Fees committee snubs its faculty members

We are writing to correct several inaccuracies in the Daily’s front-page article about our disenfranchisement as the faculty representatives on the Student Services Fees Committee.
We were not, as the Daily reported, “appointed ex-officio nonvoting members in late February.” In December and January, we accepted student nominations, and in early January, our names were forwarded to the University Senate committee on committees, as was that of a teaching specialist nominated by fees committee chairman Jesse Berglund. On Feb. 3, at its first regular meeting of the semester, the committee on committees duly appointed us to the fees committee; the fourth nominee was disqualified on the ground that he is not a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.
We continued with our teaching and research, assuming that we would be forwarded schedules and other relevant information by Berglund or by Vicki Larson, the committee administrator. This assumption proved to be false.
Although we received descriptions of our duties from the committee on committees, the next time we heard directly from anyone associated with the fees committee was on Feb. 16, after all but one of the subcommittee hearings had taken place. On that date, Larson informed us that, under a “tentative agreement” made between Berglund and the committee on committees, only two of us would be seated, and we would be nonvoting, ex-officio members. The reason for this “tentative agreement” was that the committee on committees had appointed us after a January “deadline.” One of us was falsely told that the other two had consented to this arrangement.
According to the Board of Regents’ written policy on the Student Services Fee, “all members of the committee shall have the right to vote.” When we contacted members of the committee on committees for an explanation of this violation of University policy, we learned that only two of them had been involved in the discussions that led to the purported “agreement”; that the fees committee chair had taken the position that faculty should not be allowed to participate at all; that, while the idea of seating us as nonvoting members had been discussed, neither of the committee on committees’ members believed at the time that they had made an “agreement;” and that neither they nor the full committee on committees had the authority to make such an “agreement” in any event.
We also learned that we had been appointed more than a week in advance of any of the subcommittee deliberations, allowing sufficient time for us to prepare and attend had the proper information been sent.
On Feb. 17, we finally received the fees proposals submitted by student groups and our subcommittee assignments. We still received no subcommittee schedules, but were informed by the student group being evaluated that the final subcommittee hearing was scheduled for that evening.
The following week, we learned that the fees-committee leadership had scheduled a closed-door meeting about the faculty voting issue with Vice President McKinley Boston, Associate Vice President Jane Canney and a representative from the Office of the General Counsel. One of us attended the meeting, along with a member of the committee on committees — which has taken the position that even if there had been a valid agreement, the fees-committee leadership had violated its spirit by failing to tell us when the subcommittees met — and explained our position.
The fees-committee leadership adopted a new argument at that point, claiming that because we had not attended most of the subcommittee deliberations, our position was analogous to that of student alternates, who are not permitted to vote once subcommittee hearings have begun. In other words, they argued that their own actions in withholding schedules and other fees materials from us justified their position that we should be denied the right to vote.
Canney wrote the fees committee two days later to say that the administration would decide not to intervene while the fees committee was deliberating, but would revisit the issue after it had submitted its recommendations. At that point, if her office considered that the faculty members had been improperly denied its vote, the entire process would be sent back to the fees committee to do over again, now with faculty members voting.
We are left in a state of profound confusion over these circumstances. In the first place, we cannot understand the opposition of some members of the fees committee — and its leadership — to faculty participation. In our view, faculty members bring a unique perspective to the fees committee. Unlike students, we bring a long-term viewpoint and a sense of institutional memory to discussion of the groups receiving fees and the University in general. Unlike administrators, we deal directly with students and are able to provide an educator’s perspective on how the activities of fees-receiving groups interact with and supplement the University’s formal curriculum. The University’s policy specifically calls for the participation of three faculty members on the fees committee, and we feel this policy exists for good reason.
In summary, the treatment to which we have been subjected by some associated with the fees committee has been unprofessional, undemocratic and contrary to University policy. The Student Senate Consultative Committee recently passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming our right to participate as full voting members. We are confident that the administration will agree that the only “violation of rules” here was on the part of the fees committee itself, which has exceeded its authority, misrepresented the process and damaged the legitimacy of the fees process as a whole.
We believe this was done not in the name of student voices being heard, but precisely to silence some voices that might have been better heard had we been allowed to play our rightful roles from the beginning.
Professor Timothy Brennan, English and cultural studies/comparative literature;
Professor Rose Brewer, Afro-American and African studies;
Professor Jennifer Pierce, American studies