Faculty Senate holds second private meeting

By Heather Scroering

The Faculty Senate closed its doors to visitors for the second time in six weeks on April 27 to discuss its “concerns” about President Warrick L. Carter’s leadership. Prior to the meeting, sources said there would be a possible vote of no confidence in Carter., but the vote reportedly was not held.

Chronicle reporters and other observers were asked to the leave the forum after committee reports and routine business were discussed.

Following the meeting, Pegeen Reichert Powell, Faculty Senate president and assistant professor in the English Department, sent an email update to Columbia faculty on behalf of the Faculty Senate stating the Senate has decided to hold a “special session” May 14, at which Carter will be asked to reply to “specific concerns.”

During the open meeting, Powell said all results from the committee’s discussion will be made part of the public record and all senators are at liberty to speak with others.

“We aren’t doing anything in secret,” Powell said. “We are trying to protect the deliberation process for the senators.”

But although several senators were contacted after the meeting and Powell’s email, none would divulge the “specific concerns” to be discussed with Carter.

Robin Whatley, assistant professor in the Science and Mathematics Department, observed the Faculty Senate meeting and said she was “disappointed” that the session was closed off to visitors and that “secrecy is not compatible with democracy.”

Powell said some senators requested that the executive committee close the forum for discussion related to Carter.

“The one reason that stands out to me as we made our decisions [to close the meeting] was if there’s one non-tenured person in the room who feels vulnerable to have their statement printed in The Chronicle, we need to close the room so that voices can be heard,” Powell said.

Dominic Pacyga, professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department and a Faculty Senate member, said he and several other members wanted the discussion to remain open, but the decision was made to close the meeting because of the issues with the non-tenured faculty.

Senator Pangratios Papacosta, professor in the Science and Mathematics Department, said all discussion in the closed forum was driven by what is best for the college, but he hopes the number of closed sessions

will decrease.

“My hope that in the future anyone who [wants to be a senator] should have the freedom and the courage to speak out freely at any meeting,”he told his fellow senators during the open part of the meeting.

Prior to the closure, the Senate approved three curricular proposals for new degrees: Bachelors of Fine Arts in traditional animation and computer animation in the Film & Video Department and a Bachelor’s of Music for music performance in the Music Department.

Marcos Balter, director of composition studies in the Music Department, delivered the report of the Faculty Affairs committee updating the Senate on its work on the faculty handbook, which he said is currently being reconciled with the Tenure Document that includes information such as how tenure works, what is required of tenured faculty and due process for individuals who are accused of misconduct.

“The next step should be to not only assure [the handbook’s] corroboration in the Tenure Document’s language but also to decide what exclusively belongs in each of these two documents,” Balter said.

He informed the group that changes to the Tenure Document “have been posted on IRIS, and discussions will also take place in open forum,” adding that “since the Tenure Document appears to hold more legal-binding power than the faculty handbook, untenured full-time professors and lecturers included, it is crucial that any clarifications and additions in the Faculty Handbook should be decoded and transferred to it as well.”

Balter also noted First-Year Seminar lecturer Fereshteh Toosi was collecting survey data “aimed at better understanding the expectations and assumptions regarding lecturers at Columbia College.”

“The findings will undoubtedly influence the drafting of both handbook and tenure documents, providing much-needed clarification in regards to service expectation, hiring policies, compensation and ranking,” Balter said.

Barbara Iverson, associate professor in the Journalism Department, reported that the Financial Affairs committee gained access to salary information including minimum levels of salary compensation after a meeting last December with John Wilkins, former associate vice president of Budget Affairs.

Balter said the data provided “concrete information in which to base compensation-related issues, especially those related to raises and rank promotion. Such conversation is directly connected to teaching and service load assessment and codification, which should occupy much of this committee’s time next semester.”

Powell also noted that Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said starting next year the Distinguished Faculty Fellows, a program that honors faculty members for artistic, scholarly and teaching accomplishments, will have its term reduced from two years to one.

Current fellows will be able to finish their two-year terms, and nominations for the next group of fellows will be accepted next year.