University Senate

University Senate members clash over provost’s comments, meeting rules

Liam Sheehan | Staff Photographer

During University Senate meeting on Wednesday, senators clashed on issues surrounding shared governance, budgetary concerns and meeting procedures.

In the longest and most tumultuous University Senate meeting of the semester, the Senate clashed on issues surrounding shared governance, budgetary concerns and meeting procedures.

The 2-hour meeting began with a hiccup in the normally non-controversial approval of the last meeting’s minutes. Two Senate members said the minutes identified some speakers from the last Senate meeting, while other people were left out. Can Isik, Senate Agenda Committee Chair, asked if members would state their names before speaking to help with creating minutes.

As the meeting progressed, Sam Gorovitz, philosophy professor, would shout “Name!” if a Senate member forgot to introduce themselves. The committee seemed startled the first two times Gorovitz shouted, but eventually members caught on and it became a pre-speaking joke that was met with laughter.

The meeting later continued its structural woes. Isik introduced four nominees for two vacant spots on the Senate Agenda Committee. Bruce Carter, associate professor of psychology, was concerned that the brief bios that were sent to the Senate members before the meeting focused too heavily on their individual scholarship achievements and not on their impact on various Senate committees.

Isik decided to then read each bio, and to have the nominee stand and make their appeal. This procedure was met with groans and several Senate members shook their heads in frustration with the process.

After the tense readings and the unprepared statements given by the nominees, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud addressed the Senate, defusing the tension when he quipped, “For the sake of the minutes, I am Kent Syverud.”

Syverud promoted the One University Awards Ceremony, honored emeritus faculty and announced approved honorary degrees.

He will not be in attendance at the recently added University Senate meeting next week. The room quieted down during his statements, but the tension became palpable when SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly took the podium.

Wheatly, who could not attend the last Senate meeting, addressed controversial remarks surrounding STEM that she made at the March 22 Senate meeting.

At that meeting, Wheatly revealed that she and academic deans have discussed a proposal to create “a university-wide STEM branding strategy” that would make SU “a leading model for contemporary STEM education.” Many SU faculty members both at the meeting and in later interviews said they were blindsided by Wheatly’s report.

She started her remarks with a story about attending a Humanities Center event, and that she is excited to attend a meeting on the humanities next week. She addressed her previous statements head-on and plainly said that SU is not rebranding itself as a STEM university. She clarified that it’s not a rebranding, but finding a better way to tell SU’s “STEM story.”

Wheatly, for the first time this semester, opened the floor to questions after giving her report. The question that caused the most reaction was the first, asked by English professor Crystal Bartolovich.

“The first time you addressed the Senate you announced you were a faculty-first provost, that is a direct quote, and this process was not a faculty-first process,” Bartolovich said. “There’s just no way to describe it in that way. So, I would like to hear you comment on the process in terms of faculty-first?”

Bartolovich was unsatisfied with Wheatly’s first attempt at an answer, and grew disgruntled at her second attempt, shaking her head and putting her head in her hands.

The conversation and questions straddled between two main concerns: STEM’s values and the vetting process of this announcement.

The idea to tell a more defined “STEM story” came out of the academic dean’s cabinet, and many of the Senate members were frustrated that faculty weren’t involved. Wheatly defended her announcement, stating this was simply a draft, and that “if I can be convicted of anything, it was my over-enthusiasm.”

The Senate also passed a resolution Wednesday that calls for SU to stand in solidarity with students of the University of Puerto Rico. As a result of Puerto Rico’s current economic recession and proposed governmental budget cuts, the University of Puerto Rico will increase its tuition costs. The resolution stated that over “10,000 University of Puerto Rico students attended a National General Assembly meeting on April 5, 2017, and approved an indefinite strike as means of protesting the proposed tuition increase.”

A few pieces of the language were changed via amendments.

The Senate’s resolution states the Senate “sympathizes” with the University of Puerto Rico student body and disapproves the proposed budget cuts that threatens the students’ quest for higher education.


Other business

— The search for the Vice President of Research will begin its in-person interviews next week.

— The search for a new dean for the Martin J. Whitman School of Management is nearing its end. There are eight semifinalists and the finalists with be announced soon.

— The Campus Posting Policy is currently being reviewed, and the new policy will be announced soon. There will be more physical posting spaces available on the campus.


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