“University Management and Administration reflect its mission and identity.”
Fordham University works to reflect organizational integrity at a moment where institutions of higher education face significant tensions, disagreements, uncertainties and anxieties.
Human Resource Policies that Demonstrate a Commitment to Mission
As a community we struggle to achieve the right balance between a range of goods to which we are committed. Throughout the year in which we have been engaging this Mission Priority Examen, tension between the faculty and administration has steadily mounted over issues of salary and benefits. During this time, the Board of Trustees has asserted its fiduciary responsibility to ensure fiscal sustainability, as well as affordability and accessibility to students of various means. This self-study is not a place to weigh in on specifics of these controversial matters. From the perspective of both trustees and administration there is a commitment to fairness, equity, and the well-being of the employee, and it is argued that, by external measures, salary and benefits policies are consistent with that commitment. From the perspective of faculty members, however, who face the practical and very personal stress of living in New York, salary raises the last few years have been insufficient and changes in health care programs would be inconsistent with a concern for their well-being.
In addition, throughout the last year the University has been engaged in a self- examination on issues surrounding race and diversity. In Fall, 2015, the President named a Task Force on Diversity, which consulted widely and submitted a report, with recommendations, to the President, in July, 2016. After consultation with the President’s Advisory Council, a response and action plan was published in November, 2016 (see Appendix Twelve). While the focus of the task force was on the subject of racial diversity at Fordham, it did disclose other areas for institutional growth. Among the many relevant elements of the action plan, one of the most important was the creation of a position of Chief Diversity Officer, who will report to the Provost with a dotted-line relationship to the President. While a single individual, even one with a high-level administrative position, cannot bear the full burden of the University’s commitment to diversity, it is hoped that the person who enters this role will provide leadership so that Fordham may grow in this area. In addition, we are in the process of hiring a new Chief Human Resources Officer, who will also share considerable responsibility for improving our strategic and organizational capacity to advance in our commitment to diversity.
The questions of whether the University provides a just wage, appropriate benefits and working conditions—especially to those who earn the least within the University structure—are particularly important. Among various categories of workers that may be vulnerable, Fordham, like most institutions of higher education, relies on part-time teaching staff (i.e., “adjunct faculty”). Although the majority of adjuncts in schools such as those in the Gabelli School of Business or the Law School, have full-time jobs outside academia and teach part-time out of their own sense of duty to their profession, a strong majority in arts and sciences do not (see Appendix Fifteen). If one measures their salary by the number of hours involved in preparing and teaching classes, the wages of adjunct faculty members compare favorably to other part-time jobs, at a range from $30 to $55 per hour. As professionals who contribute significantly to the education of Fordham students, however, adjunct professors have noted their situation can be difficult. This problematic issue came up in a number of focus groups. In most cases there was an awareness of the need to attend to this particular segment of professional worker at the University. In terms of salary and general treatment, members of focus groups indicated that the lot of adjunct faculty at Fordham is better than at peer institutions. And yet, there was a common perception that we need to do better and that the full burden does not rest exclusively with the Administration. Voices of adjunct faculty we heard, for instance, observed that, while full-time faculty members express support and solidarity in principle, there is not always a willingness actually to share resources with their part-time colleagues. The problem of reliance on part-time faculty is an issue facing colleges and universities throughout the country. While not easily solved, it requires of us continued care, honest reflection, and improvement upon current policies and practices.
Obviously, all these issues are contentious, and members of the University have deep, personal, and varying convictions on them. As a Jesuit, Catholic university we are not immune to the realities of businesses, though we attempt to operate in a way that reflects the quality of commitments we do profess. As all members of the University community face the tensions surrounding such questions, however, we do need to summon up our resources and disciplines of discernment—not only in the careful study of issues but in the monitoring of a range of internal impulses, some positive and productive, others negative and destructive.
Formation for Mission and Leadership
The Steering Committee sees the question of “formation for mission and leadership” as a significant area of growth for Fordham. In a nutshell, we have programs but not a strategic plan that prioritizes the development of mission leaders according to clear objectives.
Like other universities in the AJCU, Fordham supports a range of programs for faculty, staff, and administrators that intend to develop them for leadership in mission. While hard data is not available, the University has sent its members to national programs, such as the Ignatian Colleagues Program, the Jesuit Leadership Seminar, the ACCU Leadership Seminar, Collegium and programs associated with the Lilly Fellows. There is little or no follow-up, however, when they return. Nor do we cultivate past participants as a base for further development.
At the New Faculty Orientation, there is an introduction to the mission of Fordham as a Jesuit, Catholic university appropriate to first-day faculty recruits. Follow-up with tenure-track faculty does occur: they are invited to monthly lunch-meetings addressing a range of mission-oriented topics in a systematic way. So, too, does the Arrupe Seminar, hosted by the Rector of the Jesuit community, provide an occasion for several arts and sciences faculty to meet monthly to discuss topics. No internal programs exist for staff or administrators, except in the area of Student Affairs. The Department of Human Resources does not offer a series of professional development courses, though it is an expectation from the soon-to-be-hired Chief Human Resources Officer. As a part of that person’s portfolio, sharing a sense of Fordham’s mission and identity as a Jesuit, Catholic university will be key.
Spiritual programs are offered for faculty, staff, and administrators, though numbers are modest. A program in Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Living currently has 16 participants, and a faculty and staff retreat has had waning numbers.
It is far from clear that Fordham has cultivated a “core contingent” to be carriers of the Ignatian Tradition. At the same time, it would be untrue to suggest there is a lack of interest on the part of colleagues to carry this tradition in important, appropriate ways. As observed previously, however, a far more comprehensive and strategic approach to these questions is warranted.
Hiring Practices that Demonstrate a Commitment to Mission
While there is a significant degree of commitment to mission on the part of senior administration, individuals, and discrete units, there are no known University-wide processes to indicate that hiring practices specifically promote the mission of Fordham as a Jesuit, Catholic university. There is much to be done in this area. Particular issues noted from the Characteristics document that we need to address include: mission-specific language in job postings, the ability of search committees to engage candidates in a substantive way on matters of Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity, clear articulation of principles, active recruiting for mission-oriented hires, resources for targeted mission hires.
This particular question raised a number of interesting conversations among members of the Steering Committee and focus groups. Most people recognized the phrase “hiring for mission” is problematic because, in the context of Fordham, it is frequently received simply as “hiring Catholics.” In an academic institution of sufficient diversity and complexity as Fordham, such a message does not convey our desires, aspirations, or intentions.
While there was a general resistance to certain connotations in “hiring for mission,” however, there was also a deep awareness that, given Fordham’s identity as a Jesuit, Catholic university, it is important to find ways to advance its distinctiveness. The scope of hiring practices, in other words, need not be limited to particular skill sets or professional abilities but to the capacity to contribute productively to an educational body that states its aspirations in quite specific terms.
In the discussions of the Steering Committee, there was a strong sense that “hiring for diversity” should find both motivation and inspiration in the broader mission and identity of Fordham precisely as a Catholic university and that any framework that sets “diversity” and “mission/identity” against each other should be challenged. Although the alignment of diversity and mission/identity may seem counter-intuitive, we expect it to yield a dynamic tension that will broaden the semantic field of each term. At the same time, we discussed what the Characteristics document called a “core contingent” of colleagues that are carriers of the tradition because of their identification with it.
It is also clear, however, that various further distinctions need to be made. We may expect, for instance, a core group of colleagues to identify personally with the tradition in different ways. A Jesuit’s appropriation will be different from that of a self-identified Catholic layperson, which will in turn be different from a person who identifies deeply with another religious tradition or philosophical commitment. Moreover, we do not presume that a self-identified Catholic will, by that fact, make a better contribution to the mission and identity of Fordham than one who is not. Thus, the Steering Committee did not object in principle to the idea of a “core contingent” of faculty, staff, and administrators but felt there needs to be an expression of some texture within such a contingent. Authentic sensitivity to variegation will enable such processes and procedures noted in the Characteristics document, in addition to giving them credibility.
Financial Management that Gives Evidence of a Commitment to Mission
Although this issue was not examined in great depth, at a joint meeting of the Mission and Identity Committee and Finance and Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, the chair of the latter committee noted that an investment policy was recently re-drafted to ensure that investments were consistent with Catholic Social Teaching, with far greater attention than ever before to alternative, socially- beneficial investments. At the same time, it is not always possible to disambiguate among investments that, by standard practice, are bundled together. But the chair of the committee offered reassurance that, insofar as they have control, the policy does aim to give evidence of commitment to mission. Furthermore, Fordham seeks relationships with vendors and service providers that strive to optimize the balance of integrity, opportunity, quality, and value – practical qualities that we believe are common to both our values and the tenets of good business. We seek to hire small, local businesses and minority- or women-owned businesses whenever possible, and subject potential vendors to a rigorous background check that includes background verification, searches in debarment registries, and other activities that certify the integrity of the vendor.
Physical Resource Management that Gives Evidence of a Commitment to Mission
Sustainability at Fordham University is part of our Jesuit tradition of social justice and service to humanity. More than ever we are deeply conscious of our moral responsibility to respect the environment, and Fordham values the goal of minimizing our environmental impact in all our activities. Through design, construction and maintenance of our buildings, infrastructure and grounds, Fordham ensures environmental sustainability and demonstrates best practices in a broad range of areas.
A presidentially established Sustainability Council, comprising staff, faculty, students and consultants, meets throughout the year to discuss key issues, such as improving recycling, University-wide energy and greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, to name a few ongoing areas of focus.
In the most recent period, for instance, we have focused on reducing our green house gas emissions University-wide, and we expect in 2017 to achieve a 18% reduction from our baseline year of 2005. This achievement is especially gratifying because the University space has grown 16% over the same period of time. In the area of green space preservation, we have at Rose Hill one of the oldest collections of mature American Elms, Ulmus Americana, which are endangered due to Dutch elm disease. The oldest tree is dated to be 280 years old, and we have undertaken an intensive care program to ensure the continuing health of more than 50 mature elms on the campus. In 1997 we were awarded the International Arborist Grand Award for our efforts to preserve American Elms. In addition, we have achieved Tree Campus USA designation at Rose Hill. Other efforts in this area include having our own tree nursery, using environmentally friendly landscaping practices, and maintaining in a natural setting 115 acres of wooded terrain, the Louis Calder Center, the University’s Biological Field Station in Armonk, NY. Finally, we recently signed a 20-year agreement to purchase green solar power from a 2.5 Megawatt off-site array. At full production, this addition to campus operations can offset 20% of all electric use at Rose Hill. Moreover, we are also actively looking to develop a 800 kilowatt array on our garage roof.
There is a high degree of concern for the beauty of the campus, both at Lincoln Center and at Rose Hill. Art, architecture, and landscape reflect constant concern for the transcendent qualities of beauty at Fordham. In uneven ways, there is good space for reflection, prayer, worship, and social gathering. At Rose Hill, the University Church is well maintained, and there are other chapels (in Keating, Dealy, Loyola, and Spellman), but dining spaces for faculty and staff are simply functional. At Lincoln Center there is a modest chapel on the second floor of Lowenstein, adequate for the need. Over the last few years the aesthetic quality of the Lincoln Center campus has improved greatly, and social spaces are far more numerous and attractive than they have been. For non-Catholic Christians, there is less worship space at either campus, and for non-Christians, there is an emerging need for more room (especially for Muslim students at Lincoln Center).
Consideration of Characteristic 7 leads the Steering Committee to recommend the following Mission Priorities discussed at the end of this Examen.
- A comprehensive and strategic plan for developing colleagues’ understanding of the Ignatian tradition (Mission Priority #1).
- The design/advancement of strategies for linking issues of diversity to mission/identity (Mission Priority #2).