Vote power for faculty expanded

Starting next year, the crowd at the now scantly attended monthly Yale College faculty meetings may grow a bit bigger.

At its last meeting of the fall semester Thursday afternoon, College faculty members unanimously decided to extend voting rights at future faculty meetings to full-time lectors and lecturers on multi-year contracts, in addition to all junior and senior professors, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Thursday night.

Previously, invitations to the faculty meetings — and voting rights at the meetings — were extended only to permanent faculty members and residential-college deans. Following today’s decision, approximately 120 full-time language lectors and lecturers will be invited to future meetings, Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs John Meeske said.

Meeske said the change was inspired by a sense among faculty that lectors and lecturers who spend a large amount of time with undergraduates should have a voice in policies that impact students.

“It was just based on a feeling that the people who teach undergraduates regularly should be … able to attend faculty meetings and decide academic issues that affect students,” he said. “People recognize that there was a substantial group of people who have a similar commitment in Yale College.”

Meeske said approximately 50 faculty members and administrators were present at the meeting, which was not open to students.

A committee consisting of Meeske, classics professor Victor Bers, English professor Linda Peterson, Chemistry professor Michael McBride and Director of Institutional Research John Goldin met last fall to look into expanding the number of instructors invited to faculty meetings. The committee made its report in favor of bringing lectors and lecturers into the fold in spring 2007, but the motion was tabled until yesterday’s meeting, Meeske and Bers said.

Bers said the faculty’s decision will benefit both lectors and lecturers, as well as the University as a whole.

“The rule up to now was both a great professional discourtesy to our colleagues who are lecturers and lectors and a self-inflicted wound, since we were excluding from our deliberations people who often have a much closer knowledge of undergraduate education than many of the ladder faculty.”

After the change, only part-time lectors and lecturers or those on a one-year appointment will not be invited to faculty meetings.

Meeske and Bers said they hope the expanded number of eligible voters will bring liveliness to the monthly meetings, which are usually attended by just a fraction of the approximately 650 previously eligible faculty members, Meeske said.

“One thing that might happen is that the meetings will get more interesting if more people would come,” Bers said. “It might in time become a place where important issues are often discussed and voted on.”

Bers and Meeske said, at the meeting, that Salovey said he would like the change to take effect next academic year, after administrators are able to make a list of those individuals who fit the criteria of multi-year, full-time lectors and lecturers.

Language instructors and administrators had mixed feelings about voting at faculty meetings.

Italian lector Michael Farina, who has taught at four other schools, including Duke University and the University of Connecticut, said Yale’s language lectors are already treated comparatively well within their departments.

“Lectors are pretty lucky to be at Yale,” Farina said. “We’re called ‘professor.’ We’re treated as colleagues and not as underlings just doing the grunt work. We’re treated as integral parts to the department.”

Farina said he thinks lectors should not be allowed to vote at meetings because, at least within the relatively small Italian Department, he feels his opinion is taken into account regularly.

But Germanic Languages and Literatures senior lector and language coordinator Marion Gehlker said she thinks level of responsibility — not title — should determine who gets a vote at faculty meetings.

“Certainly people who are in charge of responsibilities other than just teaching a class probably should have a vote,” Gehlker said. “We [lectors] have been here sometimes longer than some of the assistant professors.”

Bers said Thursday’s move brings Yale up to par with Columbia, Princeton and Brown universities’ voting policies regarding lectors and lecturers — and ahead of its counterpart in Cambridge.

“I hope to see Harvard follow,” he said.

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