Notes from the Senate Faculty Caucus Meeting (10 December 2010)

As emailed by Mark Jones to Faculty Senators, 5 January 2011:

Dear Colleagues:

The Senate Faculty Caucus held a special meeting on Friday, 10 December.  Following are notes on our discussion.

1.  Senate Meeting of 25 November:  Process Issues. Senate Rules of Procedure (sec. I.9) explain that where the Senate Rules do not specify otherwise, “Bourinot’s Rules of Order, in its most recent edition, shall govern” in meetings.  The “links” section of the SFC blog (in the right-hand column) furnishes links not only for the Senate Rules of Procedure but also for the most recent edition of Bourinot in pdf format (ed. Geoffrey Stanford, 4th ed., 1995) and for a tabular summary of Bourinot.

There were several anomalies in process at November’s Senate, including the handling of Sen. Chaudhry’s amendments, several departures from the rule that the chair “does not participate in debate” but “must remain objective and impartial, acting strictly as an umpire” (Bourinot 43), and the use of straw votes.  Bourinot’s rules make no provision for straw-voting, but they do warn that “It is always unsatisfactory to conduct a second vote [on the same question], as some participants may be influenced by the first vote to change their minds for personal or expedient reasons.  A noticeable difference in the outcome of the two votes can leave some participants with the suspicion of . . . manipulation” (54).  The Senate Rules of Procedure provide for straw votes only in “Informal Sessions” (sec. V.21), a provision irrelevant to the meeting of Nov. 25.

There is also reason for faculty Senators to be concerned about the overloading of Senate agendas where significant business has to be rushed and/or conducted after 5 p.m., when faculty Senators may be called away by family business and thus lose their votes; in fact, several faculty Senators did have to leave around 5:00 on Nov. 25th, leaving faculty interests under-represented in the treatment of the Academic Planning motions.

A faculty member who attended Senate on Nov. 25th as a visitor, specifically in order to witness the academic planning motions, missed seeing them since she had to leave at 5:00.  As she afterward pointed out to Georgina Moore, this delay was due to the “very lengthy presentation on university rankings with ten minutes of discussion following provided by the Chair,” which was not a matter for action and therefore should not have preceded the motions, according to both common sense and regulations.  In the Senate Rules of Procedure, the sec. I.7, “Order of Business,” specifies that Motions should be considered before Communications:

  1. Opening Session
  2. Question Period
  3. Reports of Committees
  4. Reports of Faculties and Schools
  5. Motions
  6. Communications
  7. Matters Referred to Standing Committees
  8. Other Business
  9. Closed Session

All of that said, all members of Senate share responsibility for departures from procedure.  As Bourinot states:  “It is the right and duty of every member to bring to the Speaker’s attention any deviation or departure from the rules or ordinary procedure of the House during a debate . . . . A point of order must be raised at the time the alleged irregularity occurs; it is not acceptable if other proceedings have intervened” (28).

Therefore, if we care about procedure and about departures that work against faculty interests, we all need to familiarize ourselves with our Rules of Procedure and Bourinot so that we are prepared to raise points of order when necessary.

2.  “Functions of the Senate” Revisions. We discussed the SORC notice of motion for approval of a revised “Functions of the Senate” document.   The basic issue has been explained in a blog posting.  Bruce Pardy provided a useful analysis of the revisions, point by point, from a legal perspective, and the caucus is now considering alternative wordings to be suggested to SORC.  Anyone interested in this issue may contact Mark Jones.

As mentioned in the last Caucus Notes, we will continue to meet at 9 a.m. on the last Tuesday (or at the least two days) before Senate. Thus, our meeting dates are: 9 a.m. on Tues., Jan. 18; Tues., Feb. 15; Tues., Mar. 22; Tues., Apr. 26; and Mon., May 23.

The Senate Faculty Caucus is growing but does not yet include all faculty senators.  To belong to the caucus you do not need to attend all meetings–just get in touch and I will gladly add your name to the caucus email list.

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