Governance Investigation at Spartanburg Community College

By Mark Criley

In December, the AAUP published the report of an investigating committee concerning the dis­solution of the faculty senate at Spartanburg Community College in South Carolina. On April 10, 2023, the SCC administration unilaterally abolished the faculty senate, an action it admitted taking to prevent the senate from voting that day to oppose the adminis­tration’s imposition of a policy requiring faculty members to be present on campus for almost forty hours each week. The administra­tion’s message announcing the dissolution declared that “there is no shared governance” at the institution outside of curricular and instructional matters. All other institutional decision-making, it said, rests solely with the presi­dent and governing board. The administration replaced the senate with an academic council of its own devising, which included thirteen administrators among its thirty-three members and whose bylaws restricted its deliberations to academic policy.

The investigating committee concluded that the SCC admin­istration’s actions contravened widely accepted standards of academic governance, chief among these the requirement articulated in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities that the agencies for faculty gover­nance should be designed and implemented by joint action of the faculty, administration, and gov­erning board. Shared governance, the report also noted, requires the participation of the faculty in all important institutional decisions, not just those related to academic matters, with its authority dis­tributed according to its level of responsibility for a given area. Even before the senate’s dissolu­tion, the committee reported, the SCC faculty had little authority in areas for which it should have exercised primary responsibility, including faculty appointments, grievances, and discipline. The administration’s actions, however, even further constrained the faculty role in educational policies and completely silenced its voice in all other institutional matters.

The report also found that the dissolution of the senate was a “preemptive effort to silence that body, its members, and its constituents and keep them from expressing their views on a specific institutional policy” and thus “a direct attack on academic free­dom.” The report noted evidence of administrative surveillance of faculty communication and activi­ties, including a request from the administration that campus police use security cameras to monitor the former faculty senate president who had contacted the AAUP. Nearly all the faculty members who spoke with the committee insisted on anonymous, off-campus interviews for fear of administra­tive retaliation, supporting the committee’s conclusion that the campus environment was “inimical to academic freedom.”