Academic Senate against proposed amendments

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

The Academic Senate voiced an overwhelming “no” against proposed amendments to its own constitution April 24.

The move comes less than a week before an all-faculty vote April 30 to decide if the changes, independently brought forward by some faculty members, will be adopted.

The three amendments would change the how the body is elected, alter the senate leadership’s structure, and give seats only to faculty members.

The roll call vote was taken after some senators expressed concern that some in the university community were confused over the senate’s position on the proposed changes.

Supporters of the amendments say the changes are meant to transform the Academic Senate into a faculty senate, providing faculty members with a forum and a unified voice.

“This is a first step towards being less of a rubber stamp and more of an organization that is driven by faculty issues,” said Laura Wight, a senator and library science professor. Wight said she is still uncertain about how she’ll vote on the amendments, but thinks the Academic Senate could be better-run.

She said a primary concern of supporters is the desire to speak freely without administrators or department heads sitting at the table as voting members.

“The problem becomes, if that was your dean who was the administrator, how comfortable would you feel voicing your opinion in front of that group,” she said.

Joel Hefling, president of the senate and a communications studies and theatre professor, said some professors won’t stop seeing boogeymen that don’t exist.

“If they really believe that someone is watching their every move, then someone is going to keep watching their every move,” he said. “Paranoia knows no bounds.”

Mike Reger, executive vice president, said it doesn’t make sense to him that professors would fear for their jobs, especially with the safeguards of the university system.

“I find it hard to believe that someone would be afraid to lose their job because of something that they said in Academic Senate,” he said.

Students don’t want to lose their spots on the Academic Senate, said Students’ Association President Alex Brown, who serves as an academic senator. But students also have no problem with faculty who want a louder voice on campus.

“We fully recognize the importance that faculty are being heard and their concerns are being listened to,” he said. “Personally, I just don’t feel that this is the way to go about it.”

Brown, along with other senators, has voiced support for a faculty senate that would co-exist with the Academic Senate already in place. But Wight doubts that would work.

“The problem then becomes, is it officially recognized by the university? What is its role?” she said.

An explanation of the amendments was e-mailed to some faculty before the senate saw the amendments. The explanation was endorsed by the SDSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The group’s primary goals include promoting academic freedom and giving faculty more voice in university decision.

“They’re not talking about us taking over the university, but they see that we should have a major role in determining the standards of this university and deciding who can graduate from the university,” said political science professor Del Lonowski, member of the group and signer of the petition that brought the changes forward.

Hefling and the four other members of the Academic Senate Executive Committee fired back a point-by-point dismissal of the amendment explanation.

Wight said she didn’t like that the executive committee’s e-mail was sent to all faculty members, and she didn’t like its tone.

“My perspective is that they’re taking this personally, and that’s not how it’s intended at all,” she said. “The main drive behind it is to take that first step towards a faculty senate. It’s not personal, it’s not intended to attack anyone specifically,” she said.

Hefling said the explanation had inaccuracies, attacked the executive committee and was often just plain wrong.

“We do have a problem with them going about making those accusations, inaccurately, indirectly and in such a way that we didn’t know what was going on,” he said.

Wight said that the amendments were a group effort and not the work of any one person.

“There’s not one author for the amendments. A lot of people had input into the wording,” she said. “It’s hard for me, because I don’t always agree with (fellow senator and political science professor) Gary Aguiar. But people have been trying to pin him as author of the amendment, and that’s just not the case.”

Hefling said if some faculty members want a forum that won’t expose them to criticism of spoken opinions, the proposed amendments aren’t the way forward.

“It’s unfortunate that those who would want a different venue would think that this will give them that, and that’s not the case,” he said.

An informational meeting about the amendments was held April 25. The all-faculty vote is set for April 30 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Volstorff Ballroom West in The Union.

#1.883386:1276033242.jpg:Brown,Alex.jpg:Alex Brown, Students’ Association President: