Starting next Monday, professors will have a new venue to discuss and adopt formal opinions on behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
The recently introduced FAS meetings will convene twice a semester and allow professors to adopt formal resolutions “as the views of the FAS faculty,” following rules released in an email by Provost Peter Salovey last Thursday. The FAS meetings are intended to encourage broader and more open discussion of issues facing the University than currently allowed by the monthly meetings of faculty in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which are “carefully choreographed and ritualized,” according to the report that proposed rules for the new meetings.
While the FAS meetings aim to allow greater faculty input, they will not hand any formal decision-making authority to professors.
History professor Frank Snowden, a member of the three-person committee that wrote the rules, said resolutions passed at the FAS meetings will have “influence rather than power.” Salovey said in a Sunday email that formal resolutions that come out of the meetings, which can only be passed if a quorum of 40 people are in attendance, will constitute “very significant statements of views held by the faculty” and will be “regarded with deserved seriousness.” He said faculty are already offered decision-making power on issues concerning curriculum and faculty appointment and promotions in other venues.
Snowden said the FAS meetings will allow faculty members to discuss issues such as Yale’s partnership with the National University of Singapore in the creation of a new liberal arts college and general concerns about staffing in academic departments. The agenda for the Oct. 1 meeting has two items planned: the search process for a successor to University President Richard Levin and the ongoing academic review of the FAS.
Political science professor Seyla Benhabib GRD ’77 said in a Monday email that the introduction of the FAS meetings suggests that the administration recognizes the concerns raised by her and some other faculty members in the spring that “major policy decisions and other matters affecting the life of the University were not being discussed adequately in public fora.” Benhabib said she remains concerned about some details of the meetings, such as which faculty members and administrators are invited to attend, and how agenda items will be handled.
The proposed rules state that only full-time ladder faculty members of the FAS will be able to attend the meetings, making 682 people eligible for the first one. This includes administrators who are tenured members of the faculty — such as Salovey, Levin, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard — but excludes lecturers, lectors and other instructors.
In his email to faculty last week, Salovey said the rules proposed by the three-person committee were accepted by the Expanded Executive Committee of the FAS — consisting of himself, Levin, Miller, Pollard, School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Kyle Vanderlick, and the four faculty divisional directors in the physical sciences and engineering, biological sciences, social sciences and humanities. The rules may be changed by faculty after the first meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. in Luce Hall.
Yair Minsky, chair of the Mathematics Department, said he will not have a clear stance on the meetings until he sees how they operate, but added that he thinks they are “being organized in good faith.”
The rules committee recommended the meetings be chaired by the FAS divisional directors on a rotating basis. Salovey said in his email to faculty that Donald Engelman GRD ’67, professor of molecular biophysics and chemistry and director of the biological sciences division, will chair the Oct. 1 meeting.