Faculty Senate members say they are concerned that long-awaited changes to faculty’s guiding bylaws could be rushed through approval this spring.
The proposal – which was sent to faculty, administrators and Board of Trustees members last week – suggests changes that would allow more full-time faculty members to serve on the senate, allow trustees to be voting members of dean search committees, and set a goal or requirement for the percentage of tenure-track full-time faculty compared to contract full-time faculty.
The changes would end a more than year-long debate about shared governance at GW and concerns about whether all faculty feel like they’re involved in the process.
The working groups that convened to suggest changes to the faculty code, faculty organization plan and three Faculty Senate standing committees shared 31 pages of proposed changes this week.
Charles Garris, the chair of the senate’s executive committee, said the Board of Trustees hopes to approve the documents at either its May meeting or June retreat.
But faculty said they were concerned it would be too little time for them to debate the changes, especially since members of the board will attend the next senate meeting, which is when faculty will be able to debate the proposals that involve how they work with the board.
Melani McAlister, a professor of American studies and senate member, said the Faculty Senate needed time to discuss the changes without trustees in the room.
“I don’t feel like there’s enough time for discussion if we just do the April 10th discussion,” she said. “These are all things that merit more extensive discussion by the Faculty Senate so we can be able to be good advocates for the University.”
Over the next month, faculty will be able to respond to the proposals in an online forum – which has not yet been released – and attend town hall sessions to share their feedback.
Faculty Senate members were also concerned that the quick turnaround would leave them without enough time for the changes to go through the typical process for senate resolutions.
For these types of policy changes, the senate typically votes on a resolution, which is then sent to the administration and Board of Trustees, said Marie Price, a geography professor and senator.
“The timeframe that’s being proposed would really bypass that Faculty Senate writing the resolution and then moving it to the board, which is a very dangerous precedent,” she said. “Unless we can have resolutions ready for April, maybe on the outer side of May, this will not work.”
Garris said the timeframe would be “extraordinarily difficult.”
Changes to the faculty organization plan, which outlines who is eligible for participation in shared governance and how faculty are appointed to the Faculty Senate, could also take more time, since they must be approved by the Faculty Assembly.
The University typically holds a faculty assembly – a meeting of all GW’s faculty – at the beginning of each academic year, but could call for another to approve the changes to the plan before the trustees vote.
The Faculty Senate has pushed back against the board’s changes to the code. When Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell first introduced the idea last fall, faculty pressed for a greater say in the process, and later tried to extend the timeline for reviewing proposed changes.
Paul Swiercz, a management professor and executive committee member, said the timetable also should allow the senate to review any changes made by the Board of Trustees, rather than for trustees to make changes and then immediately approve the code.
“My definition of collaboration doesn’t think that would be true collaboration,” he said. “True collaboration would be bringing their final version back to Faculty Senate to discuss and hopefully by consensus, we agree on a final version of the faculty code.”