Op-ed: Non-tenured faculty should not be voting members of Faculty Senate

Ted Barnhill, a professor of finance, is a member of the Faculty Senate.

On Nov. 10, the Faculty Assembly should reject the Board of Trustees’ resolution to include non-tenured faculty as voting members of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Assembly should also reject the Faculty Senate’s proposed amendment which narrows the types of non-tenured faculty who can serve as senators.

Putting non-tenured faculty into a position where they may fear retaliation if they speak or vote against questionable proposals is unfair to them, as well as the entire University community. Instead, we need to improve shared governance through the articulation and consideration of all University stakeholders’ views in a less politically charged environment.

The University would be better served by focusing on the recruitment of more non-tenured faculty, students, staff and alumni to be voting members of Faculty Senate committees, which develop proposals that University officials and the Faculty Senate consider for adoption.

University officials have demonstrated the capacity to spend large amounts of money on the central administration, and to push through very questionable, expensive and risky initiatives that strain University finances. Controversial, and perhaps unilateral, changes to the Faculty Code are also under discussion.

All University stakeholders have a vested interest in effective shared governance which requires open, thoughtful, frank and sometimes critical debate and votes. Adoption of the Board’s resolution to include non-tenured faculty as voting members of the Faculty Senate would significantly weaken shared governance.

The Board of Trustees has stated that the reason for this resolution is the need for inclusiveness in Faculty Senate membership. A potential additional reason could be to reduce the chances that non-tenure track faculty might be allowed to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

If non-tenure track faculties are classified as managerial employees, who help direct University activities through voting membership in the Faculty Senate, then the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University might block them from collective bargaining. Contract faculty of all types should consider very carefully whether it is in their best interest to support the Board’s resolution.

A problem in need of resolution is membership on the Faculty Senate from schools that have few tenured faculty members. An accommodation in which some number of non-tenured faculties from such schools can serve as voting members of the Faculty Senate could be more appropriate, provided that the non-tenured faculty fully understand the implications of serving and choose to do so.

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