Faculty Senate approved a motion on Oct. 2 to affirm Butler University’s commitment to regular review of its administrators.
The Faculty Senate took more than two years to agree on four principles by which a tool for faculty review of administrators could be created.
Faculty Senate had to consider the language carefully, said Margaret Brabant, chair of the senate.
“This is important stuff,” Brabant said. “You’ve got to get it right because, if you don’t get it right, you can cause an enormous amount of damage.”
Such carefully-crafted language includes a principle that states, “While recognizing the confidential nature of personnel review, a method or means must be found… to ensure the transparency and accountability of the process.”
Gary Edgerton, dean of the College of Communication, said affording such transparency may necessitate access of the evaluations to everyone.
“I think, in general terms, if they’re talking about transparency, then in general terms I would think the tenor of the evaluation probably will be available to everybody in the Butler community,” Edgerton said.
Brabant said the language of this principle was included to keep administrators, such as the president, provost and Board of Trustees members, from being publicly embarrassed.
“In the situation where we might have stumbled and made a mistake, the confidential part of this is meant to help us develop, rather than put us in the stocks in front of everyone on the front lawn,” Brabant said.
Jay Howard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the review will need to be confidential to some degree and transparent to some degree, and finding a balance will be tricky.
Howard said he expects individual faculty members to retain their anonymity from any administrator they may be criticizing and have an opportunity to view a final report.
“I think faculty have a reasonable right to say we ought to be able to see at least some kind of executive summary that talks about strengths of the individual administrator and perhaps areas for improvement or areas where people have voiced concern,” Howard said. “And I would hope that there would be somewhere in the process as well for that administrator to respond.”
Brabant said the process would likely imitate processes from President Jim Danko’s past.
“He comes out of the business world,” Brabant said. “It’s a different kind of ethos. It’s a different kind of attitude about how you evaluate people.”
Brabant said only Danko could explain the difference between how the business and academic worlds evaluate people.
But Danko said in an email he thinks the objectives of evaluations in both worlds are consistent in their goals of assessing the quality of individuals’ performance and providing developmental insights for the person being evaluated.
“While there may be inconsistency with respect to the quality of evaluations being performed by organizations, it is not necessarily correlated to whether it is an academic or business organization,” Danko said. “I am aware of both good and bad systems in both the business and academic world.”
Danko said the dialogue with Faculty Senate has pleased him and he is interested in assuring Butler has an evaluation process that provides valuable insight for individuals to determine how well they are supporting Butler’s mission and the overall objectives of their position.
Chuck Williams, dean of the College of Business, said he already receives 360-degree evaluations from his college and echoed Howard’s sentiment that this would not be much of a change for Butler’s deans.
If he were to evaluate Danko’s tenure thus far, Williams said he really likes the president’s approach to innovation and openness to expanding Butler’s educational offerings online to reach out to students Butler wouldn’t otherwise be able to educate.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re not left behind,” Williams said. “Butler can’t be on the sidelines and on the outside looking in.”
Faculty members will have to wait their turn to review administrators, as Brabant said the scorecard by which administrators will be judged should be created before the end of this academic year.
“We’re not inventing the first senior-level administrative evaluation tool,” Brabant said.
If and when a tool is put in place, students will likely have no understanding of exactly how it works, as Brabant said students may receive general information but not all of the details made available to the staff.