In 2013, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences established a senate to formalize a way for the University to solicit faculty input. After the senate’s optimistic first meeting in September 2015, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler told the News that her office and the senate are “mutually supportive” and said she is “always enthusiastic about structures that involve more of our faculty in thinking about the governance of the University.”
But only 3 1/2 years later, the relationship between the senate and the University administration has grown increasingly confrontational, culminating in a meeting last week when senators discussed whether to distribute a resolution of concern lamenting the Senate’s lack of input in major institutional decisions.
“The senate is a response to the increasing corporatization of the University, which has displaced the earlier central role of the faculty in shared governance,” chair of the FAS Senate William Nordhaus said. “While, not surprisingly, there is resistance to the senate from existing structures, I am confident that the faculty will soon regain its proper place in setting the key priorities of the University.”
In an interview with the News, a FAS senator — who requested anonymity to discuss senate meetings, which are held off the record — said faculty members have felt increasingly frustrated by their lack of input in major University decisions this past year.
Most senators do not perceive the potential publication of the resolution of concern as faculty members “trying to be confrontational,” the senator said. Instead, faculty members are simply “trying to be direct and demanding action,” he added.
“The administration doesn’t necessarily take criticism well and are quick to feel criticized even when faculty are trying to be constructive,” the senator said. “So part of what you see is faculty members demanding action and maybe getting a little impatient.”
According to the senator, frustrations rapidly grew among faculty members when University administration failed to properly consult the senate on whether the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs should be converted into a professional school earlier this semester. Pent-up frustrations about the faculty members’ lack of input in major University decisions reached at peak at the FAS Senate meeting earlier this month. According to three individuals who were at the senate meeting last week, the resolution of concern listed instances in which University administrators allegedly failed to solicit senators’ feedback before making major institutional decisions. Specifically, the draft resolution cited University deliberations on whether to rename Calhoun College and whether to create the Jackson School of Global Affairs, according to those individuals. The individuals requested anonymity in fear of retribution from the University administration.
Gendler argued in an email to the News that formal faculty consultation has been central to major recent decisions made by the University, including the renaming of Calhoun College and the conversion of the Jackson Institute to a school. She added that while she recognizes that senators are “disappointed by the pace of change around some of the proposals they have put before the community,” there have been “numerous changes … guided by suggestions from [the FAS Senate’s] reports.” For example, the University changed its parental leave policies, recognized the need for increased investment in certain departments and implemented mid-year and long-term adjustments to the FAS faculty salary pool, Gendler said.
Gendler added that members of the University leadership, including herself, are also faculty members who “do [the] best to listen to the excellent and varied ideas that our colleagues propose.” Yale is at its best when proposals and responses are put forward in a spirit of collegiality and collaboration, Gendler said.
Salovey said he does not believe the relationship between the senate and the University leadership is antagonistic and explained that he regularly meets with the senate’s executive committee.
“The senate is a relatively new structure, and I think it takes a little time … to figure out what is the best way for the senate and the administration to work with each other,” Salovey said. “We are all interested in what the senate has to say.”
The senate is scheduled to discuss whether to distribute the resolution of concern at its May meeting.
Serena Cho | firstname.lastname@example.org