Thursday, November 3, 2011

Drama in the Senate Meeting!

Wow! A faculty Senator called another Senator’s proposal “stupid” in the Senate meeting yesterday afternoon and accused him of shamelessly seeking to advance his career by, of all things, offering to serve on a university committee! High drama in the CSU Senate! Of course, things are not always as they appear at CSU.

In fact, the real issues are failed notification procedures, improper committee appointments, failure to follow committee Bylaws and the gradual denigration and loss of legitimacy of a very important faculty elected body. And you thought this blog only focused on administrative failures!

It is important to note that when the Senator in question “claims” to follow Robert’s Rules during the conduct of his meetings closely (though he only uses these to silence the dissent of “certain” faculty members) that often he interprets these rules to his selective advantage. And it is important to note that the Senator in question has a duty under the Bylaws of his committee to perform certain actions in a timely manner (distribute petitions of candidacy for committee vacancies to all eligible faculty members) and he repeatedly fails to do so, all while complaining that he desires faculty input! The truth is that he desires only “certain” input: the input that supports his preconceived ideas or input that he can direct to his own ends. The result is a “faculty elected body” that is not really faculty elected. The committee is “stacked” with new members ill-prepared to meet the challenge of their task and often under-informed of the consequences of their decisions. Decisions whose consequences will be felt long after they are gone and where accountability becomes difficult to establish and any resulting damage difficult to repair. Credibility is hard to win once it has been lost.

And in fact, this committee has few members with any institutional memory regarding policy development at a very important time: right before the HLC visit. Indeed, the Senator in question often claims to have been working very hard on important committee matters. In fact, this committee under his leadership often dallies for months at a time and repeatedly fails to deliberate over the actual consequences of committee actions. Did I neglect to mention that this committee is central to the academic integrity of the university? And that informed deliberation and tolerance for dissent are usually qualities desired in higher education? But alas, we want our students to think critically… faculty members seem to be exempt from this criteria!

And so we settle for another ill-informed policy decision (like the approval of the General Education outcomes yesterday without so much as one public and university-wide forum!) that will play itself out over the next several years causing the predictable Sturm und Drang that will follow in the wake of such decisions. Much of this could have been avoided if only the committee had really discussed and deliberated over these matters (as opposed to merely editing a document). And much of this could have been avoided if only the committee had allowed those with expertise to offer their insights on the matter without assuming inappropriately that they were trying "take over." Spectacle and short term thinking has often triumphed over substance and long-term planning.

And to think we noticed only the administrative failures to notify the university community of the rationale for its decisions or to communicate these effectively! In fact, some of the faculty achieve the same outcome and ineptitude for themselves that they chastise others for…

How “stupid” of us, indeed.

And I guess things may not always be as they appear!

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