February 11, 2016

Faculty Say Bylaws Forbid Admins to ‘Circumvent’ Senate

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Faculty members asserted that the administration disregarded University bylaws by creating the College of Business without faculty input in a Faculty Senate meeting with Provost Michael Kotlikoff Wednesday.

Prof. Richard Bensel, government, said that the creation of the business college was in violation of Article XIII of the University’s bylaws.

The bylaws state,  “The function of the University Faculty shall be to consider questions of educational policy which concern more than one college, school or separate academic unit, or are general in nature.”

Bensel said that under these bylaws, the president and provost cannot “circumvent the Faculty Senate.”

“Cornell Bylaws do not say that the President and the Provost may circumvent consultation with the Faculty Senate by talking to individuals,”  Bensel said in a meeting with the Sun following the senate meeting. “The bylaws also do not say that the president and the provost may avoid consultation with the Faculty Senate by creating hand-picked committees. The bylaws also do not say that the president and the provost may substitute confidential discussions with the University Faculty Committee or the Dean of the Faculty for consultation with the Faculty Senate.”

Provost Michael Kotlikoff addressed Bensel’s concerns at the meeting, saying that there was “no intention to avoid the Faculty Senate,” and that the reason for constraint in discussing the new school was due to a concern for donors and alumni.

Kotlikoff added that he “went to individual faculty immediately after the announcement [of the business college].”

Prof. Eric Cheyfitz, English, agreeing with Benzel, spelled out how he believed the central administration bypassed Article XIII.

“‘Resolution on Shared Governance in Matters of Educational Policy as Required by Article XIII, Section 2, of the Bylaws of Cornell University,’ which the Faculty Senate passed last spring has effectively been ignored by the administration,” Cheyfitz said. “The president and the provost did not bring their plan for a College of Business to the senate for discussion before they and the trustees made the decision to create and fund the new college.”

According to Cheyfitz, both  the administration and the Board of Trustees ignored the Faculty Senate when making this policy, by disregarding the senate’s recommendation to table the vote on the new college.

The trustees denied the senate’s request to approve a unanimous resolution they passed on Dec. 12,  “asking the trustees to table approval of the new College until the senate had time to perform its duty … to discuss the effects of the creation of the College of Business on the educational policy of Cornell,” Cheyfitz said.

Prof. Risa L. Lieberwitz, labor law and employment, stressed the importance of shared governance in central administration.

“To consider [educational policy], there needs to be a deliberative process by which the [faculty] senate can consider the academic ramifications,” she said.

Lieberwitz also criticized Cornell’s definition of “educational policy” for being too narrow.

According to a memorandum written by James Mingle, University counsel and secretary of the corporation, on Jan. 15,  “the faculty of a CCB [Cornell College of Business] is responsible for matters of educational policy within the college.”

The memorandum also states that “the Board of Trustees is solely responsible for the establishment of a CCB, which entails a bylaws amendment adding the college to the list of major academic units of the University.”

Lieberwitz described the memorandum as “overly narrow” and “very disingenuous” and said saying it “emphasize[d] the trustees’ ability to make the final decision.”

Faculty involvement in educational policy should take precedent over the issues noted in Mingle’s memorandum, according to Lieberwitz.

“It’s a problem… because the tradition of shared governance is something that is very special in universities, and to have meaningful shared governance we need to be active participants in issues that affect the University,” Lieberwitz said.

  • Now what?

    That’s all well and good, but what will faculty do about this? Those who have the protection of tenure must use it or lose it. It’s no wonder attacks on academia and teacher tenure and education have been allowed to escalate so much in the political world and in our schools. Faculty have been too complacent and have sat back and let education become corporatized at every level, let tuition and administration costs skyrocket, and let the democratic processes of their institutions be broken down, but if it didn’t seem to affect them at the time, little was done, while those who did speak up were labeled as rabble rousers.

    Well, this is what you get. The faculty must immediately take more drastic steps to let the Provost, President, and Trustees know this type of heavy-handed decision-making is completely unacceptable, otherwise, they really have no right to complain when the next decision is rammed down their throat.

  • Andre

    Too late! The neophytes running the University are all drunk with power and faculty who just want to teach are left reeling from these officials unanimous decisions. Some Deans feel that obtaining consensus weaken their power while others let officials in central administration tell them basically how to run their colleges. Faculty and staf can only sit back in shock.

  • concerned alumni

    Assuming this was a blatant violation of university by-laws, will the Faculty Senate file suit to overturn this decision and seek a temporary restraining order to freeze everything until proper arguments can be heard?