SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMITTEES AND RULES
Revision to Bylaws, Article I – Officers, Section 1
Implementation: Upon Approval by the Senate
Article I, Section 1 of the Senate Constitution states that the University Senate serves as “…the sole legislative body representing the University faculty as a whole.” [Emphasis added].
Article II, Section 2, defines the voting authority of the Senate members as follows: “All members of the Senate shall have full voting rights.”
Article II, Section 5, Paragraphs ‘a’ and ‘b’ provides that unelected (ex-officio and appointed) administrators shall serve as members of the Senate, provided that their numbers do not exceed 10% of the total elected faculty senators.
To provide for the efficient operation of the Senate, the Senate Bylaws established Senate officers to organize and carry out the directives of the legislative body. Article I, Section 1 of the Senate bylaws defines the electorate responsible for designating the offices of chair-elect and the secretary as “The Senate.”
One unintended consequence of designating “The Senate” as a whole as the body responsible for electing Senate officers, is that it opens the possibility that unelected members can override the judgment of the elected members. In any election where the margin of victory is under 10%, it is possible that the person who receives the most votes might not enjoy the support of the elected Senate. Until recently, this possibility seemed only theoretical.
Following the publication of Senate electoral statistics in 2014, the Senate learned that unlike regular legislation, which tends to pass overwhelmingly, leadership elections are often decided by very small margins. For instance, the most recent election for University Senate Chair was decided by a single vote. This fact reveals the inherent tensions between Article I, Section 1, and Article II, Section 2 of the University Faculty Senate Constitution. At least insofar as the University Faculty Senate is meant to represent the views of its elected members, in its current configuration, the Bylaws make these constitutional provisions inconsistent.
In the judgment of CC&R, the problems created by defining the electorate as “The Senate” extend far beyond specific instances where unelected members may alter the outcome of elections. In strongly criticizing administrative policies, candidates risk alienating potential voters who might decide the outcome of the leadership elections. To facilitate an open discussion of the issues, it is important that elected Senators are free to candidly discuss policy questions without fear that it will have an impact on their electoral prospects. In discussing the issue, CC&R recognizes that unelected members of the body are an invaluable resource to the Senate. Their participation facilitates the communication that is at the heart of the Senate’s mission. However, voting in leadership elections may interfere with the free flow of information, and undermine the appointed members’ core function in the Senate.
There is strong precedent for having faculty and administrators sit together in decision-making bodies, while maintaining a degree of exclusivity in leadership elections. The Chair of the Senate sits with the Academic Leadership Council (ALC); the body of deans and chancellors that meet regularly to discuss university policy. When the ALC elects a chair, the Senate Chair is not invited to participate. While the chair is free to participate in meetings, and speak for the faculty, giving the Senate a say in the outcome of their elections would infringe on ALC’s autonomy as an administrative body.
Defining the electorate as “Elected senators” would apply equally to unelected administrators and unelected faculty members. In recommending revisions to the standing rules providing members of the Council of Past Chairs (CPC) with “membership” in the Senate, CC&R concluded that absent an electoral mandate, former chairs should not have a vote. Under the revised rules passed by the Senate (Article III, Section 11) on September 12, 2017, the CPC members enjoy floor privileges, and, by special request of CC&R, the right to serve on committees. However, the restriction on voting rights is a function of the standing rules, rather than the Bylaws. Defining the electorate as “Elected senators” would establish this electoral principle in the bylaws.
Historically, the purpose of a University Faculty Senate, is to give the faculty, an independent voice on matters pertaining to both education policy, and, in an advisory capacity, university operations as a whole. Defining the leadership electorate as “Elected senators” is the least restrictive means to protect the integrity of the electoral process, guarantee the free flow of information in open debates, and assure that Senate leaders enjoy the popular support of its elected members. The change has the effect of eliminating inconsistencies in the application of Article I, Section 1, Article II, Section 2, and Article II, Section 5 of the University Faculty Senate Constitution.
That Article I, Section 1 of the Bylaws be and is hereby amended as follows:
Please note that the following contains bold text for additions and strikeouts indicating deleted text. Deleted text is notated with [Delete] [End Delete]. Added text is notated with [Add] [End Add].
(a) [Delete] The Senate [End Delete] [Add] Elected senators [End Add] shall elect annually [Delete] from among its elected faculty members [End Delete] a Chair-Elect and a Secretary from among [Add] faculty [End Add] members who are serving as elected faculty senators in the current Senate year.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMITTEES AND RULES
- Jonathan Abel
- Michael Bérubé
- Victor Brunsden
- Mark Casteel
- Ann Clements
- Amy Dietz
- Beth King
- Richard Robinett
- James Strauss
- Jane Sutton
- Ann Taylor
- Kent Vrana
- Nicole Webster
- Matthew Woessner