Churchill’s President Opposes Trinity College’s Crackdown on Access to Information

The President of the CI has posted the following letter to the Trinity faculty listserv.

Dear Colleagues:

I write to express my disappointment.

The Trinity faculty, which when I arrived was so proud of its faculty governance, has now finally caved to a heavy handed agenda on the part of the Administration. It has accepted a new loyalty oath/gag order on faculty committees run through at a December meeting that few attended, and where many who were scheduled to talk weren’t even allowed the privilege.

The faculty has now sent the message that it surrenders.  We can now happily sit insulated from any access to the truth—I desperately hope that this is not because this generation of academics doesn’t care about the truth anymore.

The FAC, under our new gagged circumstances, can no longer discharge its duty of reporting to the faculty and after consultation reporting back to the Administration.  And the Administration can continue to withhold and misconstrue vital information.  Perhaps some confidentiality is required with sensitive files in a committee like EPC; the only reason for confidentiality in the FAC is, in my opinion, to keep from the Trinity Community the financial abyss over which we stand.

We are left, and here I will address the matter from the perspective of FAC, with an open-ended gag order that doesn’t even have a statute of limitations or spell out what is and is not confidential.  Assuming the committee ever again gets access to actual information, rather than a disinformation campaign, the “facts” can no longer be openly vetted or discussed, perhaps ever, and certainly not until we are confronted long after the fact with a fait accompli.  Presumably members of the Administration will not be similarly gagged.  Hence no matter what they say, they cannot be questioned.  Would any of us accept this kind of situation in any other venue of government?  Especially on FAC, we as adults are now in precisely the same position we were in during high school on student council.  We are to spend our personal capital in some kind of socialization exercise, or simply to give the Administration cover.

The faculty now seems content to accept whatever it is told on an act of pure blind faith.  I am willing to bet that almost none of you would proceed on blind faith in any other aspect of your lives.  What is so disappointing is that on one level this is not an issue about what political party we belong to, or what intellectual tribe informs our doings.  This is about pure and simple class loyalty—and the class in question is that of the professoriate.  The faculty has abdicated its guild loyalty.  Having gone quietly down this authoritarian path, the lessons of history would suggest that the faculty now follow the gag order with book burnings, the faculty manual being the first to be burned.  since it has by steps been rendered meaningless.

As a present member of FAC, I will not sign what I see to be a fascist loyalty oath and an attempt to cut off open access to information.  I would advise others not to sign this oath until they have thought it through and also sought counsel.  You must realize that this loyalty oath in fact becomes an addendum to your contract and that has far reaching ramifications.

I know that in a similar situation, the Trinity faculty that was on board when I arrived would have acted swiftly.   They would have voted to recall the Faculty Conference that initiated and pushed through this agenda.  They would not have allowed the left over committee without portfolio to be transformed into our faculty Senate, which has primarily come to be the organ of the President and not the Faculty.  That Trinity faculty would have reigned in the power grab of this committee.

I am going to finish by reiterating that everything I see, and that anyone who pays attention to public documents sees, indicates that we are standing on the edge of a financial abyss.  We got there by choices that we are now doubling down on.  The reduction in alumni giving I warned about a decade ago remains in place and if anything is getting worse.  Alumni alienation is increasing.  Alienation from our traditional recruiting base of full payers is increasing.  Then we admitted 40% of our class without Board scores, and in need of greater discounting, which creates ongoing structural, not transient, deficits that have been projected out at least three years.  But it is not clear how these deficits will ever be overcome when we continue to project out short classes five years into the future together with declining full payers. On the College’s website it now says 57% of early admissions were admitted without board scores, and presumably the same discounting.  What is happening is a calculus for disaster.  And the response of the Administration is to shut down access to information.  And the faculty simply surrenders.  But I will not.  I will not sign the loyalty oath; let the enemies of open access to information in our committee system do what they will.

Respectfully yours,

Gregory Bruce Smith