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Bylaw changes concern faculty

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Kat Simonelli
News Editor
Kellie Galentine
LV Life Editor

Several members of the faculty are currently working on a proposal to change the wording of a clause in the board of trustees’ bylaws.

The bylaws had created a stir among faculty earlier this semester after a 2013 update of the document was released to some faculty members.

“We are all required to have bylaws, which the board of trustees has to have,” President Devorah Lieberman said. “The board is responsible for oversight of the University and those bylaws help the Board guide the institution.”

The bylaws serve as guidelines, and they outline procedures for the Board to make sure that they are consistent in their actions while directing the University.

Among other things, the bylaws currently contain a presidential veto policy, which states that the president has the unilateral authority to veto any faculty decision. After such a veto, the faculty would, under current bylaws, have only one week to meet and achieve a two-thirds vote to overturn any decisions that were made.

The clause reads: “In matters of Academic Affairs the President shall… have the power to veto the action of the faculty, provided, however, that he/she shall, within one week of his/her action, file the veto and his/her reasons therefore in writing with the Secretary of the Faculty and Secretary of the Board.”

Some faculty members voiced their concern with this wording and responded by rewriting their own versions.

“The way this is written, it’s just too confrontational it almost has sort of a dictatorial ring to it,” Hector Delgado, professor of sociology said.

Delgado later proposed the wording for the clause be changed so the president’s ability to veto any faculty decisions is limited to only exceptional cases, and the faculty must be consulted prior to that decision.

“Naturally we who are faculty are concerned about this issue, (and we) wonder besides the letter of the bylaws, what is the spirit of the intended change?” said Matt Witt, president of the La Verne chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The Board of Trustees, however, has been cooperative about hearing faculty concerns about the bylaws, Faculty Senate President Erin Gratz said.

“Sometimes when you’re doing something, its good to hear other viewpoints,” said Wendy Lau, board of trustees member. “It doesn’t mean we would necessarily change our minds but I think just being open to hearing the different perspectives and viewpoints is important because then it helps you to make a better decision for everybody.”

Witt said that having a set of bylaws kept in isolation calls into question ULV’s dedication to faculty governance.

“The concern here in sort of broad terms is that what that particular decision indicates is a fairly drastic usurpation of authority that essentially holds in contempt the doctrines of shared governance (and) that faculty are a key factor in determining policies for the good of an institution,” Witt said.

The tradition of faculty governance in a university is to make sure that the faculty, administration and board of trustees are communicating and making the best decisions for the university and its students.

“If there isn’t shared governance, the focus on the students can get lost either because people are irate that they don’t have a voice or  a perspective is being lost in the mix,” Gratz said.

Faculty concerns about executive decisions also arose after a physician’s assistant program was outlined in the 2020 vision for the University.

“Programming of curricular initiatives is traditionally the province of faculty,” Witt said. “Now that is not to say that the administration does not have a relevant hand in all of this, but for an academic program to be handed down and inserted into a college with virtually no discussion with the members of the faculty of that college, just sort of handed down, is not right.”

The physician’s assistant program was slipped into the plans without faculty knowledge, and faculty first learned of it through a job advertisement.

“To have an entirely new program without having any faculty buy in or knowledge is not transparent,” Gratz said. “How do faculty support a program if we don’t know it exists or will exist or should exist.”

Proper faculty governance would have administration consulting with faculty before planning new academic programs.

“As faculty understand, there are times when the executive of an institution has to have the latitude to make the decisions without consensus of a faculty, there are other times when that person is obliged, for the good of the institution and at the service to the students, to confer with the people who actually work with the students – and those are the faculty,” Witt said.

Kat Simonelli can be reached at kathryn.simonelli@laverne.edu.

Kellie Galentine can be reached at kellie.galentine@laverne.edu.

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