Debate on faculty decision-making process to continue

Media Credit: Charlie Lee | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Provost Steven Lerman spoke at the Facutly Assembly meeting Tuesday, where a resolution to allow non-tenured faculty to join the Faculty Senate did not pass.

After years of planning, debates in the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees, and a faculty-wide vote, the conversation about who can be involved in faculty decision-making continues.

A faculty leader said faculty will continue to debate on who can participate in the Faculty Senate, after a resolution to extend offers of membership to non-tenured faculty failed to pass Tuesday afternoon. This conversation, which will take place among tenured and tenure-track faculty, could possibly open up spots in the senate to non-tenure faculty from certain schools and follows a contentious faculty-wide debate on the merits of opening up senate spots to all kinds of faculty.

Faculty members voted on Tuesday to not allow non-tenured professors to participate in the Faculty Senate, a move that would have extended decision-making power to that group for the first time. Since the resolution did not pass, the Faculty Senate will continue to operate with only tenured faculty members, and the senate will discuss next steps at a meeting this Friday.

Charles Garris, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee, said he expects governance to continue as it has without much pushback from specialized faculty. He said extending senate participation rights seemed like a “political thing.”

“People have made it a voting rights issue. Everybody is talking about equal voting rights, but we already have that in the faculty assembly,” Garris said. “A lot of faculty think the University should be doing something and the administration thinks it should be doing something else. We believe non-tenured faculty are not suited for that kind of participation.”

Garris said on Friday, senate members will discuss possibly passing a resolution to extend participation to non-tenured regular faculty in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the School of Nursing, because those schools rely heavily on non-tenured faculty.

The amendment presented at Tuesday’s meeting would have allowed non-tenured, full-time faculty members who ranked as associate professors or higher to serve in the Faculty Senate. The resolution failed, even though a majority of faculty voted in favor, because it fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

During past meetings, Faculty Senate members raised concerns that, if specialized and contract faculty were included in the senate, they would not be able to share their feelings without the security of tenure.

Garris proposed an amendment during the Faculty Assembly meeting Tuesday that would also not allow specialized faculty to serve in the senate, which did not pass.

Tuesday’s resolution did not go down without a fight, as faculty members shared concerns on extending senate participation, while others advocated for the right.

Participation was just one of five goals laid out by Nelson Carbonell, the chair of the Board of Trustees, in a study of GW’s faculty governance system.

“Shared governance is a process that we cherish,” Carbonell said during Tuesday’s assembly.

He started his study in town-hall meetings with faculty two years ago, in which members of the board came up with the idea to extend governance to non-tenured faculty. Since then, faculty members and the board have been back and forth on governance proposals.

Theodore Barnhill, a professor of finance, said extending participation to non-tenured faculty would not solve decision-making problems in the University, as it is still leaving out other important University members like students, staff and alumni.

“All these people have things we can learn from and incorporate into what the senate is doing. The proper place for input is through the committee structure,” Barnhill said.

Faculty can participate in governance through joint standing committees of the senate and on dean search committees.

Contract and specialized faculty at the meeting spoke for themselves and on behalf of faculty in their schools about how changes in governance rights would affect them and their schools.

Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health policy and management, encouraged faculty to vote to include specialized faculty in the senate.

She said she has worked at GW as a research faculty member, a non-tenured faculty member and now as a tenure-accruing member, which has given her perspective on what every level of faculty member does and their desires for governance.

“You present the specialized faculty as people not like us,” Rosenbaum said. “It would simply make it possible for those research faculty who want to be involved to be involved.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.