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Department Constitution

by Phil Church

In the spring of 1971, Don Kibbey, who had been department chair for about 20 years, was chosen to become vice-president for research. (He served as vice-president until 1977, when he retired.) Erik Hemmingsen was elected department chair for a 5-year term, and subsequently for a 3-year renewal. At the same time (the spring of 1971) the department's faculty voted that there should be a constitution, and elected four individuals to draft a document: Phil Church, Tekla Lewin, Dan Waterman and the late Dave Williams. The committee met during the fall semester of 1971.

To a large extent the document consisted of a careful description of existing practice, including the duties of the Undergraduate, Graduate and Advisory (Executive) Committees and the procedure for their selections. Prior to the constitution there had an Advisory Committee of three elected members who advised the department chair, and this was changed to an Executive Committee of four members plus the department chair. This is the first of two substantial changes.

For years faculty personnel matters had been handled in a somewhat casual manner, both within the department and in the college and university. About 1960 there was a vote in the department about promotion, a vote which was uninformed and no one received a majority for promotion from assistant professor to associate professor. Then there was a repeat and informed vote, and one individual (Werner Rheinboldt) received a 14 to 1 majority for promotion to associate professor, and another (Mark Mahowald) received a substantial majority. Several of us who were assistant professors suggested to the department chair Don Kibbey that there be a file in the Department office open to all, a file in which each faculty member kept his or her reprints, preprints and vita; this was done and still exists. About 1980 I received a memo from an assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences saying that it appeared that I had received tenure in 1965, and to let him know if I agreed. It appears that there was no formal consideration of my tenure in 1964 or 1965. [Incidentally, I was promoted to full professor in 1965, after 7 years in rank, so the issue of tenure was really moot.]

The second major change made by the constitution was a careful setting up of procedures for faculty personnel matters: renewal and non-renewal of appointment, tenure and promotion. This was Dan Waterman's suggestion, and in retrospect was a prescient move. Not so long afterward the move nationally was toward more procedural safeguards and lawsuits when universities were not careful.

The constitution committee presented its proposed constitution to the faculty of the department in a meeting in 13 Smith Hall early in 1972. Just before the start of the meeting Jerry Blackman said approvingly to Don Kibbey that this constitution was just what we had been doing. It was generally so recognized and the faculty readily passed it.

About 1980 there was one amendment, about tenure recommendations for a faculty member. In the constitution the ad hoc committee recommends to the Executive Committee, and Executive Committee's decision is the recommendation of the Department of Mathematics. Under the amendment, the ad hoc committee recommends to the Executive Committee, the Executive Committee recommends to the tenured mathematics faculty, and the tenured faculty vote. This vote is now the Department recommendation. The Tenure Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences (now the Promotion and Tenure Committee) preferred such a vote of the tenured faculty and it is consistent with the procedure in many other departments of the College.