A Faculty Senate at UNF

I created this page to provide a forum for honest discussion about the faculty senate model, including the means by which the model came about, the ways it has been presented to faculty, and the concerted effort by a small group of faculty to keep the model from the faculty for a discussion and vote. Unfortunately, the people opposed to a senate have determined that it is not in our faculty's best interest to let faculty decide on the matter and have instead made claims that distort the contexts and vilify the faculty who have been working on the model for a year and a half. The ostensible leader of that small group of faculty even created her own website to further their agenda. It is unfortunate--but necessary--that I have had to call out these faculty members' back-door attempts to keep a senate model from making it to those who would be affected by it: the faculty. This site provides additional information and contexts.

The Faculty Senate Model

The Origins and History of the Current Senate Model

Like many UNF faculty, upon coming to UNF I was surprised to find that our university did not have a faculty senate (as is the norm at >99% of universities nationwide) but instead had a "direct democracy" model of governance. This model I learned, was a holdout from when the university was founded 50 years ago and had a smattering of faculty who all knew each other. Having attended myriad Faculty Association meetings, I was further surprised to see that decisions made in that body were seldom based upon an informed perspective but were instead a pro-forma acceptance of whatever an earlier committee had recommended. Debate and discussion were almost non-existent, in large part because attendees knew little to nothing about the issues under consideration. Further, a quorum at the FA meetings (at least 40 faculty makes a quorum) could be met by the many administrators who attended said meeting. At the same time, the bulk of the voting body could not attend said meetings due to teaching and other obligations. And of those who could attend, only some--tenured and more senior faculty and administrators--felt safe enough and brave enough to speak out against issues that concerned them. To me, this was not in the best interests of faculty.

Dr. Dan Dinsmore and I brought our concerns about the current form of governance--and the benefits of a senate to a direct democracy--to the Faculty Affairs Committee two years ago. That committee, many of whose members were deeply vested in the extant model, suggested that changes to the form of governance were impossible without opening the UNF Constitution, something most faculty were loathe to do considering larger UNF leadership contexts. Dan and I discovered, however, that the current UNF Constitution does allow for a change to the FA governance structure. Some members of the FAC supported the move to a senate; Dr. David Jaffee noted, for instance, that he had brought forth a senate proposal years before (it had received scant attention by the Faculty Association officers)

 

As most faculty are aware, I ran for the role of FA president on the platform of presenting a senate model (or models) to our faculty so that they could decide upon their future. I said then and will say again here, I respect our faculty and their wishes; all I want is for my colleagues to have the chance to debate and vote upon a senate model. In bringing the model forward, I am doing my best--against the entrenched system--to fulfill that promise.

 

Upon assuming the role of President of the Faculty Association, and in consultation with the Vice President and Secretary, I formed a Faculty Senate Task Force made up of faculty who had contacted me about their interest in a senate. One of these faculty members was one of my opponents when I ran for the role of president (note that both of my opponents expressed a desire to explore the possibility of a senate). Beginning in the Fall of 2020, the Faculty Senate Task Force began examining faculty senate models within the State University System, at peer and aspirant institutions, at the institutions from which they had come, and at select other institutions. The group made comparisons and contrasts of the models. The committee then began taking from those models what they (and their peers at the institutions under investigation) thought were the strongest components of the myriad models. Per my insistence, the committee created from their data a model that formed a representative government but that also kept the most beloved aspects of the current model (a large meeting open to all, updates from stakeholders and administration, and the ability for faculty to voice their concerns). The senate model they devised is a city council type of body in which all stakeholders can be heard (individually and collectively) but in which responsibility for being informed on and voting on the issues falls to duly elected representatives. Similarly, those representatives have a collective power and responsibility to speak to adminsitrators and the Board of Trustees about issues concerning the university that the current system does not (in which I, as FA president, am the sole voice for all of faculty governance). An examination of the senate model shows that it holds on to many of the FA committees already existing but changes them in some ways to be more representative of today's needs.

In the spring of last year, I sent the senate model to all faculty and all adjuncts and arranged for two town-hall meetings to explain the model and to get feedback on it. A smattering of faculty showed up and provided feedback (the most vocal opponent to the faculty senate model did not attend these meetings). The Task Force used the feedback from these meetings to make changes to the model. I then sent out the revised senate model. Late in the summer, I received a request from those opposing the model (who, excepting one person, have remained unnamed and unnumbered) demanding that I publish their critiques of the model to all faculty. I refused to do so. As is clear in our private email exchanges (some of which this person chose to publish on her website without notifying me), I stated that having run on a platform of presenting a senate, I was not obligated to argue against that platform. There would, I noted, be ample opportunity for her and others to debate the merits of the model (and a potential change to our system of governance) when the model was presented to faculty. As this person is an elected politician, she knows that it makes little sense for someone to have to argue both for and against one's position, especially prior to the item being presented to voters for consideration. I did, however, submit the critiques to the Faculty Senate Task Force, which made yet more changes to the senate model in response and which responded in writing to each critique (these critiques and the Task Force's response to them are included in  one of the documents below). Nonetheless, this began a concerted effort on her part to discredit the model and the process noted above (an effort that has included her creating a website with selective information and to which she tried to direct people during a recent Faculty Association meeting).

 

This small group of opponents to a senate then requested that the senate model be vetted through the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC). Though the Faculty Association Bylaws do not require this, I acceded to their demands. This put any discussion of the model into Fall as the FAC was not meeting during the summer. When the FAC finally began addressing the model in late October of 2021, a plurality of their members engaged in debate not on whether or not to give you, the faculty, a chance to discuss/debate the model, but on the strengths and weaknesses of the model itself. They sent their critiques and tried to send the model itself back to the Faculty Senate Task Force who responded to each issue (attached below). Again, this is unprecedented; the Faculty Senate Task Force is a duly formed FA committee that is not obligated to answer to or be subservient to a separate committee. The FAC threatened not to move the model forward for discussion at the Executive Committee until their concerns about specific aspects of the model were addressed. There is no small irony in this; a committee--an official part of a direct democracy system--was demanding changes to a model that would potentially change that system while also threatening to keep the you, the voters, from having a chance to vote on said model.

The FAC eventually moved the model to the Executive Committee but only did so with the unprecedented step of also noting and publishing their "concerns" about the model. The Executive Committee first tried to table the model, then made it an "informational item" (January FA Meeting) during which they demanded another feedback loop, again an unprecedented step as a first reading is where debate is supposed to take place (I have included that feedback and our answers to specific issues/claims). The Executive Committee finally voted 5-4 to put it on the legislative agenda for February for a first reading (meaning giving you the chance to debate the model, suggest amendments to it, and then vote upon it at a later meeting). My opponent attended each of these meetings (FAC and Executive) and, despite not being a member of any FA committee, submitted comments in opposition to the model and moving it forward. I created this site to provide contexts that have been sorely absent in her critiques and claims.

Opponents' Concerns About a Senate and Task Force's Response

Questions from and Response to the Faculty Affairs Committee

Questions/Comments from Anonymous Faculty (and Responses) regarding Senate Model and Process