Provost Francis Doyle proposed new changes to the Office of the Provost to reorganize faculty affairs at Tuesday’s faculty meeting, including a new associate provost of faculty affairs position to serve as a campus-wide leader who implements a wide range of policies and procedures.
“Our growth and evolution over roughly the last 20 years requires a different way of thinking about supporting our faculty across the University,” he said. He cited various reasons for reorganization, including the recent establishment of new schools, faculty growth and a “need for campus-wide consistency,” in accordance with recommendations by the Task Force on Anti-Black Racism and the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty.
Doyle said that he aims to make “clear and consistent policies for handling misconduct” and improve training for department chairs and campus leaders. “There's a need for leadership training to develop a diverse pool of potential faculty leaders,” he added.
Specifically, he proposed that the faculty position would “handle reviews, reappointments, tenure and promotion of the faculty,” as well as “ensure the integrity of the review process for all faculty.” The associate provost of faculty affairs would serve as an ex-officio non-voting member of the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee in place of the dean of faculty.
The new associate provost would also oversee multiple responsibilities within the Offices of the Provost or Dean of the Faculty, including a new Director of Faculty Human Resources position, which was “recommended by the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty,” according to Doyle.
A new director of faculty human resources would oversee a wide range of areas, ranging from Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations to sabbatical requests. “This person will serve as a central point of contact for faculty regarding work-life issues,” Doyle said. “They ensure equity in the application of policies across the schools consistently,” which Doyle cited as a reason for why they should operate in the Office of the Provost.
Doyle noted that he is currently taking a “critical review” of all of the offices that directly report to the Office of the Provost. He is working with Marisa Quinn, a previous chief of staff in the Office who now runs an independent consulting firm.
“She’s done a careful assessment of the responsibility and roles of the individuals (that report to the Provost), trying to help me think through what evolution might make sense to make the Office of the Provost even more effective,” he said.
Doyle noted that he is being “careful about administrative creep” when supporting faculty. But some faculty members expressed concerns over the proposed changes.
Chair of Biostatistics Joseph Hogan noted that the dean of the faculty currently helps orchestrate cross-school appointments, leading Hogan to worry that the new associate provost position may lead to faculty “becoming more siloed rather than less.”
The associate provost for faculty affairs “will have that opportunity to connect the relevant deans, or the kind of joint appointments that you're envisioning, and I'm certainly envisioning,” Doyle responded.
Professor of International and Public Affairs and Sociology Nitsan Chorev added that the dean of the faculty is often viewed as an autonomous and independent body that reports to the provost. Chorev expressed concern that the new position could erode that autonomy.
Doyle noted that the position is not meant to “insulate faculty away from either the provost or their respective deans.” Rather, it is meant to assume a “holistic role,” he said.
Associate Professor of History Seth Rockman described this reorganization as “profoundly un-Brown.”
“This seems like the kind of centralization that we find at another institution — but not this institution, where certain kinds of inefficiencies actually have served to protect faculty governance and allow for a relatively flat hierarchy in which faculty and the people who oversee them … have a lot of interactions,” he said.
“I worry very much that this is sort of an imposition of a different kind of structure, and one that will not go down easily with a significant portion of this faculty,” Rockman added.
“Nothing changes in the layers between you as a faculty member and your faculty-facing dean,” Doyle said, adding that he hopes that these changes help “free up bandwidth for the dean of the faculty to be even more effective in supporting their direct faculty.”
Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.