There was a small crowd at the Baker University Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, but those in attendance had to make two big decisions. How can the senate body be expanded, and also amend its constitution, accordingly?
Several department consolidations have left the senate with only seven department representatives.
Professor of Chemistry Gary Giachino said that low representation in the senate has caused confusion and discontent among members of the faculty.
“I think part of the problem with bad attendance today is I don’t even know what the senate’s composition is now,” Giachino said. “I don’t even know. If you’re going to have a senate with, like, seven departments and a few committee members, that disenfranchises so many people.”
Several ideas on how to create better representation were discussed. Professor of Biology Darcy Russell initially proposed the idea of instating a full faculty senate.
She said this change would also give new faculty members a voice, as only faculty who have been at Baker over three years are allowed to serve on senate.
“Fresh ideas are good things, and why are we limiting people for three years?” Russell said. “I just don’t like it.”
While many faculty in attendance voiced approval of this idea, Gene Johnson, associate professor of mathematics, said such a drastic change needs to be carefully considered.
“I think we need to look at the whole constitution and see what impact that has on lots of different places,” Johnson said. “I think it’s more than just that one page of the description of composition.”
Rob Flaherty, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, came up with a compromise: give each department two representatives, which would increase department representation to 14 members and create a 29-member senate.
“This is a less radical change than a move to a full faculty senate, but it still gets us, I think, pretty good representation,” Professor of Psychology Marc Carter said.
If passed, this motion will allow each department to elect two representatives from different disciplines and the learning resources department will elect a second representative.
Departments will also be permitted to elect a representative who has not been at Baker over three years if there is not an eligible faculty member.
Since the motion has to lie over 14 days, the senators will hold a special meeting Sept. 20 to vote.
If the motion passes it must then be approved by the University Academic Co uncil. Once approved by that board, it will go on to the Baker University Board of Trustees for final approval.
Faculty senate President Kelly Flaherty said the soonest these changes could take effect as early as November if the BOT passes the motion.
Judy Smrha, assistant dean for student engagement and success, said that the senate should continue exploring other alternatives, but for the time being, the senate needs a fast and fair solution.
“This is not the end of the discussion, but allows us to move forward, because the senate will receive some substantive business around two or three months from now,” Smrha said. “I’m concerned that if we don’t have this resolved by the time we start making substantive decisions that whatever decisions we make on these substantive issues will be considered less credible.”