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Dominguez President, Faculty Split

December 11, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

CARSON — Enrollment and budgetary problems at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and disputes over how to deal with them have led to a sharp rift between President Richard Butwell and campus faculty.

The Academic Senate, in a formal resolution sent last week to Chancellor W. Anne Reynolds and the trustees of the 19-campus system, charged that Butwell has persistently ignored faculty recommendations.

It demanded that the "collegial process"--a traditional university governing system in which a college president consults with his staff before reaching important decisions--be restored at the Carson campus.

Butwell, 57, who was appointed to the top post at Dominguez Hills in July, 1984, maintained that he has conferred with the faculty as extensively as his busy schedule permits.

'Jockeying for Power'

He said he is puzzled by the faculty's "degree of hostility" toward him, but blamed the rift on staff members who are "jockeying for power" during a difficult transition period at the 7,300-student campus.

Butwell said he also was "a little bit bothered by persons who air their grievances in the press," instead of using campus procedures for resolving disputes. A copy of the faculty resolution was sent to The Times.

"Collegiality is a two-way street," he said. "I don't feel these people who are critical of my style of leadership are behaving in a collegial manner."

Jeffrey Stetson, an assistant to the chancellor in Long Beach, said Wednesday that Reynolds did not see a need to intervene in the squabbles at Dominguez. But he said the chancellor "has received assurances from President Butwell that he is committed to greater and more frequent communication with the faculty . . . in a cooperative effort to iron out any difficulties."

Faculty discontent at Dominguez Hills appears centered on Butwell's decision to convert from a 10-week quarter to a 15-week semester system this year as part of an effort to improve programs and academic standards.

Butwell and many other college officials believe the semester system, which has been adopted by most of the state universities, promotes better scholarship by providing more continuous time for studying complex subjects. However, the switch apparently was a major factor in a 9% drop in full-time enrollment this year compared to last, at a time when the four-year university is struggling to attract and retain students. Since 1982, it has lost more than 16% of its full-time enrollment.

Sixteen of the 19 campuses in the state system reported enrollment increases this year, a university official said.

Low Test Scores

Butwell's predecessor, Donald Gerth, often referred proudly to Dominguez Hills as a "people's university," but Butwell and others at the university acknowledge that its liberal-arts curriculum does not adequately meet the needs of today's more job-oriented students. Perhaps the most damaging blow to the university's prestige has been its record of low scores on the state's basic skills test for teacher candidates, which has added to a reputation for low academic standards.

This year's enrollment decline produced a shortfall estimated by Butwell at $675,000 in the university's $35-million budget. He said the loss would be offset by "some belt-tightening"--such as cuts in operating expenses and not filling a few vacant faculty positions--but no layoffs would be necessary.

But Butwell's critics, most of whom declined to be quoted by name, contend that he should have postponed the change to the semester calendar until enrollment picked up again. Moreover, he should have drawn on the "accumulated wisdom" of the faculty, as one critic put it, before making the leap.

"Without collegiality, the university is having a difficult time meeting the needs of its students," said Ellen Gerry, a librarian who is senate chairwoman.

Quick Decision

Butwell countered that he did broach the idea with several members of the Academic Senate, but then had to make a quick decision in order to start the semester system in September.

He noted that the senate in November, 1984, endorsed the concept. Official minutes of the meeting indicate a 17-to-14 approval vote, with two abstentions.

The records also indicate faculty concerns over a "possible substantial drop" in enrollment, and quote Butwell as assuring the senate that he would not go ahead with the semester change without further consultation and "if there were any significant indications" that it would cause a loss in students.

In its resolution last week, the senate also faulted Butwell for not endorsing a faculty statement, drafted last January, that affirms his support for shared governance of the university.

In an interview this week, Butwell said he fully supports the collegial policy endorsed by the chancellor and trustees, but would refuse to accept the version drafted by the Dominguez Hills faculty.

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