Kozachik: 'Shared governance' resisted as UA's Robbins reacts to financial mess

Throughout the course of the University of Arizona’s financial mess one of the things the Faculty Senate has been asking is to be included in decision-making. The term of art is “shared governance” – sharing responsibility for setting policy. It’s clearly a concept UA President Robert Robbins and his team have resisted, giving mild acknowledgement that it’s on the table, but with no firm commitments.

While the off-ramp from this mess is still a work in progress, including shared governance, there’s work happening in Phoenix that would give Robbins the “out” he might want if in fact sharing his authority is not something he’s interested in. Or maybe the UA administration is simply unaware that HB2735 is being crafted. Maybe. But that’s not believable to anybody paying attention to this issue. Here’s the pertinent part of the bill that’s making its way through the Arizona Legislature.

Note that they’re striking any reference to sharing responsibility for setting policy and vesting all of that in the office of the president. And “a university president may not delegate” that authority. How very convenient if one is not inclined to participate in shared governance — simply have the ability taken away from you by statute.

During the committee hearing discussing the bill, its sponsor Rep. Travis Grantham made three important points; one, “shared governance is not how a university should run”; second, President Michael Crowe up at ASU has been doing it right in maintaining financial controls; and third, Robbins at the UA has let things get out of control. 

Fixing that does not require a change in state statute. It requires a change in leadership: Robbins.

Here’s the full text of the bill.

Shared governance is something the Faculty Senate has been asking for. So far it was given a gentle nod of approval. If there’s behind the scenes work happening up at the Legislature to give Robbins and crew the chance to shrug their shoulders and say they’d love to but the state just preempted them, then this bill might be an example of that. 

Certainly behind the scenes communications regarding on-campus “problematic” issues is nothing new to the UA under this leadership. 

This is an email exchange that makes the point – Dudas works for Robbins and Washington White is vice provost and dean of students. I don’t know the others, but to suggest timing the termination of someone for when it would not give faculty the opportunity to “create chaos” is at best unprofessional. I have redacted the names of the people they were concerned about – this isn’t about them. 

From: “Washington White, Kendal H – (kwashing)”
Date: April 4, 2023 at 4:50:35 AM MST
To: “Allen, Treya – (treya)” , “Rodrigues, Helena A – (hrodrigu)” , “Krominga, Beth – (bethkrominga)”
Cc: “Serrano, A Maria – (serranoa)” , “Vejar, Alma R – (avejar)” , “Lanehart, Sonja – (lanehart)”
@arizona.edu>
@arizona.edu>
@arizona.edu>
@arizona.edu>
@arizona.edu>
@arizona.edu>

@arizona.edu>@arizona.edu>@arizona.edu>@arizona.edu>@arizona.edu>@arizona.edu>

Subject: Personnel Issue

Good Morning Friends,

I had a conversation with Jon Dudas this week regarding the Cultural and
Resource Centers including the behavior of the staff and other
colleagues who are problematic. (… and others).

Jon Dudas and I agree that if we release employees from the University,
we will wait until after the end of the Spring semester (at the end of
May or June). The rationale is that if we make any removals, it will
give people another opportunity to create chaos.

Of course, Treya will continue to work with Beth regarding the Centers’ staff. Helena, I appreciate your partnership.

Regarding J, I’m unsure about him – is he aligned with the Center
Directors? If not, I would move forward regarding his employment. If so,
I think we do the same at the end of the May or June.

Kendal Washington White she/her 

Vice Provost for Campus Life and Dean of Students

@arizona.edu>

Dudas was the guy who made the statement at the City Council meeting related to the non-binding resolution I offered asking the UA to COVID test all students, whether they lived on or off campus. He called the resolution “pandering and unconstitutional.” 

I was evidently “problematic” as well — less than twoweeks after the resolution failed 6-1, my position was eliminated at the UA. Robbins pays Dudas $454,000 per year, not counting incentives.

If the Legislature passes HB2735 onto Gov. Katie Hobbs’ desk it will be interesting to see what kind of reception it gets. Unless simply eliminating the ruse of shared governance is the goal, changes to state statute are not needed in order to allow Robbins to do what Crowe at ASU has been successful at for years.