On or about November 19, 2018, a confused potential Physics PhD candidate student contacted the Physics Department asking why they could not apply to the Applied Physics PhD program. The department chair John Freeouf, then contacted the Graduate School and they could not answer the question. After a number of inquiries, the department was told about a pause in the Applied Physics PhD applications. On or about November 26th, John Freeouf received a memo from Graduate School Dean Rossitza Wooster providing notice to the department that she and other administrators had suspended applications to the Applied Physics PhD program. This was the first notice provided to the faculty, and the suspension came as a complete surprise to Physics faculty. There had been no conversation with the department chair or any Physics faculty that such a decision was being considered.
This unilateral action by administrators was a violation of long-standing norms of Academic Freedom and Shared Governance in higher education, and a violation of, among others:
- Article 12, section 2 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement (which reads, in part: “it is mutually desirable that the collegial system of shared governance be maintained and strengthened so that faculty will have a mechanism and procedures, independent of collective bargaining, for appropriate participation in the governance of the University.”
- Faculty Senate Constitution (which makes clear that faculty have substantial autonomy to make curricular and programmatic decisions).
- PSU Board of Trustees policy on “The Roles of the Board, President, Faculty, Shared Governance, and Academic Freedom.”
On December 5th, we sent a Letter of Concern to President Shoureshi and Provost Jeffords. Together with PSU Senate leadership, PSU-AAUP Vice President for Collective Bargaining David Hansen and PSU-AAUP Vice President for Academic Freedom and Grievances Jennifer Ruth met with the administration on December 18 to discuss the issue. Agreeing that shared governance had been neglected, President Shoureshi lifted the suspension on admissions to the Applied Physics program.