the President and the Provost. The President meets regularly with the Executive Committees of the Faculty Senate and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The University Manual provides for a Joint Educational Policy Committee (JEPC), co-chaired by the President and the Chair of the Faculty Senate and consisting of faculty, administrators and students. The President is a regular participant at Faculty Senate meetings, and his report is an agenda item. He meets regularly with student leaders and periodically with the Student Senate and Graduate Student Association. The President also devotes considerable time to meeting with the numerous external constituencies of the University.
The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Services and the Assistant Provost are the focus of the day-to-day academic administration of the institution. The Provost's staff, including the Vice Provosts for Marine Programs, Graduate Education, Research and Outreach and Information Services, meets weekly. The Council of Deans, chaired by the Provost, meets every two weeks.
All administrative officers are subject to periodic evaluation by their superiors. The President is evaluated by the Board of Governors' Evaluation Committee in accordance with published policies and procedures. The President, in turn, conducts an annual evaluation of the vice presidents. The Faculty Senate has developed a system of faculty evaluation of academic administrative officers by which the officers are reviewed every five years.
The responsibilities of the academic deans, who report directly to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, are specified in the University Manual . Their primary role is to provide academic and administrative leadership for the respective colleges and schools and to represent their units before the central administration. They are responsible for their units' undergraduate and graduate instructional programs, for promoting research, for supervising the performance of the faculty, and for preparing and administering their units' budgets. Their role in appointing, terminating, evaluating, promoting and tenuring faculty is prescribed in the URI-AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement . The Deans of University College, the College of Continuing Education, and Admissions and Student Financial Aid do not have faculty assigned to their units and do not have a direct role in faculty appointments, terminations, promotions or tenure.
The duties of department chairpersons, who report to the academic deans, are listed in the University Manual and in the URI-AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement. They are appointed for renewable three-year terms. Chairpersons are members of the collective bargaining unit. They also are departmental administrators charged with providing leadership for the instructional activities of their departments. By tradition and contract, the evaluation of faculty in teaching, research/creative activity and service is conducted by a system of peer review. Department chairpersons administer and participate in the evaluation process in making their recommendations to the dean.
The University Manual prescribes the rights, duties and responsibilities of the faculty with respect to their participation in the development of courses and programs at the department and Faculty Senate levels. The Manual also provides the rules and regulations for the conduct of instruction, examinations, grades and other academic matters. Regular reminders of these policies regarding such points as final examination protocols are sent to faculty by memoranda.Formal evaluation of the effectiveness of governance units is not mandated. Periodically, however, such review occurs. For example, over the last several years the Faculty Senate has studied its committee structure and reorganized it to better do its work. Similarly, administrative reorganization has come about as a result of informal evaluation.
The legislative rationale behind the creation of the Board of Governors is that it is a public corporation with independence not only in matters of educational policy but also in fiscal and budgetary matters, personnel administration, and property ownership and control. As was true ten years ago, there are some at the University who prefer that the Board and the Office of Higher Education take a more proactive role and to champion URI. The appointment of URI alumni to the Board has increased confidence that the University's particular needs, as distinct from the College and the Community College, will be advocated. Debate over the role of the Office of Higher Education, and the Commissioner, recently resurfaced with the retirement of the Commissioner. One advocate of separate boards of trustees for the three public institutions and elimination of the OHE was the University President. Ultimately, the current system was retained and a new Commissioner hired.
Concerns about relations between the University and the Board and OHE notwithstanding, the University has benefited from Board support for fiscal and programmatic initiatives, including a telecommunications study that resulted in approval of a $40.6 million bond issue that includes $29 million for the University. Additional bond money approved by voters will finance renovations to three important buildings on campus. System-wide asset protection has been funded since 1994-1995. Major capital projects at the University include additions to the Library, Engineering complex and Health Services, Residential Life renovations, and an Ocean Technology Center and Coastal Institute at the Narragansett Bay Campus. Legislation adopted in 1996 provides the University with increased autonomy in some purchasing and personnel matters, and it is hoped even greater autonomy will follow. In 1995, when the University moved to trim programs to bring sharper focus to its efforts and to help solve budgetary problems, the Board supported the President. Such advances, however, must be viewed in light of the University's continuing lack of adequate resources and support by the State of Rhode Island. As was true 10 and 20 years ago, many faculty, in particular, believe the Board of Governors and the University administration could be more effective in arguing the University's case for greater support from the Legislature.
Allocation of resources--particularly when scarce--perhaps always will be a point of contention. At the University of Rhode Island, the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA), which advises the Vice President for Business and Finance, provides the President another vehicle for information gathering and communication. ACRA was active for about two years with the Program Contribution Analysis, but it has not been active lately. Two presidential decisions in particular demonstrate the link between resources and institutional objectives: Creation of the Centennial Scholars Program to attract better students; and authorization of research partnerships to advance linkages between the University and the private sector.
Organization of the central administration at the University underwent the changes referred to in the 1987 Self-Study . Subsequent to the arrival of a new President in July 1991, minor modifications were made. Vacancies in the Graduate School and the Library allowed the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs to redefine thosedeanships, consolidating leadership of the Graduate School and Research Office and merging the Library deanship with a new Vice Provost for Information Services. The January 1996 move of the College of Continuing Education to a new facility in downtown Providence caused the University to begin reexamining the role of its continuing education and special programs. Concern about the number of colleges and their size and cost were raised by administrators, and in 1994-1995 the Provost and the Faculty Senate appointed a committee to study possible reorganizations. None was suggested; indeed the committee concluded such change must be "bottom up," not "top down."
Perception of "top down" administrative decision-making has been a concern of some faculty on campus since the inaugural speech of the incumbent President. That speech, which declared it was time for a "new culture" on the campus, including a new approach to delivering the curriculum, was ground zero of efforts--which continue--to reshape the University of Rhode Island. The debates, particularly those about curriculum and campus life, that have ensued reflect a governance system that faculty leaders and administrators generally agree is fundamentally sound, if slower to act than many might wish.
There are those on campus who believe that all constituencies are not represented in the current governance structure provided by the Faculty Senate. Several years ago, the possibility of a University Senate was raised in the Joint Educational Policy Committee. The matter resurfaced in the summer of 1996, during the Common Agenda meetings for the University for the 1996-1997 academic year. Since then, a group of staff, students and some faculty has been meeting to formulate a proposal for an inclusive governing body. They suggest that decisions such as those setting the academic-year calendar and formulating the alcohol policy were made without adequately including all of the people affected. The group has drafted a proposal for an all-campus council and suggests that the 1997-1998 academic year be used to work out details. The proposed structure of the University Council is that it be comprised of representatives of formal governance bodies and representatives of staff and administrative constituencies, as well as students.
In faculty-related matters, there is a good balance between the Faculty Senate and the AAUP, with each over time