Wartburg AAUP Issues
This page contains documents and links pertaining to some of the major campus issues which have engaged the chapter during the last six years—the music education search, faculty-board communication, evaluation of administrators, the wellness center project, efforts to fill the Saemann Chair, the HERI and Faculty Council surveys, faculty pay raises for the 2006-2007 academic year, salary compression, and the ten-year reaccreditation visit.
In May of 2001 the chapter wrote President Ohle to protest "unwarranted interference" by his administration in a search that had just taken place within the music department. While acknowledging the president's "final authority" on campus, the letter states that
"'final'. . . is not the same as 'total' and therefore does not permit a president to circumvent or subvert policies jointly approved by faculty and administration and adopted by the board of regents. To believe otherwise would be to place the college president above the law and render meaningless all the procedural safeguards contained in the faculty handbook, including those that protect tenure and academic freedom."
President Ohle eventually met with chapter president Warren Zemke to discuss the chapter's concerns. In the September 2001 AAUP Newsletter, Zemke reported that he had been forced to reach two conclusions on the basis of the September 10 conversation: "(1) the issues surrounding the music search have been resolved to the president’s satisfaction, and (2) there will be no dialog between the president and Wartburg AAUP."
A lawsuit against the college by one of the candidates was finally settled out of court in March 2005. A brief account of the lawsuit and the actions that had elicited the chapter's response can be found in the April 2005 Wartburg AAUP Newsletter.
The source of institutional authority in American higher education is the governing board. Therefore, the educational quality of any institution is highly dependent on the quality of its trustees. For this reason the most effective governing boards are made up of individuals who not only contribute their work and wealth to the institution but who also take pains to ensure that they are knowledgeable about higher education and, in particular, about the academic mission of their institutions. One way for board members to remain informed about higher education and the academic mission of their institutions is to maintain open channels of communication with the faculty.
Accordingly, the Statement on Government calls for the establishment of "means of communication" between an institution's faculty and its governing board and provides that "[w]hatever the channels of communication, they should be clearly understood and observed." Recent AAUP initiatives have especially emphasized the need for regular, substantive, unmediated conversations between faculty and board members. Experience has shown that an efficient means of achieving this kind of communication is the "faculty-trustee conference committee," a mechanism proposed in 1915 by AAUP leaders John Dewey and A. O. Lovejoy at the annual meeting of the American Association of Universities. The faculty-trustee conference committee has been successfully adopted at a number of highly-regarded colleges and universities, including sister institution St. Olaf College.
In a February 16, 2004, letter to board chair Fred Hagemann, Wartburg AAUP therefore endorsed a Faculty Council recommendation that the Board of Regents establish a "board-faculty conference committee." Hagemann responded to the chapter by letter on March 24. In that letter Chair Hagemann stated that he would discuss Faculty Council's request with the president. The chapter, however, is not aware of any subsequent actions by the board or administration to improve communication between the faculty and the Board of Regents.
In accord with AAUP standards, as set forth in Faculty Participation in the Selection, Evaluation, and Retention of Administrators, Wartburg AAUP has successfully encouraged periodic evaluation of the president and the dean, with faculty participation in those evaluations. In October 2005, the chapter sent a letter to Regents chair Fred Hagemann which recommended that faculty be involved in board's next periodic review of the president's performance. By letter of October 31, Hagemann responded by noting that he had asked President Ohle to discuss "the ongoing process for presidential review" with Faculty Council. The chapter, however, is not aware of any subsequent actions by the board or administration regarding this recommendation. The board has not conducted a review of the president in which faculty have participated since 2002.
In February of 2008, chapter president Warren Zemke sent two additional letters, one to President Ohle encouraging him to conduct an evaluation of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the other to Chair Fred Hagemann encouraging the board of regents to conduct an evaluation of the president. Based on principles and standards articulated in the1966 statement on Faculty Participation in the Selection, Evaluation, and Retention of Administrators and in the 2006 report Faculty Evaluation of Administrators, Zemke recommended that faculty be involved in the evaluation and that AAUP standards be followed.
In the letter to Hagemann, Zemke states,
To our knowledge, the last review of the president in which faculty participated occurred six years ago. As far as we are aware, no discussions regarding faculty evaluation of the president have taken place with the faculty or any duly-elected faculty body since that review took place, despite assurances received following our October 18, 2005, letter to you on the same topic.
And he concludes by suggesting that if an evaluation were to occur, "faculty inclusion in the evaluation would improve faculty morale considerably."
In the letter to Ohle, Zemke points out that "the last time the faculty participated in a review of the current VPAA was in the summer of 2000," that the Appointment, Rank, and Tenure Committee had been "working on an evaluation form . . . since at least the fall of 2004," and that the committee had urged the president to distribute the form several times during the 2006-2007 academic year. "We therefore expect that a faculty review of the VPAA's performance will occur soon," wrote Zemke. "Any further delay would surely raise questions."
A few days after receiving Zemke's letter, Ohle initiated a faculty evaluation of the VPAA. For more details of that evaluation and the extensive faculty effort leading up to it, see "Chapter Commends President and ART for Initiating Evaluation of VPAA" in the February 2008 issue of the Wartburg AAUP Newsletter.
As of April 13, 2008, Regents chair Hagemann had not responded to Zemke's on presidential evaluation.
In November of 2010 Wartburg AAUP sent President Colson a letter encouraging an evaluation of the Vice President of Academic Affairs and recommending guidelines for that review.
The Wartburg chapter of the AAUP took the lead in expressing faculty concerns about the college's decision to embark on this extremely ambitious building project (a video of the architect's conception is available here). Links below relate to various aspects of the issue.
Wartburg AAUP to Board of Regents. In this letter dated November 16, 2005, Wartburg AAUP deplored the absence of faculty involvement in decisions about the new wellness center and expressed concern about the adverse effects of adding over $35 million to the college's already substantial debt load in order to build it (see the bond prospectus, below). The letter was sent by U.S. mail to all twenty-seven board members and by campus mail to President Ohle and Dean Menzel.
The chapter did not receive any response to its letter until April 25, 2006. On that date, chapter officers received a brief letter from Regents chair Hagemann responding to an April 11 letter (see Saemann Chair, below) which had noted that the chapter had not received a response to its letter regarding the wellness center project. In his April 25 letter Hagemann stated that "the Board of Regents has no record of receiving a letter dated November 16, 2005."
In an April 26 letter to Hagemann and the executive committee of the Board of Regents, chapter president Greg Scholtz expressed regret on hearing that the board had not received the chapter's November 16 letter and enclosed another copy with his response.
"Rumbling in the Ranks at Wartburg." A front-page story by Brian Spannagel that appeared in the November 20, 2005, Waterloo Courier. Spannagel describes faculty discontent at Wartburg, mainly about being excluded from the decision-making process that culminated in the wellness center proposal. Regent Ross Christiansen explains that the administration excluded faculty from conversations leading up to the proposal because of its "sensitive" nature and the danger of "too many negative influences."
Wellness Center Development and Use Agreement. This is the final version (November 28, 2005) of the contract agreed upon by the college and the city of Waverly. As part of the agreement, the city agrees to pay the college $150,000 per year for eight years beginning in the fiscal year ending May 31, 2008. The city also agrees to pay the college up to an additional $600,000 a year for eight years to make up for any shortfalls in the center's ability to cover its operating expenses. According to this contract, the maximum amount that the city might have to pay the college over the eight-year period is $6 million. The city's obligations under this contract, however, are subject to annual approval by the city council. In the event that the city fails to uphold its part of the contract, it will forfeit its indoor recreation programs until May 31, 2015.
"Fitch Assigns 'BBB-' to Wartburg College Revs, Series 2005A, Iowa." Press release, dated November 29, 2005, about Fitch's rating of the $50.4 million bond issue refinancing the college's long-term debt, a downgrade from the college's former rating of BBB. See also the analysis, below, upon which Fitch based its rating.
Prospectus for Wartburg College Revs, Series 2005A and 2005B. Dated December 1, 2005, this 181-page document in .pdf format contains information about the financial health of the college for potential investors in the two bond issues—Series 2005A for $50.4 million and Series 2005B for $37.3 million. Appendix B contains the feasibility study performed by Murray and Company that the Wartburg administration declined to share with the faculty or any of its elected committees.
Fitch Analysis of Wartburg College Revs, Series 2005A. Dated December 8, 2005, this analysis of Wartburg's financial condition was the basis for Fitch's conferring a BBB- rating on the $50.4 million bond issue refinancing the college's long-term debt. As a justification for the rating, Fitch cites "credit concerns" including "negative operating margins for three of the last six years and a high debt burden." The college did not ask Fitch to rate the $37.3 million in bonds financing the wellness center. (Bonds rated lower than BBB- are classified as "below investment grade" or "junk." Legally, unrated bonds also belong to the junk category. For more on junk bonds, see this article.) For more facts about the college's financial condition, see the college's most recent IRS form 990s.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported on February 9, 2006, that the City of Waverly and the college applied to Vision Iowa for a $3 million Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) award to help pay for the $35 million wellness center. The Vision Iowa board was to have decided in March whether to grant the request. On October 9, the Iowa Department of Economic Development announced that $813,000 had been awarded. However, on November 6, the Wartburg Trumpet reported that the grant was contingent on the city's raising $1.8 million to contribute to the project.
Finances Provide Base for Commission Goals. Story by Alan Simmer that appeared in the February 20, 2006, issue of the Wartburg Trumpet. Simmer provides a clear summary of the college's financial condition in the wake of the 2005 bond issues, with contrasting comments by President Ohle, Wartburg economics professor Scott Fullwiler, and UNI finance professor A. Frank Thompson. For a more thorough account of the college's financial condition, see the college's most recent IRS form 990s.
As a public service, Wartburg AAUP posts here the financial disclosure forms that Wartburg College has filed with the Internal Revenue Service for the following fiscal years: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998.
On April 11, 2006, the executive committee of Wartburg AAUP sent a letter to Board of Regents chairman Fred Hagemann sharing a faculty perspective on the controversy surrounding the search for an appointee for the Saemann Chair. The letter concludes,
"We offer these observations to you and the other members of the Board of Regents because we continue to have grave concerns about the way in which decisions are being made on this campus. As academic professionals, we believe that the best academic decisions result from shared processes of decision-making that are transparent and open. We also believe that promises should be kept and that official policies should be followed—by everyone."
On April 20, President Ohle sent an e-mail memorandum to the faculty in which he reversed most of the controversial decisions regarding the Saemann Chair search. On April 25 chapter officers sent a letter to President Ohle, with copies to the executive committee of the Board of Regents, expressing their appreciation for the President's change of course.
In a letter dated April 25, Regents chair Hagemann responded to the chapter's April 11 letter. The board's letter, however, does not address the issues raised by AAUP; rather, it states only that the board never received the chapter's November 16 letter on the proposed wellness center and that the board gives "due consideration to any communication from Wartburg faculty." (For more on the "lost letter," see "Wartburg AAUP to Board of Regents," above.)
• HERI Survey Indicates Serious Problems
"Wartburg Feud: Survey Exposes Faculty Concerns" by Nick Petaros and Allison Schmidt, appeared in the November 14, 2005, issue of the Wartburg Trumpet. It reports on the local results of a national faculty survey conducted in 2004-05 by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA. The authors interview a number of faculty about survey results that indicate that, relative to their counterparts at other colleges, Wartburg faculty suffer from low job satisfaction, are aware of a high degree of faculty-administrative conflict, and feel left out of important decision-making processes.
The survey had also been administered three years earlier, with similar findings. For more on both surveys, see "National Survey Indicates Wartburg Faculty Morale Low" in the November 2002 AAUP Newsletter and "Faculty Survey: Morale Still Low but Agreement with AAUP Values Higher" in the October 2005 Newsletter.
• Faculty Council Survey Suppressed
After the Trumpet story was published, Faculty Council conducted its own survey in an effort to clarify the issues uncovered in the HERI surveys, assuring faculty who participated that they would receive a report of the survey results. In February 2006, the officers of Wartburg AAUP met with Faculty Council to hear how the committee intended to use the information it gathered. At that time Faculty Council members planned to share fairly detailed results with faculty, while preserving participants' anonymity and excluding unnecessarily hurtful personal comments. Although a preliminary summary of the results had been released in January 2006, Faculty Council ultimately suppressed the final survey results, reportedly at the behest of the administration. (For the preliminary summary, see "Vallem: Additional Information from Faculty Survey Will Be Released Soon" in the May 2006 Newsletter.)
On September 2, 2006, the officers of Wartburg AAUP sent a letter by electronic mail to the Appointment, Rank, and Tenure Committee (ART). The letter discusses faculty perceptions that the administration has quietly abandoned the college's long-standing tradition of awarding pay raises—based on ART's recommendation—on an exclusively across-the-board basis. Almost thirty years ago, during the Jellema presidency, Wartburg faculty instituted the current policy after struggling to defeat a so-called merit-pay system that many felt the administration used to reward its friends and punish its critics.
The officers state that if it is indeed true that individual raises are now being manipulated by the administration, without regard to faculty recommendations and according to its own conception of "merit," the effects of such a system "will tend further to undermine shared governance, degrade faculty morale, divide the faculty, and produce a 'chilling effect' upon academic freedom."
In closing, the writers ask ART to inquire about the following issues and report their findings to the faculty:
"(a) whether it is indeed true that ART's recommendations regarding salary [for the 2006-07 academic year] were not accepted by the administration,
(b) if true, what explanation the administration offered for their non-acceptance and how ART responded to that explanation (see Section 1.5.1 of the Faculty Handbook), and
(c) by what system and upon what basis individual raises were determined."
ART chair David McCullough responded to the AAUP chapter officers in a letter dated September 12. He indicates that the rumors that the AAUP letter had referred to were not correct, that ART would provide the faculty with clarification about how this year's raises were determined in future committee minutes, and that the committee would take pains to communicate raise information more clearly this coming year to reduce "grist for the rumor mill."
On September 17 chapter officers wrote back to thank Chair McCullough and committee for their response and to apologize for publishing their September 12 letter before ART had had a chance to respond. The officers' letter is posted here.
The September 13 minutes of the Appointment, Rank, and Tenure Committee (approved September 20, 2006) contain the promised clarification, the most pertinent part of which is this:
"The across-the-board raise was 2%, leaving 1.5% for promotions and other adjustments. ART recommended that adjustments be made to faculty early in the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor in order to move the lower end of each rank up and out of the way of the rank below it. Specifically, in addition to the across-the-board raise, faculty in the lower half of these ranks received an additional dollar amount.
"ART’s recommendation to provide higher adjustments to faculty on the lower end of certain ranks was followed."
Unfortunately, as those who have served on ART have attested, the committee in recent years has not received the salary data necessary to confirm that its recommendations have actually been followed. A number of faculty, moreover, have indicated that the raises they received for the 2006-07 academic year are not consistent with ART's explanation. In fact, individual raise data substantiate the concerns that gave rise to AAUP's September 2 letter.
Faculty Raise Update (4/07/2007): At the March 1, 2007, faculty meeting, President Ohle announced that that every faculty member would receive at least a 2% increase in salary for the 2007-08 academic year. Every assistant and associate professor would receive an additional $600, and every full professor would receive an extra $1,000. An informal survey by Wartburg AAUP discovered no one whose raise was not consistent with the president's account. According to ART's March 1 minutes, these across-the-board raises were "endorsed" by the Appointment, Rank, and Tenure Committee.
On November 17, 2006, Professor Bret Billet sent ART and Faculty Council, by electronic mail, a thirteen-page analysis of faculty salary/compensation compression, with copies to the president, the vice president for academic affairs, and the faculty. Using data the college has supplied annually to the federal government as well as to the AAUP's annual salary survey, Billet's analysis shows that, relative to other ranks, associate and especially full professors at Wartburg have lost considerable ground in salary and total compensation over the last eight years. The study also compares Wartburg data with that of other IIB private liberal arts colleges, with the so-called "benchmark" institutions, and with Luther College. Billet shows how several of these peer institutions have addressed compression by attempting to keep average salary/compensation at all ranks as close as possible to the same AAUP percentile for that rank at similar institutions. He concludes as follows:
"Given the glaring bias that the Wartburg College data reveal, it would make sense to implement quickly a uniform percentile targeting model whereby the relative inequity in salary/compensation at the professor and associate ranks can be effectively addressed and the strain of between-rank compression lessened."
• The Chapter Tries to Communicate with the Visiting Team
As part of the college's periodic evaluation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC), Wartburg received a visit from an HLC evaluation team on November 6-8, 2006. In the hope of contributing an AAUP perspective to the college's self-evaluation, chapter officers asked to meet with the visiting team. Following Commission protocol, the officers transmitted this request on September 1 through President Ohle's office.
On October 19 the chapter met to discuss the proposed meeting. After reaffirming their officers' decision, members agreed that any statements that chapter representatives intended to make to the visiting team should, for the sake of transparency, be put in writing and published both in the newsletter and on the website. Members also felt that committing their concerns to paper would make it possible to transmit them to the visiting team should a meeting not occur. The chapter's observations and suggestions were therefore cast into the form of a letter to team chair Jack Rossmann. On Tuesday, October 31, two chapter officers delivered to the president's secretary a copy of that letter enclosed in a Wartburg AAUP envelope addressed to Professor Rossmann. That same day the letter was also published in the AAUP Newsletter, which, as always, was sent to all full-time faculty, a number of administrative staff, the executive committee of the Board of Regents, and all administrative officers.
The president's office did not, however, communicate to the visiting team the chapter's request for a meeting, nor did the administration give the chapter's letter to Chair Rossmann. Since there is no mention of the chapter in the self-study, the team thus did not become aware of the chapter's existence until Monday, when a faculty member being interviewed by one of the team members happened to mention Wartburg AAUP. Having learned that there was a thriving chapter on campus and that its officers wished to meet with the team, Chair Rossmann asked the administration to schedule a meeting with the chapter president. Immediately before that meeting, which occurred Tuesday morning, President Ohle handed Rossmann the envelope containing the chapter's letter.
On May 6, 2007, the chapter e-mailed President Ohle to offer the administration an opportunity to explain why it did not communicate the chapter's request to the HLC visiting team. In this e-mail letter, the chapter notified the president that it intended to include a brief story about the incident in the upcoming newsletter (see, page 4) and offered to "take into account any response" that he or Dean Menzel would care to supply. Neither the president nor the dean replied.
• The Administration Withholds the Team Report
On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 8, shortly after the team's departure, the campus community received an e-mail memorandum from President Ohle thanking those who had interacted with the team for contributing to a successful visit and announcing that the team had informed the administration that it would be recommending that the college receive "continuing accreditation for the next ten years."
The president also indicated that the team report would "be shared with the Wartburg community" after having been "finalized and sent to the Reader's [sic] Panel."
This approach would have been consistent with Higher Learning Commission policy, which recommends "distribution of the entire team report and recommendations to all constituencies of an organization" (Handbook of Accreditation, Section 8.3-4).
It also would have been consistent with past practice. In 1996, following the college's last accreditation visit, President Robert Vogel distributed the draft report, upon receipt, to President's Council, Faculty Council, and the Steering Committee. When he received the corrected report, President Vogel sent copies to all faculty and administrative staff before sending it to the Readers Panel.
President Ohle, however, did not share the team report with the Wartburg community after it was corrected and sent to the Readers Panel, as he had said he would. In fact, he declined even to share it with the HLC Steering Committee and with Faculty Council (the faculty planning committee), despite repeated requests from members of both groups and despite his having given the report to his vice presidents and to the members of the governing board.
Instead, in a February 27 e-mail memorandum, the president specified a new date for the release of the report: "after final [HLC] approval," which he said would probably occur in June.
The delay in distributing the report fueled speculation about its content, which some faculty suspected may not have reflected favorably on the administration, an impression reinforced by the president's brief summary of the report at the March 1 faculty meeting. Although the president accentuated the positive, his synopsis—with references to a lack of faculty participation in decision-making and to the need for "transparency"—left the impression that the team report may have confirmed what Wartburg AAUP has been saying for several years about the condition of shared governance at the college (as documented throughout this Web page).
The president's summary also revealed that the Higher Learning Commission was requiring the college to file a "progress report" with the commission in three years detailing the state of its finances, especially as affected by the new wellness center (see above).
• Team Report Finally Released
In a May 8, 2007, e-mail to faculty and staff, President Jack R. Ohle announced that he had "received formal notification" only the day before that the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association had finalized its decision to accredit Wartburg College for a period of ten years. As a consequence, he added, the team report, which he characterized as "very ... positive," would be posted on the college's HLC Web site by the end of the week (it was actually posted the same day).
In fact, parts of the report were positive—especially those parts that concerned areas of faculty responsibility. These parts were Criterion Three (Student Learning and Effective Teaching), Criterion Four (Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge), and Criterion Five (Engagement and Service). In fact, of the fifteen evaluative statements included under these three criteria, all but one were commendatory.
But, as anticipated, the report was mainly negative in its comments regarding areas of administrative responsibility. Found almost entirely under Criterion One (Mission and Integrity) and Criterion Two (Preparing for the Future), criticisms in the report (about a third of its evaluative statements) confirmed what the faculty and Wartburg AAUP have been asserting about the weakened condition of shared governance, the absence of strategic planning, and the college’s risky financial situation (for more details, see the May 2007 Wartburg AAUP Newsletter).
In regard to financial issues, as President Ohle had already revealed at the March 1 faculty meeting, the visiting team required the college to submit a “progress report” to the Higher Learning Commission by November 1, 2010. This report must contain information “for the previous three academic years related to enrollment, retention, and net tuition revenue, as well as a detailed report on whether the financial projections of the Wellness Center have been met to date.” If the report does not satisfy the HLC, “a focused visit may be required.” In its November 16, 2005, letter to the Board of Regents,Wartburg AAUP had expressed similar concerns about the debt incurred to fund the Wellness Center and had predicted that the college's substantial debt load would affect the college’s up-coming accreditation.