Faculty Senate flexes muscle

By Lisa Schulz

Just seven weeks before President Warrick L. Carter will make his prioritization decisions, along with the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate discussed accelerating the search for a new president and an appropriate response to Carter’s public rebuke of a student, which was described as “wrong” by the Senate president.

Newly established channels of direct communication between the Senate and the Board Chair Allen Turner were announced at the April 6 meeting in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave. The Senate also agreed to change language to assert its independence on a motion concerning the provost and presidential searches and deplored the publicity given to Carter’s remarks at the State of the College addresses. It discussed making the Faculty Handbook more difficult to amend.

During his State of the College Address to students on March 21, Carter said “Oh, shut up,” to a student in the audience who interrupted his exchange with another student, as previously reported by The Chronicle April 2. As of press time, the video has received 16,097 views on YouTube.

“I’d like to suggest that we see the incident that was captured on video as symptomatic of a failure of leadership,” said Pegeen Reichert-Powell, Senate president and associate professor in the English Department.

“His behavior during his conversation with a student is wrong. The negative media attention is damaging both to morale among internal constituents and to a reputation among external constituents. But that incident took place in a wider context: a pattern of failed leadership.”

Carter’s prioritization recommendations, which culminate a process he initiated, will be made May 22. His listening forum will be held May 25 with a Senate meeting scheduled to follow.

Anne Foley, vice president of Planning and Compliance, presented a final financial model to the Senate with a $16 million gap between anticipated revenue and general and executive operating expenses in 2013.

Reichert-Powell said the model is “deeply flawed” compared to the Academic and Support and Operations teams’ recommendations, which didn’t include specific financial goals. She said the teams’ recommendations were more “far-reaching and substantial,” adding that Carter comparing the financial model and the recommendations would be “disconcerting.”

“The president, in the next few weeks, is going to be making some the most important decisions that any college president here has made in the last 25 to 30 years,” said Eric May, associate professor in the Fiction Writing Department. “Some of these are going to be decisions about people’s employment. I have to say again, the only way we can get to $16 million in one fiscal year is by terminating people. There is no other way to get there.”

Members of the Senate agreed amongst themselves that the search for Columbia’s next president should begin no later than fall 2012.

The Senate originally discussed the delay of the search for a new provost until a new president was established. The search for a president could last two years, said Barbara Calabrese, Radio Department chair.

Language in the motion concerning the provost search was changed from “The Faculty Senate supports the president’s reasoning” to “The Faculty Senate believes that it is in the college’s best interest to postpone the search for a new provost until the search for the next president is completed.” One senator out of 38 voted against the language amendment.

Language revisions were also made to the disclaimer in the Faculty Handbook that previously allowed anyone to change its provisions at any time. The handbook mandates faculty courseloads, pay and tenure status. The Senate voted to contact the administration to consider the amendment, which would give the handbook the force of a contract.

The handbook is necessary for a clear understanding of the school’s policies, said Ron Falzone, associate professor in the Film & Video Department. The individual annual letters of engagement do not perform that function, he said.

“In short, really, it was a two-way street,” Falzone said. “The current handbook is undoubtedly a one-way street. Our question was: how do we adjust this into a two-way street?”

The Senate will discuss the handbook further at its April 27 meeting and will also decide its course of action in regard to Carter’s “shut up” comment.

After a meeting with Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, the Senate’s Faculty Affairs committee concluded that incremental faculty raises may not be available in the immediate future.

Reichert-Powell encouraged similar conversations at future meetings and promised transparency.

“I believe it’s the Senate’s responsibility to move this college forward,” she said. “I believe it’s the Senate’s responsibility to provide measured and transparent leadership.”

In the initial article published on April 9, The Chronicle incorrectly stated that the Senate “decided the search for a new president should begin ‘as soon as possible’ in fall 2012. In fact, no decision was made, only opinions were expressed.

Also, members of the Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee met with Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Louise Love and discuss faculty raises. After the meeting, members of the committee had the impression that incremental faculty raises may not be available in the immediate future. The Chronicle initially reported that no raises would be available in the future.

The Chronicle regrets and apologize for these errors.