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Electorate policy back on senate agenda

10:15:21 AM CDT - Friday, October 06, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

It's back to the drawing board for the Faculty Senate, in a sense, regarding discussions about defining who should vote on such departmental administration issues as curriculum and searches.

That's because the electorate policy change it had endorsed and sent to the general faculty for a vote, which approved it by a majority vote in a May meeting, was rejected earlier this summer by the WSU administration, which had to sign off on the policy.

The policy was rejected because of the divisive issue it had created among faculty and because of the variety of policies governing departmental matters that already exist within colleges, according to Faculty Senate President Brigitte Roussel.

"Having the policy rejected isn't necessarily a bad thing," Roussel said. Discussions on the issue had created long debates and some confusion in both the senate meetings and the general faculty meeting last spring.

At its first meeting of the academic year on Sept. 25, the senate got its first look at the proposal its executive committee is recommending for defining the electorate.

The proposal reads, "After considerable, but unsuccessful attempts to formulate a university-wide policy defining who is eligible to vote on departmental matters, the executive committee recommends that each department/school/University Libraries write their own bylaws which will govern the eligible electorate."

The bylaws would need to include at least the professorial faculty, as defined in the senate's constitution and the chair/director, the recommendation said. The bylaws would need to be completed by the end of the academic year and filed with dean's offices and the Faculty Senate. (The entire proposal is available at http://webs.wichita.edu/senate/Bylaws.htm.)

The Faculty Senate's executive committee's current recommendation for the electorate definition isn't a done deal, however. Gary Miller, who took over as vice president for academic affairs and research, expressed some concern at the Sept. 25 meeting.

"We'll have a tapestry of disenfranchisement," he said, noting that there will be people who can vote in one department, while other individuals with similar appointments in another department will be ineligible. He will visit with the executive committee on the issue at a near-future meeting.

The senate hopes to present a final proposal to the general faculty at the Nov. 14 general faculty meeting.
For years, the WSU faculty handbook has defined the faculty electorate for chair elections as full-time, 1.0 EFT (equivalent full-time) professors, associate professors, assistant professors and tenured instructors. The electorate was allowed to extend the voting rights to visiting professors only. The policies and procedures manual was recently updated to reflect the same definition.

The lack of a definition for the electorate for departmental administration came to light when grievances about the way departments were handling administrative votes were filed with the Faculty Senate's rules committee. With no clear definition and no university-wide application of the voting rights, the rules committee often didn't have any grounds to forward the grievances.

The policy passed by the general faculty would have allowed the electorate, as defined in the handbook, the authority to extend voting rights for departmental administration matters to faculty on phased retirement and 1.0 EFT lecturers with faculty status who teach at least half time.


Input sought on issues encountered during faculty recruiting
In addition to getting the first reading of a new policy about defining the electorate, other action and discussions at the Sept. 25 Faculty Senate meeting included:

  • accepting an addition to the charge of the university's tenure and promotions committee. The addition set a schedule for the committee to review the tenure and promotion policies of the six colleges and the University Libraries to ensure consistency with university guidelines.
  • asking for input about hurdles encountered when recruiting faculty. The Council of Faculty Senate Presidents, a regents-level committee that includes WSU Faculty Senate President Brigitte Roussel, is gathering information on this topic. Comments about this issue can be e-mailed to either brigitte.roussel@wichita.edu or bobbie.dreiling@wichita.edu or mailed to Roussel at campus box 11 or the Faculty Senate office, campus box 111.
  • announcing a general faculty meeting to be held Nov.14.


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