Academic Senate Newsletter AY16-17 #9 (for April 18, 2017)

Blog Overview

It’s the sprint to the finish: two more Senate meetings, and the expected flush of business! In this blog:

  • Opportunities to provide feedback to inform campus reports requested by the Chancellor’s Office
  • A plug for Community Time
  • Notes about Revising Bylaws and our Rules (and Spirit) of Debate (Toulmin!)
  • A note about our situation vis-à-vis not receiving Senate Chair nominees by the bylaws-mandated deadline
  • Senate Chair Coffee Hour announcement
  • The Last Word: three related quotes from a science fiction writer (and professor of biochemistry), an astrophysicist, and a poet

Agenda Overview

In addition to the usual reports, expect a report on tenure-track faculty density and demographics. There are two policies up for votes, six more items in first reading, and more. Agenda and materials via this link.

Feedback on Issues

The CSU Chancellor’s Office (CO) has requested campus feedback on multiple system-wide policy proposals and task force reports this year. Each item below has been circulating amongst groups thought most relevant by Senate Exec and our admin. If you haven’t yet seen any of the items below and wish to weigh in, please do. Please note that response dates are determined by CO deadlines.

  • Intellectual Property Policy proposal (memo, draft); feedback by May 5 via email to me (Cindy Wyels)
  • General Education Policy (memo, policy, feedback form); feedback by end of finals week via email to Dan Wakelee
  • Ethnic Studies Task Force Report (memo and report); feedback by end of finals week via email to Scott Frisch

Senate Exec will be reviewing drafts of campus reports on these issues at our last meeting the week after finals.

How about that Community Time?

Come early for Community Time this meeting and next: we’re unlikely to finish early this time! (Pictures from undeclared community time following a recent efficient Senate meeting)

Julia and Mary chat; LaSonya in background
Antonio and Elizabeth chat
Antonio and Elizabeth chat while Dave finishes the first draft of meeting minutes
Impromptu Art/ Performing Arts meeting!

Revising Senate Bylaws

One of the items up for a first reading is a proposed revision of the Senate Bylaws. Allow me to highlight some areas of our bylaws that will (or may be) relevant during our meeting:

  • Amendments to the Bylaws require a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate (9.1).
  • As we move into the last two meetings of the Academic Year, it becomes more likely that a motion to move an item from a first-reading item to a second-reading item will be made. In Section (4.8a) “… In exceptional circumstances, a first reading item can be moved to a second reading item by the following procedure: a motion must be moved and seconded. This motion is debatable, not amendable and cannot be reconsidered. The motion requires a two-thirds majority to pass. If passed, the first reading item becomes a second reading item.” Implication? Items could be voted on the first time they’re on the agenda, without the usual three weeks for senators to inform themselves more fully and have questions or concerns addressed. Of course, such a motion allows for a vote on a matter deemed urgent by the Senate.
  • There are rules of debate (4.11) — see the next section.
  • The Senate Chair is explicitly instructed to remain impartial to the debate (4.11g), unless he/she relinquishes the chair. Implication? If you want my views on anything, ask out of Senate! Do expect me to share multiple perspectives on issues to the best of my ability, however.

Rules – and Spirit – of Debate

There are some technical rules laid out in our bylaws (4.11): Senators must be recognized before beginning to speak; senators may speak only twice to the same motion on the same day, and may speak no more than five minutes; debate of a motion must be relevant to the motion; ad hominen statements are forbidden, etc. At least equally important is the spirit of debate. Faculty argue, criticize, and question: it’s what we do! And it’s a valuable exercise — when our argumentation follows good practice of providing evidence for claims, and making explicit the reasoning from the evidence to the claim.

Sierpinski traingle
The Sierpinski triangle – analysis of which led to a rich mathematical discussion — the topic of the seminar

This week in our math grad seminar mathematics educator Naneh Apkarian touched on Toulmin’s Theory of Argumentation. I thought “Yay, interdisciplinarity! Here’s the language for what I’ve been trying to articulate all year.” For strong collective decision making, we need the claim, the grounds/ data/ evidence, the warrant (the bridge between the first two), and the intellectual fortitude to entertain the limitations of the grounds and the warrant as well as to entertain rebuttals.

No nominees for Senate Chair?

That’s right: none by the first deadline, none by the latest possible (mandated by Senate Bylaws) deadline… Hence the proposed revision of the bylaws on the agenda for this meeting: to create a process to address this eventuality, the need for which was not anticipated by the original co-authors nor co-revisers of the bylaws. More importantly: CI faculty say we value shared governance. And we are certainly short-handed at the tenured faculty level. And yet…

Senate Chair Beverage/ Office Hour

Tuesday, April 25, 2:30 – 3:30 pm, SUB patio. Every third Tuesday I spend at least an hour available for conversation about anything on your minds. Times and locations shift in an attempt to accommodate different schedules. All faculty welcome!

Newsletter #9: last word

Three quotes this time! From a science fiction writer (and professor of biochemistry), an astrophysicist, and a poet

“I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”
Isaac Asimov, from The Roving Mind

“The less evidence we have for what we believe is certain, the more violently we defend beliefs against those who don’t agree.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

“I like the scientific spirit — the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingess to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine — it always keeps the way beyond open — always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake — after a wrong guess.”
― Walt Whitman


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