THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS TENURES

There has been much discussion among members of SOS, their friends, their families and other community members about how Shorter got to the place where she is today. The majority of the people with whom we have talked have expressed shock and amazement at the new policies that have been announced. Many faculty, staff, alums, donors and friends of Shorter feel as though the have been betrayed. They listened to the assurances of Nelson Price and bought into the idea that nothing would change. They believed the words of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, when he took over the reins and control of the newly appointed Fundamentalist Board of Trustees.

No one should have been surprised at the current state of affairs at Shorter – no one paying attention, that is.

Shortly after the Fundamentalist take-over in 2005, Nelson Price appears to have had a very serious conversation with then-president, Dr. Harold Newman. While we can only speculate as to the content of that conversation, it was evidently made clear to Dr. Newman who was really running the institution. Dr. Newman served Shorter admirably for over 26 years. The list of his accomplishments is long. Dr. Newman loved Shorter College and he loved Shorter University. In all the time he spent at the institution, he never displayed any of the intransigence or the insistent dogma of Fundamentalism. He loved his students and he loved his faculty and staff and he showed it.

Why, then, did he accelerate his announced retirement? Why would he leave the school he loved earlier than he had planned? Perhaps the drip, drip, drip of Fundamentalist pressure became too much to bear.

Early on in Newman’s tenure, abrupt changes in the Religion faculty occurred. The entire faculty of the religion department – Dr. Robert Nash, Dr. Stephen Sheeley, Dr. Robert Wallace and Dr. David Fillingim -were systematically removed from their faculty positions as was the school counselor and moved to administrative jobs in “safe” areas, where it was perceived that they could no longer influence young minds. And then there was the matter of tenure.

One of the principle duties of SACS accreditors is to ensure that policies for academic procedure within the institution are in place and that they are being followed. A policy (such as the Personal Lifestyle Statement and The Biblical Principles on the Integration of Faith and Learning) in a private institution may be objectionable to many, but the institution has the right to set those policies. In setting them, however, they must also abide by them. It is the job of the SACS team to confirm that policy is being followed.

Perhaps they would consider looking at the Tenure Policies for Shorter and their applicability to certain appointments and prizes awarded in the past few years.

The current Shorter University website does not include links to previous Faculty Handbooks. In previous years, the website included Faculty Handbooks for the previous several years. Each Faculty Handbook, until this current academic year, includes a list of tenured faculty. While the current website does not contain the previous handbooks, the handbooks for the past five years may be found at this site. They have been downloaded for future reference.

Tenure is an important achievement for every faculty member. Tenure is decided based on academic achievement and length of service to the institution. You may find the procedure for applying for tenure on pages 70-73 of the current Faculty Handbook, which may be found here:

http://www.shorter.edu/academics/provost/faculty_handbook.htm

In short, the Faculty Committee on Tenure receives a portfolio of accomplishments plus a verification of length of service from a candidate for tenure. The committee reviews the portfolio, and using a set of criteria for the awarding of tenure (listed in the handbook), votes on the candidate’s suitability for the award. A list of the nominees is then sent to the Provost, to the President, and to the Board of Trustees, who approve the final award. While the Board of Trustees has the right to appoint tenure, despite the Tenure Committee’s recommendations, this is a highly unusual move at any college or university.

From 2007-2010, two individuals were awarded tenure who were not eligible: one was turned down by the Faculty Committee on Tenure, and the other was never placed for consideration by the committee. Those two individuals have much to do with where Shorter currently finds herself.

Each year, the president of Shorter bestows a very special award to a Shorter faculty member. “The President’s Award is an annual award to a tenured faculty member deserving of this recognition and fulfilling the criteria provided by the Provost. In addition to other honors, the award carries with it a cash stipend of $4000.00.” (p. 85-86, 2011/12 Faculty Handbook) according to all versions of the Faculty Handbook.

Dr. Carmen Butcher received the award in 2007. She is not listed as having tenure until the 2010-11 Faculty Handbook. The Rome News Tribune reported her as having received tenure in their May 12, 2010 edition. Perhaps Dr. Butcher was given the award, despite the stated policy, because of her considerable accomplishments. This was, however, a sign of the indifference or perhaps outright defiance with which the administration and Board of Trustees perceived their own policies.

Dr. Sabrena Parton received the award in 2009. Dr. Parton was employed by Shorter in 2006 as an Associate Professor of Communication. She was made Dean of Liberal Arts in 2007, despite having never been reviewed by a committee of her peers and been awarded full professorship. Again, she is not listed as having tenure that year. Indeed, she is not listed as having been awarded tenure in ANY year, according to the Faculty Handbook.

All the Faculty Handbooks since 2007 include procedures for appointing a Presidential Search Committee. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees appoints the committee, which is to include two TENURED faculty members. After Dr. Newman’s resignation, a Presidential Search Committee was appointed by Nelson Price, and the Presidential Search Committee members were announced in the Rome News Tribune on June 30, 2010.

Dr. Sabrena Parton was named as a member of that committee despite the fact that she had not achieved tenure.

Was she appointed to the Search Committee without meeting the qualifications, OR was she granted tenure without going through the tenure process? The tenure process is documented in every Faculty Handbook, and does not include an alternative process, such as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees granting an individual tenure.

It is interesting to note that both faculty members who were appointed to the Presidential Search Committee received teaching awards for which they were not qualified.  Neither were nominated by faculty to be their representatives on the Presidential Search Committee, thus negating any meaningful participation as faculty representatives. It is also interesting to note that there are irregularities in the tenure process for both faculty members.

Furthermore, the selected QEP topic, as documented in The QEP Conundrum, was co-authored by none other than Dr. Parton. In the initial QEP process, the proposal co-authored by Parton was ranked ninth out of ten proposed topics. If a new QEP needed to be selected, why choose number nine? Why not select the second, third, or even fourth place proposals, as selected by the QEP Committee? And why was the membership of the QEP Committee revised, with a new composition of members, with four of the committee members reporting directly to Parton, who was added as a co-chair of that committee?

We trust the SACS on-site committee will look into these and other irregularities that are occurring under the Fundamentalists’ control. As the old saying goes, you can put pearls on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

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