Editor’s note: More cooperation needed from Faculty Senate

By Heather Scroering

Transparency and communication are two gripes the entire college has had since prioritization began a year and a half ago, perhaps longer. These two issues persist, as the Faculty Senate showed when it emailed a statement Nov. 27 to several college administrators addressing Columbia’s lack of transparency and communication during the process of making major decisions. The letter detailed specific events the Senate felt the college could have been more straightforward about. It also urged administrators to include those impacted by important changes in the conversation and to make a point of announcing decisions immediately.

I concur with the Senate’s statement and feel it was fair and necessary. However, I’ve had these exact same concerns with the Senate. I believe it has failed to be transparent and communicative in necessary situations, and, in light of its letter to the administration, urge the Senate to be more cooperative with and give equal attention to all constituencies of the Columbia community.

The Senate promises transparency at its meetings, and at its April 6 assembly, Senate President Pegeen Reichert Powell said, “I believe it’s the Senate’s responsibility to provide measured and transparent leadership.” But two of last semester’s Senate meetings, on March 16 and April 27, were closed to the public after routine business was conducted.

At the April 27 council, Powell said one reason for closing the meeting was that some did not want to have their comments printed in The Chronicle.

In the Senate’s letter to the administration, it said it recognized that some decisions don’t need to be discussed at large but demanded immediate communication after decisions are made. While I understand that some conversations are sensitive and need to be discussed in private, I’d like to ask for that same immediate communication from the Senate. The April 27 meeting was not made private because of its delicate subject matter but because a senator who sits on a committee that prides itself on its transparency felt uncomfortable expressing his or her honest opinion. Moreover, Powell was unavailable to provide a necessary update following the meeting, and many of the senators refused to discuss the matter, although Powell said at the meeting that “all senators are at liberty” to speak with others.

Several senior administrators have often made themselves accessible, even on their personal cell phones and sometimes at inconvenient hours. Powell, however, has been largely unavailable to The Chronicle, and it has been a consistent problem since the Senate’s inception.

This sort of snub coming from such an important body on campus is a shame, as it disregards all of those at Columbia who rely on the campus newspaper as a source of information.

In its mission statement, the Senate defines itself as the “principle body responsible for deliberations, formulations and recommendations concerning academic policy at the college.” If it has any sort of obligation to the Columbia community, the Faculty Senate will be more transparent and communicative with all parties on campus to ensure vital accuracy in its deliberations and decisions, as academic policy impacts all parts of the college.