Faculty establish meeting rules

Professors codified rules governing the structure and organization of the monthly Yale College faculty meetings a week ago, after several of those meetings erupted into heated debate last spring.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller and other members of the faculty steering committee presented the newly formalized rules — which Miller said were based on the unwritten “collection of customs and traditions” that have historically governed the meetings — at last Thursday’s Yale College faculty meeting. The roughly 100 professors present largely approved of the step and voted to pass two amendments that would further increase transparency for future meetings. University President Richard Levin also updated faculty on the effectiveness of Shared Services, a controversial business model intended to shift common administrative tasks in Yale’s various departments to centralized service units, and reaffirmed a decision made by the administration last spring not to impose Shared Services in departments that do not welcome the model.

“The update was to make sure people understood [how Shared Services would be implemented] and to make sure they understood the successes we’ve had with departments that have used Shared Services,” Levin said.

He added that several administrative departments within Yale, including the Secretary’s and Vice President’s Offices, have migrated to Shared Services and the business model has “reduced error rates and improved turnaround” in “routine transactions.”

Apart from Levin’s Shared Services update, Miller and the faculty meeting’s steering committee presented the rules concerning faculty meetings. English professor Jill Campbell and computer science professor Stanley Eisenstat both drafted amendments to rules that were accepted.

Campbell’s amendment will make the minutes of future meetings available online for professors to view on a password-protected site.

“The faculty at Yale is in constant motion, and there are many demands on our time, so if you can’t go to a meeting, you still should be able to find out from a reliable source that gives details about what happened,” said Victor Bers, a classics professor, adding that he approved of the amendment.

Another amendment, drafted by computer science professor Stanley Eisenstat, will increase the number of notices the faculty receive before each meeting. Though the agenda for the meetings are usually sent out two weeks in advance, there will now be a reminder email sent closer to the date, Miller said.

Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations professor Benjamin Foster GRD ’75 also presented a motion related to the meeting’s composition, calling for the extension of voting rights to more non-ladder faculty. Foster said he estimates that up to one-third of the faculty cannot vote, including those who have taught as visiting or part-time professors for several years.

According to the 2012 Faculty Handbook, only ladder faculty and full-time lectors and lecturers with appointments of over a year can attend and vote at the monthly meetings. The rules also stipulate that “certain other individuals who have continuing and significant interactions with undergraduates may also attend and vote,” including department chairs, residential college deans and masters and directors of undergraduate studies.

Foster said his motion would extend voting rights to anyone who has taught at the University for 10 or more semesters.

“I don’t understand how we can call it a Yale College faculty meeting if some faculty can’t attend,“ Foster said. “It comes down to a question of inclusiveness.”

Though Foster said the faculty steering committee initially turned down his proposal before Thursday’s meeting, he added that the motion was almost unanimously accepted when presented on the floor, and will be on the agenda for next month’s meeting.

Miller said she had promised the faculty at a meeting in early May that the steering committee would compile the rules governing the time, location, agenda and other aspects of faculty meetings over the summer and release the guidelines this fall.

“It’s important that our practice be regular, consistent and predictable,” she said. “[It] protects minority interest and makes [everything] more transparent to members.”

At last February’s meeting, faculty protested the implementation of Shared Services, alleging it is an across-the-board system that does not meet the needs of individual departments and has harmed staff. In their March and April meetings, they debated the University’s partnership with the National University of Singapore in the creation of a liberal arts college.

Yale College faculty meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month.

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