Rebeca Piccardo/News Director
The University agreement to host the Miss Universe pageant has set off some faculty members who think the event is inappropriate and should be cancelled.
Members of the Faculty Senate moved to request an imminent special meeting with President Mark B. Rosenberg to voice their concerns with the University’s involvement with Miss Universe Pageant.
Some faculty members don’t think the possible benefits of a spotlight in prime-time television and $75,000 in scholarships to students outweighs the toll hosting a beauty pageant will have on the institution’s image and credibility.
“Although it is an opportunity to show FIU around the world, I’ve heard comments from many of [faculty members] that believe it doesn’t project an image of serious scholarship,” said Kathleen Wilson, Faculty Senate chair.
Faculty complained to Wilson that they were neither consulted nor involved in this decision and that there is a certain hypocrisy since the University turned down a substantial gift from the World Erotic Art Museum.
“We need some kind of procedure and not have it be a done deal by the time we hear about it,” said Joan Baker, associate professor in the Department of English. “I do not want to be at the mercy of Pete Garcia.”
Pete Garcia, executive director of sports and entertainment, was the University representative at the Oct. 2 press conference when Donald Trump announced that FIU would host the pageant.
Baker said that faculty should have been involved in the decision-making, since it is their careers, credibility and respect that are at risk.
“I’m very anxious about how we are going to be portrayed,” she said. “The kind of jokes that get made with something like this—I feel very helpless that our image gets taken out of our hands.”
Yesim Darici, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, attended the Oct. 7 meeting to ask that the event be cancelled.
“It is a very inappropriate event; this feeds into that destructive culture of dehumanizing women,” she said. “It is an insult to all out female students and faculty—It’s embarrassing.”
Elizabeth Bejar, vice president of Academic Affairs, admitted she was surprised by the pageant announcement as well and said she would take these concerns to Rosenberg.
There is no concrete action, but Bejar agreed that at a minimum, there should be a conversation between the faculty and the administration about the risks and the benefits.
“We will work with what we have and leverage the best opportunities for our students,” Bejar said.
Also at the meeting, members discussed how the University is considering offering part-time faculty full time instructor positions to improve performance-funding metrics.
Wilson said that making some adjuncts that teach difficult or high-demand courses into full-time instructors would improve student success in these classes, which would therefore improve the University’s graduation and retention rate.
Improving these rates is a priority to keep up with the Board of Governor’s performance funding metrics. The amount of state money the University receives depends on a high metrics performance.
This year, the University tied in third place with the University of Central Florida, earning $7.2 million in funding for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Changing part-time staff into full-time is a significant investment, Wilson said, and the priority adjuncts are those that teach multiple courses and don’t have another full-time responsibility.
Bejar said that the University is trying to internally distinguish between the adjuncts and evaluate who should be offered a full-time position.
“We’re not targeting the [doctorates] that teach at the College of Medicine and have their own private practice,” she said. “We are looking at the adjuncts that teach several courses and trying to make ends meet.”
The University has between 700 and 800 adjuncts, Wilson said, and about two-thirds teach more than one class.