Senate Meeting of 18 March 2021

Changes proposed by the Spanish section of the Modern Languages Department to its MA program and approved unanimously by the EPC were accepted by the Senate on a consent basis. See

Several times during the meeting the tragic murders of eight Asian women in Atlanta the previous week were mentioned. It was noted that SSU once had an Asian Studies program but it has atrophied. Many spoke in favor of resurrecting it, given the increased need for better understanding by the general public of the Asian-American experience. President Sakaki, who is herself a high-profile person of Asian descent, has been speaking in public recently about the Asian-American experience as it is evolving in this fraught era.

There was a First Reading of a proposal from the Engineering Department that its majors be exempt from the A-3 general education requirement (Critical Thinking). This request has been approved by EPC, and if approved by the Senate will require authorization from the Chancellor’s Office. The rationale is that 1) the Engineering program itself adequately fosters critical thinking and 2) Engineering is traditionally a high-unit major, and under the present structure there is insufficient “space” in a 120-unit major for adequate instruction in Engineering given the unit-heavy GE requirements.

There were two questions raised: 1) whether Engineering – or any department – can really teach substantive “critical thinking” in the strong sense of the content requirements of A3; 2) whether SSU Engineering should do as many other campuses with Engineering programs did: request of the Chancellor’s Office permission to teach a 128-unit major. For unremembered reasons SSU did not make this request when the CO required all campuses to move to 120-unit baccalaureate degrees unless specific permission were given to have higher-unit majors.

The student Senator raised the objection that those 8 more units might require a student to spend one or two more semesters to get a degree, with little regard for the presumably diminished quality that degree would continue to have under the present arrangement.

There was a Second Reading on the proposal from the Structure and Functions committee for a Bylaws change that will alter the number of members of the URTP (University Retention Tenure and Promotion) Committee, and also alter the manner of representation. At present the Committee consists of five faculty (tenured full professors) elected at large. The proposal is to increase the number of members to seven and to distribute the membership as follows: 1 each from the five Schools, 1 from the Library, and 1 at large.

Since the original proposal did not specify clearly whether the members from a School/Library represent that unit and so are voted on only by faculty in that unit, or they remain selections by the entire faculty. The Senate adopted, by vote of 18-0, clarifying language that the School/Library members would be elected from and by the School/Library faculty. The argument that, considering the importance and power of this committee to make decisions affecting the lives, livelihoods, and careers of faculty, it might be prudent to have its entire membership elected by the entire faculty, was not persuasive to the Senate.

It was agreed at the previous meeting that “majority vote” is problematic, since with more than two candidates a majority might not be achieved; and in multi-winner elections it isn’t even clear what a “majority” means. At this meeting it was agreed that elections of At-Large members will be conducted by “majority” vote rather than “plurality”, but since Schools and the Library run their own elections, it was decided to allow these units to make the change from “majority” to “plurality” if they so choose.

The final proposal, as amended, passed 20-0.

There was a Second Reading of a proposal from FSAC that had been drafted by the AFS (Academic Freedom Subcommittee) and the PDS (Professional Development Subcommittee) concerning the teaching of sensitive materials. It is an attempt to compromise between faculty rights to choose the content of their courses and students’ desire not to be traumatized. There were concerns expressed on both sides: The document goes too far, and limits the Academic Freedom of faculty; the document does not go far enough, and exposes students to potential trauma. The Student Senator was adamant that avoiding traumatizing students far outweighed the faculty’s right to Academic Freedom. Eventually the policy was passed as originally submitted, by a vote of 14-6.

The Academic Freedom Subcommittee and the Professional Development Subcommittee created a document for best practices for the teaching of sensitive material which the Senate endorsed. Questions about this document can be addressed to Ajay Gehlawat, Chair of AFS or Suzanne O'Keeffe, Chair of PDS. 

There was a Second Reading of an extensive proposal regarding a checklist for diversity and inclusivity, submitted by the SDS (Senate Diversity Subcommittee), which sets forth many ways in which course syllabi may be made more inclusive and promote equity. This proposal passed by a unanimous vote of 20-0.

Syllabus Review for Justice, Equity and Inclusion - The Senate Diversity Subcommittee created this document as guidance for faculty who want to create syllabi that embody justice, equity and inclusion which the Senate endorsed Any questions about this document can be addressed to Krista Altaker, Chair of the Senate Diversity Subcommittee.

There was a Second Reading of a statement by APARC, which proposes that the language of the syllabus policy be revised such that it requires all faculty to provide syllabi in a format that is accessible to all students with the content built into the LMS (learning management system). The Sonoma State ATI committee has been working for two years, trying to bring the campus into compliance with the CSU Policy that requires SSU to use the LMS to disseminate course information to all students. The CSU policy is based upon the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) section 508. (See also This proposal passed by a unanimous vote of 20-0.

Revision to the Syllabus Policy: The Syllabus policy was revised and brought into compliance with CSU policy and the ADA. We have been at least 12 years out of compliance. The revision is as follows:

III. C. has been changed from:

Syllabi shall be provided in a format that is accessible to all students. It is recommended that faculty use the Accessible Syllabus Template. If the accessible syllabus template is not used, faculty members should consult with the Disability Services for Student office to ensure their syllabus is accessible

Syllabi shall be provided in a format that is accessible to all students with the content built into the university learning management system.

This was also added to the end of the policy. It is not "policy," but recommendation for procedure:

Procedure (not policy): It is recommended that faculty use the Accessible Syllabus Template. If the accessible syllabus template is not used, faculty members should consult with the Center for Teaching and Educational Technology or Universal Access Hub to ensure their syllabus is accessible.

Any questions about this policy change can be addressed to Elita Virmani, Chair of APARC or Sandy Ayala, Chair of ATISS. This policy revision needs to be approved by the President. 

Considering the full agenda, there was little time for the usual reports. Of interest are two comments made by Interim Provost Moranski in her report: she too believes SSU might wish to look into re-establishing an Asian Studies Program; and SSU has now officially been designated a HIS (Hispanic-Serving Institution).

The remainder of this meeting was spent on two controversial matters, technically separate but closely related. Both concern the intrusion by the Dean of Social Sciences into the affairs of the Criminality and Criminal Justice Department. One is a resolution prepared by Senator S Brannen and the other is the question of endorsing a statement from EPC. The proposed resolution from Senator Brannen is appended below, as modified at this meeting.

The Senate voted (16-1, your ERFSA Senator dissenting) to water down Senator Brannen’s statement by eliminating clauses #4 and #5, which addressed the specific violations of concern here, leaving only the broad statement of principles in #1, #2, and #3, to which everyone nominally agrees. A new #4 claiming the Senate is trying only to express its values was added by a vote of 17-0, the original #6 (on distribution) became #5, and the amended version finally passed by a vote of 18-0. Students present added to the discussion their unhappiness that a dispute between faculty and administration, in which they claimed to have no involvement or interest, was affecting their progress toward their degree.

The meeting had to be extended just to reach a final vote on this matter, and so the endorsement of the EPC statement on this same matter was put off to the next meeting.

>>        Submitted by Rick Luttmann, Senate Representative for SSU-ERFSA



To: Members of the SSU Academic Senate

From: Megan McIntyre, Chair GE Subcommittee and Emily Vieira Asencio, Chair EPC

Date: March 9, 2021

Subject: Engineering A3 waiver request

The members of the General Education Subcommittee and Education Policies Committee overwhelmingly support the attached GE A3 waiver request from the Department of Engineering Science. This waiver allows students in Engineering to advance toward degree completion at a reasonable pace while still receiving the benefits of SSU’s general education experience. As Engineering persuasively argues in their attached rationale, the engineering design process (a significant component of Engineering’s coursework) involves complex critical thinking and “provide[s] an applied, problem-solving approach to developing the necessary critical-thinking skills and reasoning techniques” (p. 2). This waiver will also provide equity for transfer students (who currently request individual A3 waiver exceptions) by automatically granting an A3 admissions waiver to all incoming transfer students. This waiver will allow the engineering department to maintain a degree program of 120 units that also remains congruent with ABET accreditation requirements and GE requirements, including the GE learning outcomes of the SSU GE program.

We ask that the SSU Academic Senate add their support to this waiver request so that it may be sent to the CSU Chancellor’s Office for consideration.

Joint Statement by the Academic Freedom Subcommittee (AFS) and Professional

Development Subcommittee (PDS) Concerning Teaching Sensitive Material


The following is a Best Practices statement regarding teaching sensitive material

developed by AFS and PDS, with input from CAPS and DSS, and intended for our

fellow faculty. This statement is based on related studies conducted by the American

Association of University Professors (AAUP), regarding trigger warnings. The full text of

the AAUP report is available here:


Associated Students expressed concern over graphic or sensitive course content that

has the potential to elicit overwhelming feelings of anxiety, stress, trauma, and/or grief.

Neither the Professional Development Subcommittee (PDS) nor the Academic Freedom

Subcommittee (AFS) advocates for the removal of sensitive content. We do believe

providing context with any assignment can be part of an effective teaching pedagogy,

however it is entirely up to the instructor to determine the most effective pedagogical

approach, as well as whether, how and when to provide such context.


Some discomfort is inevitable in classrooms when the goal is to expose students to new

ideas; to have them question beliefs they have taken for granted; to grapple with ethical

problems they have never considered; and, more generally, to expand their horizons

contributing to an informed and democratic society. In addition, as professors, we have

the academic freedom to include whatever course content we deem necessary to

address our course standards.


As two University Faculty Committees, we listened to the students who are advocating

for their needs and attempted to find an equitable solution for both students and faculty.

We also fully considered the importance of upholding our individual and collective

academic freedom as faculty. Exposure to certain graphic images/discussions can elicit

reactions associated with trauma; however, the classroom is not the appropriate venue

to treat PTSD or trauma, both of which may require professional treatment.


A student who is reporting a diagnosis of PTSD or reporting that they have experienced

trauma should be referred to Disability Services for Students (DSS) if they would like

class accommodations, and/or to Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) if a

psychological treatment consultation is desired. Professors are encouraged to help

guide students to these available resources. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act,

the DSS office works with students and faculty members to provide accommodations to

ensure equal access, while maintaining the academic integrity of the course. Referrals

should be made and accommodations addressed without affecting other students’

exposure to material that has educational value.


Faculty who are interested in learning practices that support the teaching of sensitive

material may wish to contact the Center for Teaching & Educational Technology (CTET), which offers customized workshops for departments and schools, in addition to free,

confidential, non-evaluative consultations for individual faculty. It is important to note,

however, that such workshops and consultations are not mandatory and it is the

individual faculty member’s decision to participate in such workshops.



SDS Syllabus Review for Inclusion and Justice


Senate Diversity Subcommittee (SDS)

Chair: Krista Altaker

Task Force Members: Aja LaDuke, Monica Lares, Megan McIntyre, Lisel Murdock-Perriera, Teresa Nguyen



This document is intended to support faculty in creating more equitable and just course policies

and syllabi. The goal is to help faculty revisit and revise their syllabus, policies, and practices

through a lens of inclusion, equity, and justice. Below, we offer reflective questions, suggested

guidelines and/or templates, and additional resources related to elements of course syllabi for

interested faculty. The SDS Syllabus Review is intentionally modular so that faculty can choose

to focus on certain areas of inclusion, equity, and justice one at a time (or as they choose). It is

intended to be supportive of faculty and department efforts toward equity and inclusion but

should not be made mandatory for any faculty.



Asynchronous Dissemination:

We encourage that this document be used asynchronously by faculty members. We intend that this document be used to recognize those doing important equity work. Below is a list of possible methods for SDS to disseminate this resource to the larger campus community. The SDS Syllabus Review is intended to be supportive of faculty and department efforts toward equity and inclusion but should in no way be made mandatory for any faculty. In addition to use by individual faculty members, we support the document being added to following websites/emails:

● Center of Teaching & Educational Technology

● Resource pages for new faculty

● Peer Observation of Faculty resource pages

● Faculty Affairs resources for faculty


Synchronous/Workshop Dissemination:

If you would like to use this document for a workshop, contact the SDS Task Force members

who will coordinate guidance on how to use the document and/or to co-facilitate the

workshop. A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion document such as this one may contribute to

continued systemic discrimination if syllabus and practice review are not accompanied by

commitments to anti-racist and liberatory practices. Changes to syllabi and policy without

accompanied changes to pedagogies and practices can cause significant harm.

Workshop Coordinators / Facilitators: Megan McIntyre, Lisel Murdock-Perriera, Teresa Nguyen


On behalf of all of the faculty members on the APARC committee, we request that the syllabus

policy be revisited at ExCom so that we can continue to move forward with bringing Sonoma

State University into compliance with CSU policy.

The Sonoma State campus ATI committee has been working for two years, trying to bring the campus into compliance with the CSU Policy that requires SSU to use the LMS to disseminate course information to all students. The CSU policy is based upon the ADA section 508. CSU Policy, please see below for more details.

We propose that the language of the syllabus policy be revised such that it requires all faculty to provide syllabi in a format that is accessible to all students with the content built into the learning management system.

Some ways that the syllabus content could be built into the learning management system include, but are not limited to: 1) The syllabus could be posted as a word document or google document in the instructor’s associated Canvas Course. For instance, the file could be uploaded into one of the modules or developed as its own page in Canvas. 2) The instructor could build the syllabi into the syllabi tab on Canvas. We imagine there are other ways to build one’s syllabus into the Canvas Course. The key is that the syllabus is housed in Canvas so that the document is available to all students electronically as well as reviewed to ensure that it meets accessibility standards via Ally.


Elita Amini Virmani, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Studies, APARC Chair

Megan Burke, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, APARC Member

Puspa Amri, Assistant Professor, Economics, APARC Member

Catherine Fonesca, Outreach and Inclusion Librarian, APARC Member

Kathleen Rockett, Clinical Instructor, Nursing, APARC Member

Emily Acosta Lewis, Associate Professor, Communication and Media Studies, APARC Member

Kathleen Rockett, Clinical Instructor, Nursing, APARC Member

Emily Acosta Lewis, Associate Professor, Communication and Media Studies, APARC Member

From Senator Brannen, as modified:

Resolution on Administrative Encroachment into Curricular Matters

RESOLVED: That the Sonoma State University (SSU) Academic Senate commits to protecting the academic standards of all academic programs at Sonoma State University and to ensuring that all academic policies and procedures are observed by all parties, and therefore be it;

RESOLVED: That the SSU Academic Senate recognizes the right and duty of faculty to determine curricula, methods of teaching, appropriate class size, and

RESOLVED: That the SSU Academic Senate opposes all acts of administrative encroachment into curricular matters, and therefore be it;

RESOLVED: that we pass this resolution to reaffirm our values as a Senate.

RESOLVED: That this resolution be distributed to the SSU President, Interim Provost and Associate Vice Provost, all School Deans, Department Chairs, Program Directors, RTP Chairs, the ASCSU Chair, the CFA Statewide President, and the CFA SSU Chapter President.

Approved by the Senate 03/18/2021


Professor Emily Asencio and CCJS Department Chair Napoleon Reyes reported to the SSU Academic Senate that Dean Troi Carleton interfered with CCJS curricular matters and violated academic policies and procedures when she removed Professor Asencio as CCJS Internship Coordinator on February 5, 2021 because of Professor Asencio’s refusal to accept additional students in CCJS 499 over the enrollment cap. Without the consent of the CCJS Department, Dean Carleton appointed herself as Interim CCJS Internship Coordinator, opened an additional section of CCJS 499 and assigned herself as class instructor, and claimed to have unilaterally changed the CS code of CCJS 499 from CS36 to CS78, in spite of the fact that changes in CS numbers must go through faculty governance. Dean Carleton has also continued to approve internship applications, allowing students to enroll in CCJS 499 without considering whether the proposed internships meet the standards set by the CCJS Department for internship placements. CCJS students were also told that "projects" would be allowed as substitutes for an actual internship required under the CCJS B.A. curriculum. These actions by Dean Carleton violate long established academic policies and procedures and constitute egregious encroachment into curricular matters.