University at Buffalo faculty members declined Tuesday to censure the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning over the 2016 non-renewal of an assistant professor's contract.
Following lengthy debate, members of the university Faculty Senate voted, 43 to 15, against a resolution to publicly censure the dean, Robert G. Shibley.
The resolution accused Shibley of ignoring school policies and procedures in deciding not to renew the contract of an unnamed assistant professor.
More than 100 faculty members turned out for the vote, and more than a dozen spoke in favor and against the censure.
Afterward, Shibley expressed disappointment that the measure had gotten as far as it did, and he maintained that neither he nor the school had done anything to warrant a censure.
The rationale for the censure was based on the vantage point of a single faculty member who was on a term appointment and "does not provide a complete view of the School of Architecture and Planning process around the renewal or non-renewal of faculty members," said Shibley. "The allegations in the censure resolution have not been established as fact."
A committee of faculty members pursued the censure vote after Shibley and other administrators refused to discuss the circumstances of the non-renewal, citing the confidentiality of personnel decisions.
While a censure would have had no binding authority on the dean and would not have forced him to alter his decision, it would have been an embarrassing moment for university administration.
Within a campus governance structure, censure is considered a faculty's last resort in expressing dissatisfaction with university leadership.
The assistant professor received a written non-renewal notice on June 22, 2016, and complained to the United University Professions, the union that represents faculty members. UUP representatives found no grounds to file a grievance because they said there were no recommendations made to the dean in the case of the assistant professor, who was then referred to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, which has jurisdiction over academic matters.
The woman told an investigative body of the Executive Committee that neither the dean nor the interim chairwoman of the architecture department had received a two-year review letter from her mentoring committee before making their non-renewal decision, as per the school's typical operating procedure.
That review letter was not completed until June 23, a day after the written notice, the investigating subcommittee found, which meant that certain academic policies of her condition of employment were not followed.
"If we have policies and procedures, they just need to be followed," said Dr. Philip L. Glick, professor of surgery, pediatrics and management and chairman of the Faculty Senate.
Members of the investigating subcommittee acknowledged they were able to talk only to the non-renewed faculty member, but they said other facts and data available to them left them with only one choice. They recommended that Shibley extend the woman's contract until a new employment review was completed according to the policies and procedures of the school.
Shibley and other university administrators disregarded the findings of the panel.
"I support the dean and the provost on this matter and I feel the policies and procedures were followed," UB President Satish K. Tripathi told faculty members prior to their vote.
Shibley and faculty in the Architecture Department were instructed by university administrators not to discuss the non-renewal case with the faculty investigating panel.
Glick said the case was important because UB increasingly relies on pre-tenure and non-permanent faculty members, who are "incredibly vulnerable" to losing their jobs.
Shibley would not address the specifics of the non-renewal case in question, but he said after the vote that a mentoring report "is not a path to renewal and is not a path to tenure and promotion."
"There are lots of reasons why a mentoring report is submitted when it's submitted," he said.
The School of Architecture and Planning very carefully reviews all faculty renewals, and mentoring committees are in regular communication with mentee faculty, Shibley added.
"By the time somebody comes up for a renewal, nobody is surprised," he said.