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.”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Senate Meeting of April 23, Part 2

This entry deals with three main pieces of the last Senate meeting (April 23, 2012) which I did not cover in my previous entry: a statement by Otto Schweizer, a minor GE Committee resolution on writing, and a resolution about the university’s new logo. Again, I have transcribed much of what follows from the Senate recording. In a few places I could not decipher the audio.

I begin about 30 minutes into the meeting after the vote on agenda item #8, the cohort hiring resolution, which passed 35 to 10.

Lynn Williams, chairing his first meeting, then presented agenda item #9, a “Resolution in Support of UC Davis Students and Faculty Right to Peaceably Assemble – Second Reading.” The question was called.

Before this resolution came to a vote, however, Otto Schweizer (Criminology) made the following statement pertaining to motions that had originated in the Senate this year and had not been referred to committees:

Otto Schweizer: “Can I make a statement regarding the resolutions?

Senate Chair Lynn Williams: “Please.”

Otto: Schweizer: For the last full month I’ve watched the Senate bring forth several resolutions which have clearly been generated by a group of faculty with very strong convictions.  The Senate has spent the majority of time on resolutions that have come forward, which are moved to the top of the agenda, and discussed for weeks, which we all know. Ironically, the complaint by the most prominent voices in the discussion on campus has been about a lack of consultation and fear for the loss of shared governance, but which of these resolutions have been referred to a committee to obtain expertise from those committees elected by the entire faculty?
            “Keep in mind that senators are elected by their respective departments; however, committee members are elected by the entire faculty. The standing committees are the backbone of the Senate structure as pointed out by many senators following the formation of several task forces on campus. Yet most of the resolutions discussed in the Senate since November have not been vetted with any of these committee, including your own Executive Committee, which you elected. The primary purpose of the Executive Committee, quoting your own bylaws, is to set the agenda of the Academic Senate, yet that agenda is now largely ignored in favor of resolutions that carry no weight with regard to policy other than making a statement. Some resolutions, such as the recent one on the graduate SUD grants need to be discussed in a timely fashion on the floor, and constitute decisions, rather than call for changes in campus policy and practice.
            “Such important policy and practice changes, even if voiced in a resolution, should be vetted by the committees with the expertise and charged to look at them carefully, get input, and testimony from others, and make well-informed recommendations to the Senate. Otherwise the Senate is foregoing the consultative process that its bylaws institute and rely upon to make good decisions on behalf of the faculty.
            “The Senate has a structure made up of committees elected by the entire faculty. These committees have been very busy this year, which is why you see before you the largest agenda in many, many years. The agenda of the Executive Committee is backlogged as well. Will the Senate continue to ignore its own agenda set by its own Executive Committee, and made up of policy submitted by its own committees, in favor of discussing hastily written resolutions that have not been vetted under the same scrutiny as the rest of the business by the Senate. I see these come forward, I’ve never heard of them before, and all of a sudden they are being discussed by the Senate when there are many valuable agenda items that have spent many weeks and months, going through committees, to the Executive Committee to be presented to the Senate at large, and yet all these things are being bypassed.
“I believe it would be best for the Senate to refer the discussion—though its too late—on cohort hiring to the University Budget Committee and Personnel Committees who are elected by the faculty for this purpose. There is a great deal of confusion created by misinformation, and to vote on something that the majority of the people in the room do not really understand, and hasn’t been properly examined by committee, without really knowing the implications of it, would harm the credibility of the Senate. And there is lots of misinformation that I hear when faculty discuss it. In my department for example they don’t really understand how something was going to be implemented; they perceived that everything would be pushed on them and without them having any voice in it. So I move that resolutions be sent to the appropriate committees for discussion before simply bypassing the whole process, showing up here, and before we know it, it’s 5:15 or 5:30 and everything is postponed for another week.”

Senate Chair Lynn Williams: “Did you mean that as a motion at the end?”

Schweizer: “This is not a motion or a resolution. [Laughter] I want to avoid that pitfall! It’s just food for thought.” 

At this point, the resolution supporting the right to peacefully assemble of faculty and students at U. C. Davis was voted upon. It passed, 25 Yes, 5, No, 9 Abstentions.

The next agenda item was the General Education Writing Requirement. This came from the General Education Committee with Andrew Lawson (Agricultural Sciences & Technology), Chair, reporting to the Senate on changes in requirements. My favorite line by Lawson on the current writing policy: “I hate to say it, but the current writing policy is poorly written. [Laughter] But it is! It is something like 14 pages long, it’s very difficult for faculty to understand. GE committee members have read it and still don’t know what it means.” Faculty in general don’t understand the policy, therefore don’t know what it is, and therefore don’t include its requirements in their course outlines.

Lawson also said that the current policy requires faculty feedback on student writing, but there are a number of courses, such as Biology 10 and History 11 where students papers are routinely given feedback by trained graduate student instructors. Students in these classes cannot get faculty feedback on their writing because that classes are too big, often containing 300 students in a lecture.

The current rule had to reflect realistic faculty practice. The “only true significant change” in the policy was to allow graduate students to provide feedback on student writing. The training of graduate teaching assistants was left to the discretion of the faculty in each department.

The second reading was waived and the resolution passed unanimously.

The Logo:
The next piece of business was item 10: Resolution Regarding Re-Branding Expenditures,” introduced by Jacinta Amaral (MCLL) on the floor of the Senate, April 9.
Jacinta Amaral read the resolution:
WHEREAS, the State of California is experiencing extreme financial stress; and

WHEREAS, all sectors of public education are also experiencing extreme financial stress; and

WHEREAS, the California State Legislature allocates General Fund revenues to the California Atate University; and

WHEREAS, in these times the California State University id receiving less and less support from the Legislature; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the California State University, Fresno Academic Senate urge the President to devote the resources dedicated to re-branding the University to opening more classes for CSU, Fresno students.

Alex Alexandrou (Plant Science): “What are the costs associated with the re-branding?”
Provost Covino: “So far, as far as we know, that has been $15,000. There have been no state funds devoted to this effort, nor will there be.”
Jan Slagter (Women’s Studies): “Would this mean that when we replace our old letterhead on stationery and business cards that this will be done with non-state funds?”
Provost Covino: “The replacement of supplies at sometime in the future would incur some cost. I have asked for an inventory of what those costs are for business cards, stationery, etc., for Academic Affairs. I can’t assess what the impact might be over time to college and departments.”
Jacinta Amaral: “I have a question for Provost Covino. Is someone responsible for figuring out what labor costs would be in terms of changing all website drawings and illuminations?”
Provost Covino: “I don’t believe that’s been calculated. . . . No, to my mind, there’s been no sequestered calculation.”
David Kinnunen (Kinesiology / University-Wide): “I suggest this be referred to the Budget Committee rather than the floor of the Senate.”
Lynn Williams: “Is that a motion or a suggestion?”
David Kinnunen: “Yes, a motion.”
Lynn Williams: “Is there a second?”
Otto Schweizer: “Second.”
Chris Henson: “It seems to me we can vote on this without referring it to committee. It seems to me the Budget Committee has a huge amount on their plate right now, and this is not the kind of thing we need to send their way. This seems to me a very straight-forward motion. I people can continue to discuss it and ask questions, but then it seems to me we could probably vote on this and take care of one more item on the ever growing agenda.”
Dawn Lewis (Kinesiology): “If the resolution has an implication for budget, I think that it should be sent to the Budget Committee.”
Jacinta Amaral: “I’d like to recognize Vida Samiian.”
Dean Vida Samiian (Arts and Humanities): "I need to speak because the logo itself has not gone through the consultative process with the academic senate and faculty has been quite concerned.  The executive committee of the college of A&H conducted a survey and found that overwhelming majority of faculty and staff were dissatisfied or highly dissatisfied with the new logo." 
"We each have a preference on how the university should be symbolically represented in a logo -a single logo, which is to be used in all communications –print or on-line.  Most faculty prefer a logo that reflects the academic nature of the University. Some community members, students or alumni may prefer the designation Fresno State and a logo that reflects athletics, or a logo that identifies us with Fresno.
“Regardless of our individual preferences, the announcement of the new Fresno State Logo came as a surprise and a shock to many on our campus. But most importantly, it has caused deep concern to the faculty. Except for those who were on the 32-member “integrated marketing committee,” few had seen the logo or even knew that a logo was in the making. The committee has said that they conducted preliminary surveys and focus groups –involving 2,500 individuals.  Surveys and research prior to the development of a logo is not consultation. In the graphic design field this is classified as ‘design research’ and it is considered an essential component in the development of every design.
I have observed the expression of concerns and am alarmed by the lack of responsiveness from the IM committee. I urge the administration, and, President Welty, to pay close attention to the voices of the faculty and staff. Now that the logo has been launched, we need to hear and listen to the response of the faculty.
Within this context there are two points that must be raised:
(1) The role and importance of faculty not just as one of the ‘stakeholders’ but as the most important stakeholder and the essence of what the university is all about. The faculty is what makes the university what it is. Faculty develops the curriculum and offers the programs. Faculty defines the quality of our institution. We, as a university, are as good as our faculty.

(2) The necessity of faculty consultation, through appropriate consultative bodies, which is the Academic Senate, and the consultative bodies in each college or school. The participation of the Chair of the Senate and a faculty or two on the Special IM committee that developed the logo does not count as consultation. Neither do the preliminary surveys and focus groups.
It is for this very reason that the Academic Senate is of such importance to the success of the University. Shared governance allows the university to benefit from the collective wisdom of the faculty, a group of individuals with the highest expertise in their respective fields of study.
I am sure you have all seen the responses regarding the logo to the University designated site. The executive committee of the College of Arts and Humanities also did a survey of faculty and staff in the College once the logo was launched with two simple questions about level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction about the logo and the use of “Fresno Stat”. Overwhelmingly, responses were highly negative. Out of 102 respondents 76% were extremely unhappy or unhappy with the logo 12% indifferent and 12 % happy or extremely happy. Similar statistics emerge regarding the use of the name “Fresno State.”
So, as I applaud the time, energy, and courage of the faculty in expressing their concerns in and out of the Senate and their efforts to participate in shared governance, I urge the administration to listen to this voice, take to heart the concerns expressed by the faculty, welcome the collective wisdom of the faculty, and value shared governance. It is a grave mistake if we don’t."

Lynn Williams: “Just a quick reminder. We are discussing referring this to the budget committee. We have a 5:15 time certain? So we’re into overtime here.”

Michael Caldwell was recognized by one of the senators.

Michael Caldwell: “I heard you say that this campus is “surprised,” and I’d like to find out if we could identify any of the members of Arts & Humanities who [served on the effort to develop the logo]. Can anyone identify them?” [two names were developed, Joe Diaz being one, the other inaudible.]

Senator [cannot get name from recording]: “I find it ironic that if non-state funds were used to create the logo we now want to use state funds to analyze the logo. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the official name of the university is still California State University at Fresno. So my opinion is that this whole resolution is much ado about nothing.”

Jan Slagter: “The word is not completely in on how much this is going to cost, but this is really our only time to get to talk about this issue at all. I would just like to point out that nowhere in the new logo does it say university: kind of odd.”

Lynn Williams: “Sorry Jan. Let’s get back to refer it to Budget. Are we going to refer it to Budget or not? Or would you like to call it a day?”

At this point the Senate adjourned. 

I will be writing another entry soon about the logo issue and why the Senate should consider it without referring it to the University Budget Committee.

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