A-Senate membership denied for fixed-term faculty

After more than a year of discussion and multiple amendments, a proposal granting fixed-term faculty members access to the Academic Senate was shot down after a second round of voting on Tuesday.

The measure failed to gather the required two-thirds super majority, garnering only 61 percent in favor of the measure and 39 percent against – the proposal passed the first round of voting last month with 67 percent in favor.

Union of Teaching Faculty President and philosophy instructor Mark Shelton – who helped co-author and spearhead the proposal – said he was disheartened  the measure didn’t pass.

Moreover, Shelton expressed confusion over the down vote, explaining that the majority of senators he spoke with were in favor of the measure.

“Those who were voting against the measure didn’t ever say why it was they were voting against it,” he said. “They were given an opportunity (during the first vote), and before this vote to say something, and they didn’t. I suspect it’s something deeper (than what was in the proposal). They aren’t saying what needs to be said.”

Among the many issues senators conveyed about the membership change, there was a general fear that fixed-term instructors might not commit to the responsibility of membership, which was coupled by concern over the instructors’ longevity of employment with the university.

“There are a certain number of people who seem to think you need to be a ‘tenure committed’ instructor to be included in the shaping of the institution,” Shelton said. “The problem with that reasoning is this: Junior instructors, those who would be eligible to be tenured professors, come and go just as frequently. Yet that kind of thinking doesn’t stand up to the same kind of scrutiny.

“That was something this proposal was trying to correct.”

Another area of alarm focused on the priorities of fixed-term faculty members and how giving them the ability to shape policy might in turn negatively affect the future of the university – this particular point was brought up by multiple A-Senators during the discussion sessions.

“The fear is that the nature of the university is changing,” said Jim Scott, a business instructor and secretary of A-Senate. “Regular faculty don’t want to see an increase in fixed-term faculty because they believe they are a danger to them. They believe they could be terminated in favor of fixed-term instructors, but it’s very difficult to eliminate a tenured faculty member. I can’t see how they could perceive that as a detriment.”

A-Senate Chairperson Andrew Spencer agreed with Scott, saying he was “surprised and disappointed” that the measure didn’t pass.

“The next step is to reach out to the faculty who voted it down and to figure out why,” Spencer said.

Moving forward, Shelton and Scott will now have to start the process of retooling the proposal from square one, yet they might not have another chance to bring it to the A-Senate floor until 2015.

Even so, Scott was optimistic that with appropriate changes, the next round might produce more favorable results.

“I’d like to think it was about how we were doing it, as opposed to whether or not we should (allow fixed-term faculty),” he said. “I’d like to think that the problem was with the approach and not the measure itself.”

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