State Board of Education Suspends Idaho State’s Faculty Senate

February 18, 2011

Within days of a faculty vote of "no confidence" in Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas, the Idaho Board of Education has voted to dissolve the university’s faculty senate, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) and others are reporting. This drastic action follows several months of increasingly sour relations between Vailas and the ISU faculty; as the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote recently, this was due at least in part to Valias’ perceived treatment of dissidents in ISU’s academic ranks, including the firing of tenured Professor Habib Sadid, who had frequently made remarks critical of the university. 

The Spokesman-Review writes:

Board President Richard Westerberg said, "The impasse between the leadership of the senate group and the administration has reached a point where the prospect of any kind of progress was simply non-existent. It’s time to start over." The board, meeting today in Boise, instructed Vailas to implement an interim faculty advisory structure, and come back to the board with a model to review by April.

The full background of this case is complex and not yet clear to FIRE, but the snapshot suggested by Westerberg’s statement (notably, the board has supported Vailas against the faculty) is decidedly distasteful: Unable to work with the current faculty senate, the board seems to be trying to give Vailas a group of yes-men who will not challenge the administration’s authority. So far, it looks like a very sad day for shared governance or any kind of meaningful faculty governance. One source even reported to us that early yesterday afternoon, the locks to the Faculty Senate offices were changed.

FIRE is monitoring the situation at ISU, and we certainly will keep Torch readers updated.

Schools:  Idaho State University

Cases:  Idaho State University: Suspension of Faculty Senate