January 11, 1999

Campus Senate may expand membership

by Josh Renaud
staff assistant

Non-regular faculty members may be eligible to represent their schools, colleges, and departments in the University senate after the next meeting of the senate, Jan. 19.

William Long, chair of the Bylaws and Rules Committee, plans to present a change to the bylaws that the committee has been working on. The proposal would change the word "faculty" in section C.1 of the bylaws to include non-regulars for the purposes of senate membership.

"At present, non-regulars have no representation at all in University governance," Long said. "They are not eligible for the Faculty Council or the senate, nor do they have an organization of their own. This has been a long-standing concern and led to the formation of the senate ad hoc committee on non-regular status."

Deborah Larson was the chair of the ad hoc committee, and she explained that there were several reasons why this issue came up.

"What has happened over the years," she said, "is that a number of people have been hired in non-tenure-track positions. In some departments and schools, like the School of Nursing, the number of people who are hired non-tenure track is starting to exceed the ranked faculty. On senate committees, generally each committee must have representation from each school. So, obviously if you only have a few ranked faculty from a school, it spreads those people very thin."

"I think another reason it came up is fundamental fairness," Larson said. "People who are non-regulars are our colleagues. They teach great numbers of students and they teach them well."

According to Long, academic non-regulars make up about one-fifth of the teaching faculty at UM-St. Louis. They have large roles in programs, such as optometry and nursing, where they do much of the clinical supervision; foreign language programs, where they do much of the classroom discussion; and in mathematics, where non-regulars teach most of the lower division classes.

Dr. Joe Martinich, professor of operations management, expressed concern about the proposal at the last senate meeting, on December 8, 1998.

"The proposal is to simply group them in with the regular faculty," he explained recently. "I see a couple of problems with that. At one extreme, you could have a rather large number of non-regulars elected to the senate in theory. The non-regulars typically are not hired to do research, so since this is a research University, it sort of changes the focus of governance. On the opposite extreme, you might have very few non-regulars elected, and then you haven't solved the problem."

A better idea, Martinich said, would be to assign a fixed number of seats to the non-regulars. That would assure them a certain number of seats and enable the senate to plan what sort of involvement they want non-regulars to have.

"I think the feeling of the [ad hoc] committee was that separating non-regulars off into a separate constituency or body would create further divisions," Larson said. "If you created a separate constituency, you would increase the total number of senators, so something else would have to be reduced."

At the last meeting, Martinich proposed taking seats from the student representatives and setting those aside for non-regulars, because student attendance at senate meetings has been very low.

"I've been an advocate of shrinking the senate because there are too many people who don't show up for the meetings," Martinich said. "The simple fact is that there are about 10 or 12 students each year who take senate seriously, but we have 20-25 seats assigned to them. I would also like to see the faculty seats cut from 75 to 50, shrink the entire body down, and then redistribute the seats."

Larson said she felt that combining two totally separate issues was the wrong approach.

"I would hope my colleagues would see that there are two issues here," she said. "One is getting non-regulars represented. That needs to be voted on. If there is a feeling that students are overrepresented, then that is another issue that has to be debated separately."

Larson said that the issue was controversial and might get amended on the senate floor.

"My personal hope is that it doesn't get bogged down in a lot of amendments and parliamentary ploys," Long said. "This is a very important issue, and it defines a lot about the faculty and the nature of the senate. It deals with a group of people who have largely been disenfranchised. They look like anyone else and do the same job, but their position description is different."

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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