The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate voted against FAS Dean Tamar Gendler’s request that the February meeting enter into closed section –– which would require that the information presented be restricted to FAS faculty.
The day before the meeting, chair of the FAS Senate William Nordhaus sent a message to Senators informing the body that “in response to concerns about adverse publicity from Senate meetings,” they would vote on whether a part of the session should be closed. According to the email, meeting minutes do not include material from closed section and Senate rules require that the closed meeting’s contents not be shared with anyone outside of the FAS faculty.
Before Gendler presented, the Senators narrowly voted to deny her request. Gendler proceeded with the presentation in which she spoke about recent academic University investments, accomplishments of some members of the FAS faculty, changes to the FAS leadership team and information about the FAS and University budget. Gendler said that the original presentation included a slide with material she was only allowed to share with the FAS faculty. Two sources with the knowledge of the situation told the News that she removed the slide from the presentation, which they assume contained the confidential information.
According to French Senior Lector Ruth Koizim, the Senators discussed the prospect of a closed meeting and presented arguments from both sides before ultimately deciding to keep the full session open. In an email to the News, Nordhaus wrote that the Senate typically has “one or two closed meetings a year” for the purposes of discussing organizational matters like schedule and committee membership.
“Indeed, one of the central purposes of the Senate is to promote open discussion of university issues and to resist the temptation to label every last issue as ‘confidential’ when the main issue is that it is difficult to defend,” Nordhaus wrote.
According to the bylaws of the FAS Senate, the body can move to go into closed session at the discretion of the executive council or majority vote of the elected members. Prior to the meeting, some members of the FAS Senate requested Gendler prepare a presentation for the meeting “that would be shared with faculty only,” Gendler told the News. According to Gendler, at the meeting, Nordhaus learned that some senators preferred an open meeting so as to be able to share its contents beyond the full FAS faculty.
Gendler said she explained to the FAS Senate she would be able to present everything that she had originally prepared aside from one set of data, “which concerned personnel matters that can be shared with faculty but not with non-faculty.”
“At the meeting, the Senators decided that they preferred to have an open rather than a closed session,” Gendler said. “I was happy to proceed under those terms, and was pleased to present a robust presentation and to engage with discussion with my Senate colleagues.”
Senators interviewed by the News varied on their stances regarding the meeting. Koizim said that while she considered both options, she ultimately decided to vote to keep the meeting open, despite feeling that the Senators “were going to miss out on [receiving information] if we did not swear ourselves to secrecy.” Koizim said that she does not know what the Senate missed by voting to keep the meeting closed.
Another member of the Senate, who preferred to remain anonymous to speak candidly on the matter, said she voted for a closed meeting because she wanted to hear Gendler’s full presentation. Yet, she said that the Senators did not have a lot of time to discuss the vote, adding that had she thought more on the matter, she may have voted for an open meeting for the purposes of creating an open environment.
“I think the University in general has a real problem with lack of transparency and closed meetings will only contribute to that,” the Senator wrote in an email to the News.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate was established in 2015.
Carly Wanna | firstname.lastname@example.org