SSU Academic Senate Meeting of 3 March 2021

The following item appeared on the agenda proposed by the Executive Committee for today’s meeting:

4. Request for Distinguished Chair Emeritus for Greg Sarris - First Reading - L. Morimoto

A letter was included in the agenda packet explaining the intent of this request. That letter is appended to this report. It was written by Hollis Robbins, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, to Karen Moranski, Provost – in short, from one administrator to another, with no evidence of any faculty involvement whatsoever. Apparently, the Executive Committee put this item on the agenda without even referring the matter to Faculty Standards & Affairs for evaluation and recommendation. Chair Morimoto acknowledged that she was unaware that she would be listed as the sponsor of the item.

The SSU-ERFSA Senator [me] sent out the following message to Senators before the meeting:

While many of our sister CSU campuses have an assortment of criteria for the award of Emeritus status, it has been an inviolable principle at SSU from the beginning that all faculty retiring in good standing with the requisite 10 years of service deserved to be awarded Emeritus status. We have recognized how divisive, invidious, and uh-collegial it would be to try to distinguish between levels of meritoriousness among retiring faculty.

For this reason, and with no disrespect whatsoever intended for our distinguished colleague Dr Greg Sarris, I oppose making the proposed award of Distinguished Chair Emeritus. His name is on the list to be recognized as Emeritus, and I believe that is sufficient. To grant a special kind of emeritus status would be opening the door to future squabbles about who else deserves some more-emeritus-than-thou honor and why. Let's not go there.

I see that the party who will be introducing the proposed award of super-emeritus status to Dr Sarris is shown as Faculty Chair Lauren Morimoto rather than some unit of faculty governance. I strongly believe that a proposal of this sort should not come directly to the Senate floor without first being reviewed by the appropriate organ(s) of faculty governance -- in this case FSAC. After all, that is why we have a faculty governance committee structure. Candidly, I wonder why the Executive Committee chose to put this item on our agenda without referring it first to FSAC for its evaluation and recommendation.

Additionally, I am astonished that this proposal for an unknown, unique, and unprecedented recognition is contained in a letter from a Dean to the Provost -- one administrator to another. This is highly irregular. Emeritus awarding is by tradition a faculty prerogative.

There are many faculty members at SSU who hold Endowed Chairs. (Note that "Chair" in this context is different from the use of this word as an administrative title for departments, committees, etc. It refers to the fact that someone gave the University a sum of money to pay the salary of the faculty member holding this appointment.) It is true that the Emeritus Policy does say, in part, "IV.  C. The President shall appoint retired faculty to emeritus(a) status at the rank held [emphasis added] at the time of retirement ,,," So the question is whether "Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair" qualifies as a "rank". My view is that whatever else "Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair" may be, it is not a "rank" as defined in, say, the CBA, or the established traditions of academia. And certainly "Distinguished Chair {Emeritus}" is not a rank. But I will acknowledge that this could be argued. It appears that the University has a lack of nomenclature clarity. I hope that the Senate would agree that this should be debated at FSAC rather than the Senate. And that this matter should go to FSAC for evaluation and recommendation before consideration by the Senate. 

I remind Senators that just a few years ago the Statewide Academic Senate asked every CSU campus Senate to review its campus policy on Emeritus standing. Our campus did so, through FSAC, and the outcome was that our then-extant policy was affirmed.

Note that in regard to this proposal I speak not just as a Senator but as the Senator representing Retired and Emeritus Faculty. Not surprisingly, this issue is of special concern to us. As you know, members of the SSU-ERFSA Board have already weighed in against this proposal in direct communication with Senators.

And finally, I stress that I see the issue here as strictly an institutional one, and discussion does not and should not reflect in any way on the subject of the action recommended to us, a colleague who has had a distinguished career as a valuable contributor to the university, the community, and academia.

Accordingly, the SSU-ERFSA Senator [me] moved to strike Business Item #4 from the agenda. This motion passed 15-6. There was no motion to refer the matter to FSAC but it is expected that the parties supporting the proposal will refer it there, or to the Executive Committee which will do so.

By uncontested consent, the Senate endorsed the following appointments of newly retired faculty to emeritus status, and these endorsements will be forwarded to the President for final action:

Lynne Lyle, Early Childhood Studies

Viki Montera-Heckman, Educational Leadership and Special Education

Vincent Richman, Business Administration

Gregory Sarris, Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair

Chair’s Report:

  • Besides the death of Hutchins Professor Tony Mountain, two students also died recently.
  • In the absence of a Past Chair (since Jeffrey Reeder, last year’s Chair, is now in Spain as the director of the CSU’s Overseas Program there) who would normally serve as Parliamentarian, Chair Morimoto appointed Senate Analyst Laurel Holmstrom to act as Parliamentarian. It was noted that there is no requirement that the Parliamentarian be a member of the body; however, while the Parliamentarian may rule on issues of order, she cannot raise them.

Vice-Chair Bryan Burton asked for, and received, the Senate’s consent to conduct its election for next year’s officers without the requisite number of candidates. Three offices are uncontested.

A Special Report was delivered by Gerald L Jones, Interim Assistant Vice President for Student Access and Educational Equity, on new procedures for Student Orientation. The emphasis is on better advising, with the goal of increasing retention.

President’s Report (delivered in her absence by Provost Moranski):

  • The search is underway for a Dean of Extended Education. There are plans to expand the scope of the offerings of this division.
  • We have reached an agreement with U C Berkeley to offer some joint programs. The State Legislature has directed the three components of public higher education in California to work more closely together, so this is precisely the kind of intersegmental cooperation that it apparently desires.
  • U C Berkeley is under court order to lower significantly its admissions quotas for next year. Sonoma State will explore possibilities for taking in some of those applicants who are rejected by UCB.

Provost’s Report:

  • A search for an interim Dean of Arts and Humanities is underway.
  • Students have complained about poor internet access in the residence halls, and she is looking into what can be done.
  • She had an extensive meeting recently with Professor Cynthia Boaz, Chair of the Academic Freedom Sub-Committee and Professor Emeritus Victor Garlin, founder of the AFS.
  • The purpose of this meeting was to find ways to strengthen Academic Freedom protections on the campus.
  • She spoke effusively of the desirability of current campus personnel knowing more about the history of the institution.
  • A Senator reminded her that two years ago the Senate passed a resolution calling for protections for faculty from harassment by right-wing trolls.

Vice-Chair’s Report: A survey is being conducted of faculty satisfactions and dissatisfactions with the campus bookstore.

CFO Report:

  • There will be an open forum on 10 March from 9 to 11 on next year’s budget.
  • Dining services are being re-opened as quickly as practicable. There is some difficulty in hiring staff, especially as most students who worked up until closures two years ago are no longer available, so current staff is necessarily inexperienced.
  • In response to complaints from students and faculty, he will attempt to make dining services available later into the evenings, to accommodate those who have late classes.

The Senate has been asked to support a resolution from “United in Kindness”, which was considered on a First Reading. It was presented by guest Moe Jabbari. The full text of the proposed resolution is attached below. The gist of it is that there is too much hateful speech, bullying, discrimination, and violence in our society, whereas students require a place to grow and learn in peace and safety, guided in kindness and caring. The resolution affirms trust in a social fabric that promotes and encourages acts of kindness, and that disallows harm to individuals and groups based on ability, age, appearance, ethnicity, gender identity, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic position. Many individuals, organizations, and local governments have already signed on to this program.

Mr Jabbari subsequently shared some thoughts about how to use United in Kindness principles in the classroom and on campus:

1- Ask students how can they exhibit acts of kindness on-or-off campus

2- Ask what acts of kindness they did today, over the weekend, or in the last few days

3- Ask students, as future leaders, how would they promote inclusivity, equity tolerance, and respect for all in communities

4- Actively engage students to talk about hate crimes, scapegoating speeches and injustices that are taking place in communities

5- Assign writings and readings on subjects of compassion, inclusivity, tolerance, equity and respect

6- Subjects in Arts classes such as painting and drawing may be around acts of kindness

7- Dedicate one day a week, or one day a month as “SSU-Kindness Day” and ask all faculty, staff and students to do something kind/positive for a colleague or classmate on that day-make this a SSU culture

8- Ask the music department to compose a song or piece of music about Love-Compassion-Kindness to be performed at big events on campus

9- Ask students what needs to be done to have a kinder society

10- Publish is SSU’s student newspaper about acts of kindness on-and-off campus 

11- Publicize on your website and brochures about your UIK and that “SSU is kindness certified.” This may result in more enrollments and a very good PR message.

Student Affairs Report: There is considerable discontent with the University’s current procedures for managing Covid on campus, although on the other hand many students and faculty are grateful for the extra protections from infection. But the system of “green-lighting” is burdensome, as well as ineffective. The burden falls on faculty to check that every student in a classroom is greenlighted. This is burdensome and time-consuming if they do it, and the system is pointless and ineffective if they don’t (which is frequently the case). Students wonder why there couldn’t be checkers at the (relatively few) doors to campus buildings, instead of in each classroom. Faculty wondered why they had to bear a burden that should be the administration’s responsibility, and even raised the concern that this burden of policing student compliance may be a violation of the CBA.

The proposal that the Senate meet virtually via zoom for the next academic year passed on a contested vote. There was some opposition, on the theory that in-person social contact is an intangible but vital component of effective concerted action; it is an opportunity to meet colleagues from other Schools

Ironically, the overwhelming majority of attendees at Senate meetings do not make full use of even the limited opportunities zoom offers for some social contact. There were 50 attendees at this meeting, and only 8 attendees allowed themselves to be seen on video in real time. The rest were represented by blank screens, or their name, or a still photograph.

The inability to find a suitable meeting room for the Senate is no longer a concern. The Senate is cleared to meet in the Cooperage, should it wish to resume in-person meetings.

The following observations were offered in support of continuing to meet virtually:

The purpose of the Senate is to deliberate the business before it. Socializing is not its prime function. The Senate is the governing body of the faculty. Its committees oversee the curriculum, academic policies, and the reappointment, tenure and promotion of faculty; it is the official

faculty body to provide opinion on matters affecting the University.

We must address the issue of accessibility, which is mandatory in the CSU. Many Senators have complained that they cannot hear well in any room we have been in for Senate meetings.

Additionally, when presenters want to use PowerPoint at a meeting, zoom makes it possible for all to see well. And a transcript and/or recording can be made of any meeting.

Additionally, zoom helps the Senate be more transparent and accessible to the campus community. Many people want to receive the agenda and Zoom information. Attendance has been much higher at zoom meetings than we ever had in person (unless there was a very controversial item on the agenda).

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussed the change in academic conferences during the pandemic, and observed: "When the pandemic arrived, Zoom appeared poised to be the great equalizer, allowing people to tune in from anywhere. And despite the

shortcomings of virtual get-togethers, advocates say their affordability, convenience,

small carbon footprint, and democratic nature make them worth keeping." (


EPC presented a Revision in the MA in Education for a First Reading ( On a closely contested vote, the Senate chose to waive the First Reading. Thereafter the proposal was passed without objection.

-- Submitted by Rick Luttmann

Hollis Robbins, Ph.D.

Dean, School of Arts & Humanities

January 30, 2022

To Provost Moranski:

I write in support of the title Distinguished Chair Emeritus for Dr. Greg Sarris, who retired

as the inaugural Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Endowed Chair in Native American Studies on December 30, 2021, a position he held since 2005.

Distinguished Chair Emeritus would be an appropriate title to bestow on Dr. Sarris not only

to honor his extraordinary record of teaching and scholarship—particularly as the first and only

Sonoma State faculty member to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences—but also because his position as an endowed chair precluded the forms of recognition that other faculty members at Sonoma State receive. Dr. Sarris arrived here as a full professor in 2005 and thus never had the opportunity to be formally evaluated by his colleagues. He has not taken a sabbatical in all of his years teaching at Sonoma State. Until 2019, he did not have a departmental home. Nonetheless, Dr. Sarris’s consistently excellent teaching for fifteen years made him the top choice for the School of Arts & Humanities inaugural Dean’s Teaching Award in May 2021.

Beginning in 2005, Dr. Sarris taught over 1000 students in courses such as Native American

Literatures, Native Cultures of Northern California, Introduction to Fiction Writing; Memoir

Writing, American Literature, Creative Writing, in various special topics courses, and in the Summer Bridge Program funded by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. He lectured in our Holocaust and Genocide Lecture Series. Dr. Sarris regularly received the highest student evaluation scores attainable.

Dr. Sarris is one of the most productive writers and scholars in the history of Sonoma State

University. He is the author of six books and scores of scholarly works and essays. In 2021 Heyday Books gave him a lifetime achievement award as one our nation’s most important Native American fiction writers. Dr. Sarris is also a widely recognized figure in Native American education, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Without his voice on our campus we would not be poised to finally build a Native American Studies Department worthy of a second endowed chair from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

In short, the title of Distinguished Chair Emeritus would also honor both Dr. Sarris and the

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria’s commitment to our university. We have been truly

fortunate to have a scholar, writer, and leader of Dr. Sarris’s renown as a member of our faculty. I am hopeful we can recognize him upon his retirement as Distinguished Chair Emeritus.

Yours truly,

Hollis Robbins, Ph.D. Dean, School of Arts & Humanities

Resolution supporting United in Kindness Declaration of Unity

Resolved: That the Sonoma State University (SSU) Academic Senate endorse and encourage a

statement of unity in the pursuit and propagating acts of kindness among faculty, staff and students at the university to benefit everyone from living in a community in which kindness is a guiding principle.

Resolved: That over half-million Sonoma County neighbors come from diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and traditions in pursuit of joyful and healthful living and to be free from hateful speech, bullying, discrimination, and violence and that students require a place to grow and learn in peace and safety, guided in kindness and caring.

Resolved: That the SSU will be joining nearly 1,600 individual Sonoma County residents, 49

Sonoma County organizations, secular and non-secular, and 8 out of 9 city councils which have

endorsed the UIK Declaration of Unity and the Gold Resolution awarded by Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Resolved: That the Academic Senate of Sonoma State University, through directives and active

engagement with students, faculty, staff and public announcements, written materials, online social media, will encourage all Sonoma County residents to find ways to foster and sustain acts of kindness throughout the community, in their daily life and activities.

Resolved: That in order to sustain the resilience, health, and safety of all Sonoma County residents, we affirm trust in a social fabric that promotes and encourages, acts of kindness and that disallows harm to individuals and groups based on ability, age, appearance, ethnicity, gender identity, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic position.

Rationale: The UIK tenets of kindness encourage each of us to be our own beacons of caring one-on-one for another and structure our roles and organizations to foster and sustain kindness by exposing as many people as we can to the urgent need of becoming a kinder society. Each of us, in many diverse roles, has chances to promote kindness around us, more than one chance a

day. Educational institutes like SSU have a leading role, by encouraging and preparing students to create a better society for everyone to live in peace and with respect. Therefore, it is imperative that students practice acts of kindness such as respect, inclusivity, tolerance, compassion and equity during their educational endeavors by undertaking community projects or doing kindness assignments on campus. We can have a campus, which is kindness-certified. A proposition, which is good for students-good for the University and excellent for society.