U Senate considers dropping student, faculty seats to add employee representatives

The University Senate makes recommendations to administrators and the Board of Regents.

Jake Weyer

The University Senate is considering a reorganization that would require the largest change to its constitution since students gained Senate chairs in 1970.

A proposal currently in several Senate committees would add two classes of University employees to the governing body’s ranks: civil service employees, and academic professional and administrative staff.

The proposed change would allow each class of employees to elect 25 senators. To accommodate this, the number of student senators would drop from 59 to 50 and the number of faculty senators would drop from 175 to 125.

“There is absolutely no forum on the entire campus that allows these people to get together,” said Dan Feeney, coordinator of the Senate Reorganization Working Group, a collective of students, faculty and staff who created the proposal.

The University Senate is the governing body that makes recommendations to administration officials and the Board of Regents. Currently, faculty and students compose most of the senate.

Under current University

Senate rules, each senate member can speak for three minutes during any meeting. If a non member, such as a civil service employee, wants to speak, a senate member must defer his or her time to that person.

There are about 4,300 academic professionals and administrators and 4,500 civil service employees throughout the Twin Cities, Morris, Crookston and Duluth campuses. Professional and administrative jobs include teaching, counseling, conducting research and running departments. Civil service employees perform numerous services including staff support and maintenance.

However, some Senate members are skeptical of the rearrangement.

Darryn Beckstrom, a political science senior and University Senate member said she disagrees with the proposal because it limits the student voice.

“We are actually losing seats instead of maintaining what we have,” Beckstrom said. “The University Senate was created as a base for students and faculty. It’s not a place to deal with other employee issues.”

Beckstrom said progress on issues including publicizing student evaluations and abolishing the Graduation Proficiency Test could slow if the proposal is approved.

Scott LeBlanc, Minnesota Student Association academics and services chairman, said one potential problem with the proposal is the reorganization of the Senate Consultative Committee, where student representation will drop from nine to six to accommodate civil service and professional and administrative employees.

LeBlanc said issues such as an on-campus stadium and the student code of conduct pass through the Senate Consultative Committee before they are discussed by the University Senate.

The proposal must pass through the Senate Consultative Committee, the University Senate, University administrators and the Board of Regents before it can be implemented.

Feeney said if the proposal is approved, Senate elections will likely occur in spring 2005, and the reorganization could take place as early as the next fall.

Academic professional and administrative and civil service employees look forward to participating in the University Senate.

“Over the last few years, it would have been good to have communications between all of those groups,” civil service employee Matthew Bowers said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”