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  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

Lecturer voting rights voted down by a minority of faculty

BRADFORD AUDITORIUM – A revised proposal to give voting rights to Lecturers and Senior Lecturers within faculty governance was voted down at Tuesday’s faculty meeting. Though faculty voted 88 in favor to 50 against (~64% - 36%), the Faculty Handbook amendment did not receive the 2/3rds supermajority required for passage. A group of 26 professors organized by colleagues running the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) first introduced the proposal at the March faculty meeting.

Advocates sought enfranchisement for lecturers, most of whom are part-time employees and teach one or two courses a semester, to provide them with representation on institutional decision-making that impacts their role as educators and employees, as professors and academic center directors currently have. This year, there are 46 lecturers at Hamilton. Of them, 27 returned from last year. Despite being disenfranchised, lecturers are still held to similar professional expectations as the rest of the faculty.

Several members of the faculty, while sympathetic to the measure in principle, had raised concerns about the March amendment language potentially requiring lecturers to attend all faculty meetings despite working part-time, as well as questions about who would count as a voting lecturer under the policy. Faculty voted to form an ad hoc committee of Professors Susan Jarosi, Pavitra Sundar, and Franzi Schweiger (AAUP President, VP, and Secretary, respectively) to address these concerns and return the proposal to the floor in May. Sundar explained in a presentation to colleagues how the revised amendment decoupled meeting attendance from voting rights, addressing the first concern, and added clarity on which lecturers would be enfranchised, addressing the second. It still fell just 4 votes shy of the 2/3rds threshold to pass.

Jarosi, Sundar, and Schweiger reacted in a statement to Monitor, “We are disappointed, for sure, though we also recognize the challenge of bringing the faculty along on an issue that had zero visibility at the start, to garnering 26 signatures to bring the motion before the faculty, to obtaining the support of a significant majority of our colleagues as well as the Dean [of Faculty].”

Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas, who serves as his department’s chair but spoke to Monitor for himself, said the result “was profoundly disappointing and a step back in democratic faculty governance."

While during the March meeting faculty spent over an hour discussing the proposal, this Tuesday not a single faculty member engaged in debate or questions on the motion before voting. The debate that did occur beforehand at times reflected existing tensions among the faculty relating to seniority and its associated disproportionate demographics. While a breakdown of vote results by title was not available, one indicator is that only three of the proposal’s 26 signatories in March had the highest faculty rank of Professor, of whom there are approximately 50.

“It was odd there was no discussion at all after Pavitra [Sundar]’s presentation of our report, particularly since the faculty had charged us with investigating two issues. In the absence of feedback of any kind — including no motions to amend the new language we proposed — we’re at a bit of a loss to interpret why that was so,” the three AAUP chapter leaders wrote. "While one faculty member asked a clarifying question about the appointment process for Lecturers, the complete silence was definitely a marked contrast to the March meeting and in that respect alone was significant. Of what, exactly, we’ll need time to reflect on once the semester has wound down.”

“We’ll be thinking of productive ways to support the will of the majority of our colleagues by continuing our enfranchisement efforts next year,” said Jarosi, Sundar, and Schweiger.

Separately, the faculty elected colleagues to a variety of institutional governance bodies. Notably, professors Rob Martin, Mackenzie Cooley, and Clark Bowman will serve as Faculty Chair, Secretary, and Parliamentarian next year, respectively.

Update 5/5: Per their request, the AAUP chapter leaders' statement was updated to reflect that one clarifying question not about the motion itself was asked before the vote.

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