Faculty Senate rejects proposed amendments to its constitution

Senators debate proposed amendments during Tuesday meeting

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The Faculty Senate considered three amendments to its constitution. 

Eleanor Barto | Cavalier Daily

The University Faculty Senate held a meeting Tuesday afternoon where they voted not to pass any of three proposed amendments to its constitution and bylaws. The Senate also voted to pass proposals for a Latinx Studies minor and a graduate program in the Media Studies department.

The 74 faculty senators present met in the Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room, and the agenda for the meeting consisted of four points — approving the prior minutes, a brief report presented by University President Teresa Sullivan, the deliberation of three motions from the Senate’s academic affairs committee and considering the proposed changes to the bylaws. 

The three amendments for consideration were the last and longest of the issues brought before the senators. Each of the three proposed amendments were considered, debated and voted on separately, with each amendment having an allotted limit of 30 minutes. Senators, after hearing the amendments, were invited on a volunteer basis to speak for no more than three minutes either in support of or against the proposed issue at hand. 

Amendments to the constitution and bylaws require votes in support from two-thirds of the Senate to pass. The last time the constitution and bylaws were amended was in 2014. 

The first amendment was an attempt to place committee assignments in line with senators’ stated preferences, as opposed to senators being assigned to committees by the Executive Council with no input. There were concerns voiced that Council-assigned positions for the senators were not always in line with the senator’s wants or abilities, with questions being raised as to whether the extent of the Council’s current control of assignments is appropriate or efficient. 

Other senators defended the extent of Council control, or offered acknowledgement that the current system was imperfect but not to the point meriting the amendment. After outspoken debate regarding committee assignments, the final vote was 35 for, 38 against, and 1 abstention. The amendment did not pass. 

The second amendment proposed that committee chairs be elected annually after new faculty senate members have been assigned to committees. Currently, the Executive Council appoints committee chairs. The role of the Executive Council was a concern raised, with senators voicing arguments in favor of and against modifying the responsibilities of the Council in regards to the election of committee chairs. There was a brief proposal to rephrase the language of the amendment to place the annual elections later in the administrative year to allow members of the committee to have a more informed perspective on who they may be electing, but this did not come to fruition.  

After the total allotted time for open-floor debate was reached, the final vote was 36 in support, 37 against and one abstention, and the amendment did not pass.

The third and final amendment proposed to mandate a specific time during the Senate meetings when senators could propose and discuss matters not included in the agenda. This amendment prompted a discussion about the inefficiencies and potential redundancies of the proposed meeting formats. The issue of agendas becoming over-crowded was brought up, to the effect and concern that there was no time during the meetings to bring individual concerns to the floor or discuss ongoing events in an open-floor discussion format. 

While some senators understood the amendment was intended to make meetings more open and efficient, some senators hesitated in codifying it and instead discussed changing the meeting format to include time for individual concerns. The amendment did not pass as the final vote was 42 in support, 32 against and zero abstentions. 

University President Teresa Sullivan also spoke to the senate at the meeting on the tax plan Republicans in Congress are proposing and its potential ramifications for higher education. Sullivan estimated the bill could make taxes four to five times more expensive than they are currently for these students and said she has shared her concerns with elected officials.

Sullivan also touched on other topics, including the potential construction of a softball stadium at Lambeth Field and the Bicentennial Professors Fund, which will allow for 70 endowed professorships in the next few years. 

Sullivan also told the senate there was a record number of applications received in 2017 for early action acceptance to the University. According to Sullivan, this year 21,400 students applied with early action, marking a five percent increase from last year. Sullivan said this may not lead to increased overall application totals, but rather may merely indicated more students shifting to applying early action overall. 

Once Sullivan’s remarks concluded, other issues were brought to the floor for the senate’s consideration. Included in these were proposals for a one-year Master’s of Science in Business Analytics degree to be offered in northern Virginia through the Commerce School and the Darden School of Business and a graduate degree to be offered in the Media Studies department. The senate also confirmed the redesigned Latinx Studies minor in the the American Studies program. All of these proposals were passed by the Senators with no debate and no dissenting votes.

The meeting was officially adjourned after two and a half hours of discussion and debate. 

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