Academic Senate Newsletter AY16-17 #5 (for Dec. 6, 2016)

Along with the usual Agenda Overview, a Senate Chair Coffee/ Office Hour announcement and the Last Word, this newsletter contains sections titled Freedom of Speech and Civil Discourse and Exercising Our Rights.

Agenda Overview

Four things to preview prior to our meeting (find all here):

  1. Our Academic Master Plan: no changes since this was approved by Senate last year. A robust semester of careful consideration and planning is planned for S’17! (Yes, we’re planning to plan.)
  2. A proposed Policy on Course Numbering — short and sweet! — up for second reading this time
  3. A proposed Tenure Density Resolution — it asks that at least half of any 2025 Graduation Initiative funds coming to campus be used to hire tenure-track faculty. — up for second reading this time
  4. A proposed Internship Policy: Old-timers will remember an earlier iteration: this one aligns responsibilities appropriately (in the view of SAPP and Senate Exec).

We’ll also hear an extended announcement on several topics from RTP practices to SRTs and beyond from the Faculty Affairs Committee. And the always popular reports! All faculty are encourage to browse the minutes to keep up-to-date on what’s being reported in Senate.

Community Time at 2 pm — we know you have lots to talk about! Take a break with your colleagues.

Freedom of Speech and Civil Discourse

Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution titled “Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Civil Discourse within our Diverse Campus Community” at our last meeting. CI faculty clearly endorse the philosophy that “learning is best facilitated through the creating of an environment in which faculty, students, and guests engage in informed discourse and express a diversity of opinions freely and in a civil manner while respecting all individuals, particularly their sense of safety…”

In this vein, I note one local and one national item:

Local: Chris Fowler, CSU Legal Counsel, will offer an informative, interactive presentation on Free Speech & Expression on Campus, Wednesday, December 7, 2016 from 1:00-3:00pm in Broome Library 2325.  No RSVP is necessary. All faculty are highly encouraged to attend. A repeat workshop will be offered in the spring for those unable to attend this coming Wednesday.

National: The newly created Professor Watchlist seeks “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” (Professor Watchlist, About Us) No question: our campus values explicitly reject discrimination against students, indeed, against anyone. Yet establishment of websites encouraging people to anonymously make allegations that may be unfounded directly counters our stated values of civil and informed discourse respecting the rights and safety of all. (paraphrase of Senate resolution) Of course, attempts to curtail particular kinds of speech have a long history in the U.S. A 1985 AAUP statement against such activity is still pertinent: “External monitoring of in-class statements not only presents the prospect that the words uttered will be distorted or taken out of context; it is also likely to have a chilling effect and result in self-censorship. … The monitoring of classrooms for an outside organization which arrogates to itself the prerogative of determining accuracy from what is reported to it … can only inhibit the process through which higher learning occurs and knowledge is advanced.” (Quote taken from an Inside Higher Ed article that also summarizes some contested information found on the list.)

Exercising our Rights

Academic Senate put out a call for faculty volunteers for several roles, including four tenured faculty to serve on the Administrator Review Committee. The next day I was at a meeting of the CSU Senate Chairs: one discussion topic was processes for faculty to influence administrative practices short of the “nuclear option” recently deployed on one campus: a divisive, behind-the-scenes vote of ‘no confidence’ in a dean that several characterized as “bullying” and that led to a resignation as well as concerns that replacement would be challenging given the back story. As a few other chairs spoke about their campus processes and whether faculty input was meaningful in these processes, I reflected on CI’s history of positive admin-faculty collaboration. WASC noted this and encouraged us to work towards making future collaboration less dependent on personal philosophy and more on official campus policy. We’ve made progress: we’ve enshrined faculty participation on administrator search committees (SP14-15) and in administrator reviews (SP11-04).

I’ve blogged previously about the overabundance of service roles, particularly for tenured faculty. Yet I also believe that our faculty still have a strong desire for a significant role in shared governance, for being in the room when weighty decisions are considered, and for providing input and perspectives at all levels and across divisions (proposed senate values). How about it, tenured colleagues? Can we fulfill this particular role, and in so doing maintain our right to do so? Non-tenured colleagues, can you offer support to your tenured colleagues and encourage some to volunteer?

Next Senate Chair Coffee/ Office Hour

Fifth iteration: Tuesday, Dec. 13, 1 – 2 pm, Library coffee shop. Outdoors if weather good; inside if not! Join me for coffee (or EABs) every third Tuesday as your time permits. Shifting times and locations are posted in each newsletter. Ideally: you talk and I listen.

Newsletter #5: last word

“Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.”

Liu Xiaobo

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