The Academic Senate met today to discuss the referendum regarding the University Planning Advisory Council’s recommendation to reduce the number of colleges from eight to a six-plus-one structure, during which time the faculty voiced its concern that it was being omitted from the process.
Academic Senate chair Shawn Whalen, along with President Robert A. Corrigan, responded by stating that calling for a referendum was in fact addressing the needs and self-determination of the faculty.
“The (academic senate) constitution suggests that all faculty get the right to vote,” Whalen said. “We thought it best for the faculty to share their advice with the president.”
The reorganization garnered a 25 percent voter increase over all other issues in University history.
Despite the fact that the senate claimed to have followed the appropriate guidelines, some members believe that not enough information was given for a serious vote to be made.
“It is unclear to me the budgetary benefits of this reorganization and that makes it difficult for me to vote on it. I think it’s really irrelevant whether we followed policy,” said academic senate member Barbara Holzman. “I’d really like to see some budgetary justification rationale for such a move.”
The faculty vote is intended to advise the president, who will make the final decision on the matter. This was a concern for some of the faculty who believed they were voting on a settled issue.
“If we are simply playing an advisory role, then it seems a little bit like a charade and that this reorganization has already been decided and we’re being asked to simply say ‘yes,’” said English professor Loretta Steck, who was a guest speaker at the meeting.
Whalen, however, stated otherwise.
“The president wouldn’t have asked us to conduct a referendum if that was true. All actions require presidential concurrence,” he said. “It’s not news that the chief executive has the ultimate authority to make decisions in the best interest of the board.”
Corrigan said the proposal was UPAC’s, not his, and that it was designed to represent the faculty.
“I am not UPAC. I am not a member. I went through a process of sheer governance to appoint committee members,” he said. “There are campuses all over the system where the president is simply making decisions. You seem to have a really difficult time with the fact that we have taken on a process that from start to finish involves the faculty—faculty that were appointed to represent you and they made the recommendation.”
The reorganization would save the University $1 million as it currently faces a $32 million deficit with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $500 million in cuts to the CSU system. This is in addition to an already $18 million deficit.
These cuts are described as a “best case scenario” as they depend on the 1 percent tax increase, which was implemented at the start of the fiscal year, being extended.
Corrigan said the University could face between $10 to $13 million in cuts should voters not approve to extend the tax increase, but it was too early to speak on issues of employment.
“It would be premature to talk about budgetary issues that affect very directly the employment status of members of our staff and faculty,” he said. “I’m not prepared to do that and will continue to seek the advice of UPAC. Right now we can save jobs.”
Some faculty members believed there was a lack of self-determination, saying that departments that varied from one another got to vote over their respective fates.
“This is a challenging process. We’ve had a number of conversations about it,” Corrigan said. “(But) you might have to make compromises in the end.”
Other faculty members advocated voting and emphasized the importance of reflecting its opinion to the president.
“It’s the persistence of the faculty and the persistence of the academic senate in attending to policy and procedure that create the strength of faculty voice,” said academic senate member Pamela Vaughn. “If we aggregate the responsibility, then yes, we will have been voted out of the process by our own inactivity. What we provide is vigilance and activity in ensuring that the president and others in charge to make decisions get a fuller picture of the issues.”
Voting on the three restructuring options ends tonight at 11:59 p.m.