SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMITTEES AND RULES
Confirmation of Voting Rights for Fixed Term Faculty in Senate Elections
On January 26, 2016, the University Faculty Senate approved an advisory and consultative report recommending the inclusion of new language into HR23:
“Only tenured and tenure-line faculty are eligible to vote for members of all peer tenure and promotion committees”
In his April 4, 2016 response to the advisory consultative report, President Barron agreed to adopt the recommended change to HR23. He also expressed the opinion that the new language might be in conflict with the Senate Constitution:
“I am accepting both reports because we need consistent and parallel voting approaches that promote equity and fairness. However, implementation of the change to HR-23 will require the Senate to change its constitution.”
On September 6, 2016, CC&R met to consider the issue of the potential ambiguity in the construction of the HR 23 Advisory and Consultative Report, and its effects on the interpretation of the University Faculty Senate’s Constitution, Bylaws and Standing Rules. In considering the issue, CC&R reflected on pertinent articles and sections of the Senate Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules:
Article I § 1 vests the University Faculty Senate with legislative, advisory consultative, forensic, informational, and recognition functions to be exercised by the University Faculty Senate as a whole.
Article II § 2 of the University Faculty Senate Constitution provides that “The Senate shall be elected by the University faculty from among its members, except for ex officio, student, and appointed members as provided in Section 5. All members of the Senate shall have full voting rights.”
Article III § 1 of the University Faculty Senate Bylaws provides for the election of Senate members without regard to their rank or title.
Article III § 2, 4, and 5 of the University Faculty Senate Standing Rules limit appointment of faculty members thereof to tenured faculty members, and in each case the members thereof are nominated by CC&R and thereafter elected by the Senate.
Article II § 6(a)(3) of the Standing Rules provides that the “Committee on Committees and Rules shall have the authority to interpret the Senate Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules subject to review by the Senate”
Having considered the issue, CC&R determines as follows:
- We start with first principles. The Constitution of the University Faculty Senate, along with its Bylaws and Standing Rules, constitutes the supreme rules governing the operation of the Senate. It follows that all rules and policies of the University that may have application to the Senate’s organization and operation should be read consistently with the text and intent of the Constitution and the related basic documents of the Senate. Only when rules and policies cannot be interpreted consistently with the text and intent of the Constitution should CC&R decline to apply the rules or suggest changes to the Senate’s basic documents. In this case CC&R sees no inconsistency between the changes to HR 23 and the interpretation and operation of the Senate as currently set forth in its basic documents.
- HR 23 has as its objective the management of tenure and promotion for faculty who are tenure eligible. It is focused on those processes within departments that are organized to that effect. HR 23, in the first instance, has no direct application to the Senate—with respect to its organization and operation. HR 23 applies specifically to the processes of tenure as and to the extent it is relevant to those processes.
- The plain text of the changes to HR 23 proposed and approved by the Senate make clear that it is meant to apply solely to those committees established to review tenure track faculty members for 2-year, 4-year and tenure and promotion. The plain language of the changes indicates no intent to change the rules under which the Senate organizes itself or operates in accordance with its basic documents. As detailed in the report’s rationale, the purpose of the additional language was to provide uniform rules for voting among the Penn State campuses, and within academic units. The effect of the rule change was to ensure that HR 23 tenure and promotion committees considering individual applications for promotion and tenure be limited to tenured faculty.
- Indeed, had that been the intent or effect of the changes to HR 23, such changes would have been invalid and void. The Senate itself provides the procedures for amending its Constitution, Bylaws and Standing Rules. None of these procedures were invoked. And CC&R finds it implausible to infer such intent from either the text or the course of debate about the changes to HR 23 as approved by the Senate.
- As described above, the Senate’s governing documents make it clear that all senators enjoy equal authority to engage in the business of the Senate. The only exceptions to that basic principle of participation are set forth explicitly in the Senate governing documents. There is nothing in the Senate’s governing documents that would restrict the voting rights of fixed term Senators.
- The changes to HR 23 can be read consistently with these principles and can be made to conform to those practices. HR 23 affects the course of tenure determinations for individual applicants. It has no effect and does not extend to the operation of the Senate and its consideration of policy or other acts of shared governance that have no direct effect on specific applications for tenure or promotion.
- It follows that no changes to the Senate’s basic documents are necessary to accommodate the changes to HR 23 at issue. Nor has the HR23 had any effect on the operation or rules for the organization of the Senate.
- CC&R therefore concludes that HR 23 has no effect on its operations nor on the role and function of any faculty Senator, irrespective of his or her status or rank and no changes in the Constitution are warranted regarding this issue.
Voted on by the Committee on Committees and Rules
COMMITTEE ON COMMITTEES AND RULES
- Jonathan Abel
- Mohamad Ansari
- Larry Backer
- Dawn Blasko, Chair
- Mark Casteel
- Pamela Hufnagel
- William Kelly, Vice Chair
- Richard Robinett
- Keith Shapiro
- James Strauss
- Jane Sutton
- Ann Taylor
- Kent Vrana
- Matthew Woessner