Board of Trustees November meeting updates

Message sent on behalf of Miles K. Davis, President of Linfield University

Dear Linfield community,

The weight of decision-making leaders must carry is never heavier than during times of great anxiety and uncertainty. This year, above all else, has provided a significant amount of anxiety and uncertainty amid a global pandemic, unprecedented regional wildfires, divisive national elections and our own change from Linfield College to Linfield University. Into that maelstrom, the Linfield Board of Trustees stepped once again in recent days, with a series of meetings that started Wednesday evening and ran through this afternoon. I’m writing today to give you an update on those meetings, and a summary of the decisions reached.

The Trustees agreed to draft and sign an annual code of conduct that will spell out their obligations as both volunteers to and fiduciaries of the institution. It also spelled out the reporting process to follow if any Trustee is accused of misconduct or policy violations, and it made permanent plans to provide annual training to all Trustees (as with all faculty and staff) on sexual misconduct, federal Title IX regulations and other forms of discrimination.

The Board also approved a resolution to recognize the third Monday in January each year as a day of service to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Students, faculty and staff members will be encouraged to annually pay tribute to the life and work of Dr. King through participation in community-service projects. This year, in the pandemic, MLK Day happens to fall on the first day of spring classes. Faculty members will be encouraged to address Dr. King and the civil rights movement in courses that day, and there will be additional programming available to students on both campuses. In future years, Linfield will consider fully implementing MLK Day as a campus holiday with symposia, service projects and other elements for faculty, staff and students.

Another issue the Board addressed was a proposal to rename Brumback Street on the McMinnville campus. This private road connects Renshaw Avenue and Lever Street near the observatory. The road is named after former faculty member A.M. Brumback, who served briefly as president and who published an article in 1900 in which he discussed what would today be considered the desecration and theft of human remains and artifacts from Native American burial grounds.

More than a century later, Linfield remains engaged in the inventory of the remains and artifacts to help facilitate communication with and repatriation to the relevant tribes impacted. Given this historic record, the Board approved a resolution to remove Brumback’s name from the campus road and asked that a group be convened to consider alternate names before the next Trustee meeting in February.

Significantly, the Trustees also approved a series of recommendations from the Bylaws Task Force, which has been working on bylaw changes necessitated by the change to university status since May. The Task Force was comprised of five Trustees, including Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, the Faculty Trustee (Provost Susan Agre-Kippenhan was added in the summer). By June, the Task Force had completed work on all bylaws issues and received approval from the Board with the exception of Article XI, which involved faculty governance. Work continued on that article into the fall, and involved the Faculty Governance Revision Committee, the three academic deans and others.

All parties and all members of the Task Force agreed that a Faculty Senate form of governance would be necessary to account for the new university structure, with senators coming from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing and the School of Business. There was debate, however, about how many senators should come from each academic unit and how much power should be delegated to the Senate and how much retained within each school or college. The Task Force recommended that the number of Senators not exceed 12, with each of the schools and the college (and any future school) having the same number of senators.

The revised Article XI grants to faculty the same basic authority as now exists in the Bylaws as well as granting this authority to each of the three entities individually – the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and the School of Nursing – to operate their respective entity pursuant to this individual grant of authority. People of good conscience can disagree about how influence should be allocated in such a scenario. The deans felt strongly that the Faculty Senate should have equal representation from all schools or colleges, and that no one body would have undue influence over the others. The Faculty Trustee disagreed with some of the recommendations of the Bylaws Task Force. He argued that more senators approved by a majority vote of “the collegium” would be fairer and more representative. That scenario would likely create a situation in which the College of Arts and Sciences had more senators than the two schools.

Ultimately, the Board voted to approve the recommendations of the Bylaws Task Force that involves twelve senators in total – four apiece from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and the School of Nursing. The Board of Trustees on Saturday approved a resolution to that effect, and work to implement the new Faculty Senate model will begin immediately.

Change is hard, and we’ve been through more of it this year than most. But I continue to be heartened by the level of hope, goodwill and compassion that define the Linfield community. We have a wide variety of life experiences and we don’t always agree on a particular decision, but I have yet to meet anyone here who doesn’t care deeply about Linfield’s future and believe unwaveringly in its mission.

Caring for students, and caring about each other, is in our collective DNA. It’s why I’m here, and I believe it’s why every one of you is here, too.

The road ahead remains unclear and shrouded in the fog of pandemic. Together, however, I am certain we will stride forward, arm in arm, to meet any challenges. We are on the right road and we have each other. For those things, I remain humbled and thankful.

Be well and be blessed,

Miles K. Davis, president