Blaise Pascal, Penseé 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ents Wake Up: Tonight's Academic Senate Meeting (Monday, January 30, 2012)

Craig Bernthal

       Last December, in the last meeting of the Academic Senate, the College of Sciences and Mathematics had on the agenda important resolutions questioning the findings and recommendations of the Budget Task Force. Their motion on these resolutions was never heard, as business of less importance occupied the entire Senate meeting. Many of us from English and other departments attended that meeting, hoping Sciences and Mathematics would be heard—and even hoping to speak ourselves on the provost’s failure to engage in real consultation with the faculty about the budget. 

Tonight in the Academic Senate, the Fresno State faculty regained some of its self-respect by demanding to be consulted in the budget-cutting process. Lining up behind Chris Henson (Senator, English), the Senate passed important amendments to resolutions by the College of Sciences and Mathematics. 

To get these resolutions before the Senate, Henson had to move that the agenda be changed to place them as the first discussion item. She did this with great authority, noting how discussion had been stopped in December by items that were supposed to take very little time, and arguing that the resolutions were urgent. I was afraid she would get stopped at this point, but the Senate wanted that agenda change, and passed it very quickly.

There was no arguing, no dissent on the resolutions set forth below. There was virtually no debate. It seemed as if the senate had just been waiting for someone to do this. It was the fastest, most efficient faculty meeting I have ever been in. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like it.

These are some of the resolutions passed by the Senate. I have paraphrased in places. The first group reasserts that faculty consultation means consulting with the Senate and the University Budget Committee:

That the Academic Senate requires full information about the rationale for the Budget Task Force recommendations;

That the Task Force’s report does not provide sufficient evidence that its recommendations offer a sustainable approach to closing the base budget gap;

That the Task force release budgetary details and financial rationales for its recommendation to the Academic Senate;

That the Task Force members appear before the Academic Senate at its February 6 meeting, and if necessary before the Academic Policy and Planning Committee and the University Budget Committee. [And it will be necessary.] 

That the University Budget Committee review the recommendations of the Task Force, and budget information used to reach those recommendations, and the financial rationale for those recommendations; determine whether those recommendations do provide “sustainable approaches”; consider whether there are additional approaches which would contribute to closing the base budget gap while maintaining a strong academic curriculum; and report its conclusions to the Academic Senate by the end of the semester. [This is the most important provision the Senate passed. The University Budget Committee, elected by the faculty and designated in the Academic Policy Manual as the committee which represents the faculty on budget issues must assume its rightful place as the committee which makes budget recommendations to the Senate.]

The next string of resolutions puts the Senate Academic Planning and Policy Committee back in business:

That the Academic Policy and Planning Committee (AP&P) of the Academic Senate review the Task Force recommendations and evaluate the short term and long term effects of those recommendations on the students, faculty, and academic curriculum and policy and report its finding to the Academic Senate;

That any plans to restructure Schools / Colleges and departments must include consideration by AP&P as to the implications for academic curriculum and policy;

That AP&P continue to monitor and review the effects of the Task Force recommendations as they are implemented and provide information to the Academic Senate regarding those effects on academic curriculum and policy;

All of these resolutions were passed quickly and unanimously. 

What happened tonight in the Senate reminded me of Gandalf’s line from the Lord of the Rings: “A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: The Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong.”  

One more thing: the atmosphere of this Senate session. The room was full, and not just with concerned faculty but with concerned students. I recognized some of them, but there were others who I did not recognize. One that I did recognize had a camera and he was filming. They did not let him film long. Provost Covino was the first to ask questions, followed by Michael Caldwell, Chair of the Senate. Who was he? Did he represent some media organization? What was he doing? Was he filming? What was he going to do with the film?
No, he didn’t represent anyone. He was just an “independent student.” He was going to put it up on You Tube.
Who are you?
I’m just an independent student.
Well, you can’t film in here unless you get a release from everybody.
The student, polite throughout, stopped filming.

CSPAN gets into the U. S. Senate, The House of Representatives, and various state legislatures. We should ponder this rule of ours. Why should we protect ourselves from this kind of exposure? What message does it send to students when we do?

Having any students in that room this semester makes a difference.  I’d like to put “Independent Student” on buttons, and pass them around.

See Jeremiah Henry’s You Tube link:

        And also see Grant Dempsey’s eloquent comment on the Senate Meeting at

The following two comments are from the iWeb site:

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Joshua Stein
It is nice to hear that there is some movement around the faculty to push back on what seems to be, quite simply, an attack on members of the faculty by the administration. However, I think that the call need not stop with the faculty. The largest body at the University is that of the students. Hopefully the students will come out and demand what they have been promised (and subsequently denied) by the administration: a quality education at an accessible cost.

I hope that there will be many who turn up at the Academic Senate Meeting in the Satellite Student Union on February 6th at 4pm. Grant Dempsey is organizing a group of students to attend over Facebook, and I hope that we can show up en force.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 10:00 AM
Thanks for providing us with these recaps!
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 12:40 PM

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