The Faculty Senate is seeking feedback from its members concerning recent discussion about expanding the Senate to include clinical faculty and lecturers.
Six speakers shared opinions in favor and against the expansion at the Nov. 21 Faculty Senate meeting. About 30 members attended in person at University Hall in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building with more than 150 people tuning in via Zoom.
The Faculty Senate, also referred to as the University Senate, currently includes more than 4,250 tenure-track faculty, researchers, librarians, deans and executive officers from all three campuses.
Members who spoke in favor of adding clinical faculty and lecturers were:
- Brian Zink, senior associate dean for faculty and faculty development, associate chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, and professor of emergency medicine, Medical School.
- Margherita Fontana, Clifford Nelson Endowed Professor, professor of dentistry; director, Global Initiatives Program in Oral and Craniofacial Health, School of Dentistry.
- Kentaro Toyama, W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information, professor of information, School of Information.
Fontana and Zink said clinical faculty includes talented individuals who deserve a voice in key university decisions, and their exclusion from discussions that concern them is inappropriate.
Zink also said more than half of clinical track faculty are women compared to only 32% within the tenure track, and the clinical track faculty are younger by almost a full decade.
“Adding clinical track faculty from the Medical School to the Senate would add diversity to the Senate and better represent our overall faculty than just our tenure and research tracks are doing at this time,” he said.
Toyama said although lecturers are members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization union, joining the Faculty Senate would allow them to have regular interactions with university administration. He also said the Faculty Senate could create a strategy to add clinical faculty and lecturers without losing the voice of tenure-track members.
Members who delivered arguments against the expansion included:
- Michael Thouless, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Janine Johnson Weins Professor of Engineering, professor of mechanical engineering, associate chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering, professor of materials science and engineering, College of Engineering.
- Rebekah Modrak, professor of art and design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
- Silvia Pedraza, Faculty Senate chair; professor of sociology, and of American culture, LSA.
All three said adding clinical faculty and lecturers would significantly decrease the representation of current Faculty Senate members.
“If clinical faculty and unionized faculty joined the Senate, tenure stream faculty would constitute a minority,” Modrak said. “That would mean that tenure itself, the only guaranteer of academic freedom, would lose its voice.”
Thouless and Pedraza said the Medical School and the university are two separate entities and businesses with different priorities.
“The clinical faculty should find its own representation; they should drop their white-collar prejudices and become unionized, just like the lecturers did. That is the best way for them to gain representation,” Pedraza said.
The Faculty Senate Office provided a link during the Nov. 21 meeting for Faculty Senate members in attendance to submit feedback. After the meeting, the link was resent to attendees with a reminder to submit their feedback.