SSU Academic Senate Meeting of 28 April 2022

Chair Morimoto made some clarifying comments about the selection of membership for the ad hoc Budget Committee. She acknowledged that members were not “elected”, because due to the urgency of getting the group together it was necessary to shortcut the full process. She also noted that the merger of the Schools of Art & Humanities and Social Sciences is far from a “done deal” – it was put on the table for discussion as one possible way to close the structural budget gap. But she also opined that we are going to have to make some structural changes to deal with this ongoing budget gap, and the proposals suggested by this Budget committee are intended as short-term solutions while we give ourselves a year to think about more permanent solutions.

Campus Police Chief Nader Oweis gave a report as requested by the Senate. He acknowledged the current drive throughout the country to have qualified social workers and mental-health professionals handle aspects of “policing” that have traditionally but unwisely been handled by police. He fully understands these concerns and fully supports the move to involve more qualified professionals when law-enforcement is the wrong agency. His staff works closely with CAPS, CARE, REACH, DOS, the HUB, and Student Affairs. He recognizes a need for at least a half-time social worker on his staff but cited budgetary constraints. There are also laws and regulations about how much responsibility he can turn over to non-law-enforcement agencies, which explains why it is not possible to refer all mental health incidents to CAPS. He is very anxious to create and maintain cordial relationships with all sectors of the campus community, but is aware that some students feel unsafe on campus, both because of threats from other community members and from the police. He is proud of the working relationship his department has established with the Cotati and Rohnert Park police departments and the county sheriff’s office.

APARC Recommendations:

1)Each department should develop a faculty hiring plan, in conjunction with their periodic program review.

2)The University should move to multi-year scheduling, to make it easier for students to plan their paths to graduation.

3)There should be transparency and collaboration on the budget – of which the current handling of budgetary consultation is not a good model.

APARC has also discussed the continuing problem of subtle racism and cultural bias on campus – which affect students, staff, and junior faculty. Some People of Color feel intimidated. There must be more dialog and conversation between black, brown, white, and blue.

SAC (Student Affairs Committee) has been discussing changes to the University’s attendance policy. There was much controversy about these proposals and even the need for an attendance policy at all. Students who miss class are expected to provide a valid reason, which generally must be related to their health (physical, but not clear whether mental) and may even be required to provide a “note” from a doctor. Questions were raised about whether we are patronizing students, who after all are mostly adults, and who have voluntarily chosen to come to the university for an education and are paying dearly for it. Special situations, such as those who are called to court for one reason or another, or who have legal issues including those related to immigration status were brought up. What about the possibilities for making up missed work? The student representative thinks too much discretion is given to instructors and there is therefore a wide variation in how they treat absences.

The “NO CONFIDENCE” RESOLUTION consumed the remainder of the meeting. The question before the Senate was not whether the Senate itself has “no confidence” in the President, but whether a referendum by the faculty on the question of No Confidence should be held.

The Faculty Chair and the President had agreed that the President should not attend this meeting, but the President was invited to submit a video. The video was shown at the end of the meeting AFTER the vote to hold a No Confidence referendum had already been taken, though clearly the President thought it would be shown before the vote, as she made a case for herself.

The group of faculty who requested the No confidence referendum made their case based on several factors that included among others: mishandling of the “scandal” (as the Press Democrat constantly refers to it), “retaliation” against the Provost, mishandling of Title IX allegations, poor leadership, insufficient consultation, and declining enrollment.

Supporters of the President cited such factors as how much we don’t really know, her muzzling by the Chancellor’s Office (forbidden to discuss the issue publicly), press bias, her struggles as an Asian-American female whose parents were held in World War II internment camps [a matter which was the subject of an open letter subsequently circulated by members of the campus Asian-American community and other POCs], her replacing of both the former CFO as head of Administration and Finance and the obnoxious Chair of the Green Music Center Board, her recognition, albeit belatedly, of the unsuitability of Provost Vollendorf to lead Academic Affairs and Vollendorf’s consequent termination, and the fact that many of the problems our campus currently faces are to some extent shared by the entire campus or at least other segments of it.

This matter was brought to the Senate for a First Reading, which required debate be limited to 15 minutes by Senate rules. This limitation was waived twice, and finally a motion passed (19:8) to waive the First Reading, partially in recognition that the end of the semester is fast approaching.

A motion was made to end debate, which failed to reach the required 2/3 majority. But shortly after, another motion to the same effect was made, and this time it passed. The main vote was held by secret ballot, and there was majority support for proceeding with the referendum. The actual vote tally was not announced.

-- Submitted by Rick Luttmann