The Senate Source

August 2014

Open Letter to Faculty Confirms Authority to Take Advisory Votes from Non-Senate Faculty

The systemwide Senate office has released an Open Letter to clarify that the existing Senate bylaws permit appropriately authorized and separately reported “advisory votes” by non-Senate faculty in personnel cases.

The letter follows a proposal put forward by the San Diego division to amend Senate Bylaw 55 to permit the Senate members of an academic department to extend advisory voting rights on personnel cases to non-Senate faculty colleagues in that department if authorized by a two-thirds vote of the department’s Senate faculty holding the rank of Associate Professor or above.

After two systemwide reviews that drew a wide range of comments, the Academic Council voted not to endorse the bylaw amendment, in part because the systemwide review revealed that many departments already allow non-Senate faculty to cast advisory votes on personnel cases and report them separately to their Committees on Academic Personnel.

Chair Jacob then asked the University Committee on Rules & Jurisdiction (UCRJ) to opine on whether the existing bylaws permit this practice. UCRJ opined that the Bylaws do not prohibit the solicitation and collection of advisory votes from non-Senate faculty as long as the mechanism is approved by the Senate members of the academic unit and the opinions are tabulated and reported to the CAP separately from the Senate member votes.

On receiving UCRJ’s opinion, Council directed Chair Jacob to issue a general letter to faculty to make clear that the advisory vote mechanism is available.

“In effect, UCRJ confirmed that the option the proposed change to Bylaw 55 was supposed to create is already available,” said Chair Jacob. “I have asked the Senate offices to inform all departments and schools that this option is available, that the choice to use it is vested in the Senate members of these units, and that it should not be disallowed on the grounds it is incompatible with Senate Bylaws.”

Several Council members, including San Diego Division Chair Kit Pogliano, are not fully satisfied with the outcome. Pogliano says she views it as only a partial win and a temporary solution.

“While I am grateful to my colleagues on Council, who endured hours of debate, and pleased that UCRJ ruled that departments can choose to allow non-Senate members to vote on personnel matters, I see this as a partial win because there is a clear difference between being ‘not prohibited’ from voting and being clearly specified in the bylaw as a provisional voting member, as was the intent of our proposed revision and as is currently the case for Emeritae/i faculty. The failure to mention non-Senate faculty in bylaw 55 risks the further disenfranchisement of our non-Senate faculty. I fear this is only a temporary solution, because as it currently stands, faculty who play key roles in our teaching, research and clinical enterprises are denied several other key benefits of Senate membership simply because of their title. As our campuses and clinical enterprises have grown, we have come to rely on a diversity of faculty to fulfill our mission, with growth in our use of non-Senate faculty to fulfill our core academic missions of teaching, research and clinical services. Ultimately, the Senate must take steps to ensure that all faculty whose responsibilities are consistent with Senate membership are afforded the full benefits of Senate membership.”

Chair Jacob did not disagree and offered the following perspective. “The Open Letter should help erase any lingering doubts about the legality of the advisory vote mechanism. I hope that as a next step more divisions will examine the relationship between Senate and non-Senate faculty in nearly equivalent roles and find ways to be more inclusive, both as a matter of fairness and for its potential to improve shared governance.”