Faculty Forum builds discussion

In one of its first meetings, Yale’s faculty forum drew about 40 professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to discuss a range of issues affecting the University Monday afternoon.

Established this fall by Provost Peter Salovey, the forums are meant to solicit faculty input in University policy in a less structured format than the Yale College and Graduate School faculty meetings. After several planning meetings, the forum held its first meeting yesterday in which faculty determined the makeup of the agenda. Professors convened in Connecticut Hall to exchange ideas about the presidential search process, the University’s science and technology resources and the possibility of founding a faculty senate.

But economics professor Steven Berry, who chaired the meeting, said no consensuses emerged on any of these topics.

“It’s a new kind of meeting we’re trying out this year,” Berry said. “The FAS forum is a chance for people to express concerns and hear information.”

Berry said there was a good deal of enthusiasm among the professors present for “at least thinking about” the creation of a faculty senate, a form of a representative body for Yale’s faculty.

History professor Frank Snowden, who served as one of the three members of the committee responsible for establishing rules for the forum’s first meeting in early October, said the faculty discussed questions such as whether this senate would play an advisory role or a deliberative role and whether it would represent the full Yale faculty or just ladder-rank professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, though he said no conclusions were made.

The faculty forum, which is to convene twice a semester, was created in late August largely to address concerns expressed by some professors last spring over the faculty’s alleged lack of involvement in University governance. The FAS meetings are intended to allow more open discussions of issues facing the University — such as the presidential search and Yale’s partnership with the National University of Singapore in the creation of a liberal arts college — than allowed by the monthly meetings of faculty in Yale College and the Graduate School. Though faculty will have no official decision-making power in the forum, professors can pass formal resolutions “as the views of the FAS faculty.”

Anna Pyle, professor of biology and chemistry and member of the Presidential Search Committee, led the segment on the presidential search in which the faculty discussed what lessons Yale might take away from the search process, after it ended last Thursday with the appointment of Salovey as the University’s next president, Snowden said.

Berry said search committee members told the faculty they felt that they had learned a lot about the University during the search process and announced that they would be turning the input they had collected from the community over to Salovey, who will assume the presidency on June 30, 2013.

During the discussion about whether Yale should put more emphasis on the sciences, no consensus was reached on whether the University emphasizes the area of study too little, enough or too much in the allocation of resources and in undergraduate admissions, Berry said.

Over the past few weeks, professors have had the opportunity to submit agenda items on a website in anticipation of Monday’s meeting and vote to determine the three topics that would be discussed at the forum. Snowden called this procedure “the most democratic way” of establishing an agenda.

The Faculty Forum meetings are chaired by the faculty heads of Yale’s academic divisions — physical sciences and engineering, biological sciences, social sciences and humanities — on a rotating basis. The next Faculty Forum will take place on Feb. 4, 2013.

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