Nine months after its creation, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate Implementation Committee has outlined the potential authority of the new FAS Senate.
In March 2014, University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak formally tasked an 11-person ad-hoc committee with providing a detailed structure of this new governing body, which was first recommended in a faculty input report issued last November. In a draft proposal “fact sheet” acquired by the News — which summarizes the upcoming report — the committee provided proposals on the size, electoral process and role of the senate. With the formal vote on the report scheduled for Dec. 2, political science professor and chair of the Senate Implementation Committee Steve Wilkinson said he hopes the senate framework will receive support among the FAS.
According to the report, the senate will meet on a monthly basis and its executive council will be vested with the power to set the agendas of the meetings. The senate will operate under the assumption that major initiatives and policies affecting FAS faculty — including discussions of the FAS budget, faculty resource pool slots and FAS diversity efforts — will be presented to the FAS Senate in a timely manner, the report said.
“We have tried to be responsive to whatever input to improve the draft along the way and we have made those improvements,” Wilkinson said. “I think what we got is pretty good, and while it certainly won’t be perfect, and there are provisions to changing the rules, we hope the FAS will vote it up.”
The full report will be circulated to FAS faculty by the end of the week.
The drafted fact sheet — which was distributed at a FAS town hall meeting two weeks ago — provides a glimpse of what will ultimately be included in the final report. The impending release moves Yale one step closer to changing the way faculty governance is conducted, bringing Yale in line with peer institutions like Stanford and University of California, Berkeley that have already implemented an elected body for faculty.
“The FAS Senate provides a clear voice for FAS faculty and serves as a form and deliberative body for the discussions of FAS issues,” the document read. “It also creates a formal conduit between the administration and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”
FAS Dean Tamar Gendler said that since the creation of the senate was already endorsed by FAS faculty in December 2013, the vote will reflect how faculty would like to structure and conduct their senate.
As a faculty member in the FAS, Gendler will be eligible to vote in elections. However, as a full-time administrator, she will not be able to stand for a position in the senate.
“People who are full-time administrators don’t have a lot of extra time, and it makes very good sense to reserve positions in the faculty senate for people who have the time to devote the care it deserves,” she said.
According to the latest draft, which Wilkinson confirmed would be consistent with the final report, the size of the faculty senate would be held at 22 members — subject to periodic review — and will be made up of ladder and full-time non-ladder FAS faculty.
The proposed membership of 22 senators contrasts with the initial recommendation by the Faculty Input Committee in November 2013 to have membership of 35–40 professors. Wilkinson said that because proposed term lengths were reduced from three years to two years, it was more appropriate to have a smaller number of FAS senators as well.
“We felt it was probably better to start smaller and if that proved inadequate in the future, we can change to revise that,” Wilkinson said. “It is better to have fewer people doing a better job for deliberation than just requiring more people to go to meetings.”
Political science and philosophy professor Seyla Benhabib said it was important that the committee revised its initial three-year terms to two-year terms since senate responsibilities may conflict with sabbatical schedules. The University permits tenured faculty to go on sabbatical within a three-year time frame, so some senior faculty would not be willing to forfeit their sabbatical to serve on the senate, she said.
However, Benhabib said she largely supported the creation of the FAS Senate and believed lingering questions regarding the structure can be worked out once the initial body is formed.
“Conflicts over the recent years, ranging from Shared Services to Yale-NUS, have shown the need for a forum where broader policy discussion with the faculty can take place,” she said. “If the new Faculty Senate is to achieve its goals, most important will be its capacity to set its own agenda of discussion on issues that elected members consider of significance whether or not this has been given the green light by the administration.”
History professor Daniel Kevles said that while difficulties will likely arise in establishing any new governing body, especially without local precedent, he believes these “kinks” will be worked out in time.
In addition to term length and membership size, the proposal recommended the creation of a six-member executive council of FAS Senate members, with a chair and secretary. The role of the executive council will be to serve as a liaison with members of the administration on a more regular basis and define the agendas of the senate meetings, Wilkinson said. Further, the proposal stated that a nominating committee of five faculty will encourage faculty candidates to run. However, self-nomination and peer-nomination would also be allowed, Wilkinson said.
The committee recommended that Faculty Forum meetings be discontinued, but also suggested that Yale College faculty meetings continue to discuss college-specific issues.