Friday, June 06, 2003

Consensus minus more than one 

The work of the Independent Review Committee for campus climate comes under critical discussion in a St. Cloud Times editorial today. Apparently the Times has a copy of a preliminary report of the IRC, which as far as I can see has not been released to the university; the last report from IRC was a progress report dated May 6. The committee declared in that report that it will work with a consensus voting model that grants veto power to any member from a "protected class", a model which the Times seems to think has created problems.
the Independent Review Committee, charged with making recommendations to university administration, recently released draft recommendations complete with a preamble that seems to be more of a disclaimer than a document seeking change. It alludes to significant dissension among its members and even questions the credibility of studies done on discrimination at the university.
We've made a major point about the credibility of the Nichols, JCRC and EEOC reports. They are written by groups who have goals at odds with creating a true representation of campus culture. Nichols wants a job, and EEOC and JCRC base their existence on finding patterns on discrimination wherever they look. (The Rankin report, written last, isn't as damning but also makes very few recommendations.
"Key members of the committee were not present for significant meetings, and we do not have consensus on any of these recommendations," reads the preamble. It goes on to point out the recommendations were formed by a work group, which did not include people of color in the meeting before issuing the draft.
Part of the problem is that faculty contracts only cover a 168 day period which ended over three weeks ago. It has always been a source of contention that administrators want faculty committees -- vested with great power through collective bargaining -- to work through the summer without pay. The Times seems ignorant of that point. But it is telling that the committee, which agreed on the use of consensus voting, now finds it difficult to create any recommendations. Anyone who has had a little public choice theory could have predicted that the decisions of this committee would be greatly influenced by the voting method they adopted, and this one is already coming back to haunt them.
And with the release of this draft last week, the university announced further committee work will be delayed until fall because of contract issues and budget cuts. Now Sept. 30 is the new deadline for a final report.
Part of that, again, is the voting system chosen -- they are likely to cycle through several options several times, and possibly never arrive at a solution as long as someone continues to offer new ones. When the Times suggests that IRC should offer solutions "in a unified and timely way", that's a pipe dream. And part of it is that faculty work for pay, and there's no money to pay these faculty through the summer.

The Times also criticizes the IRC for not providing recommendations for the Affirmative Action office. But that was never in the committee's charge; the university is pursuing that reorganization through a different process.