Last 2022-2023 Faculty Senate starts search for new chair, sets stage for 2023-2024

Elise Gregg|PantherNOW

Diego Diaz | Interim Editor-in-Chief  

Three weeks before the implementation of Florida’s recently passed higher education bill, the faculty senate gathered for their last meeting of the academic year. 

The June 13 meeting also marked Deanne Butchey’s last meeting as acting chair, following her resignation influenced by a vote of no-confidence, during the May session. 

“Thank you guys so much for joining us at the last meeting of the academic year and my last meeting as chair,” said Butchey at the start of the session. 

Administration and politics

The agenda would be defined both directly and indirectly by the imminent implementation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s higher education reforms, including Senate Bill 266, legislation that places limitations on the curriculum of core classes, the fundamental transformation of tenure and the dismantling of diversity, equity and inclusion bureaucracy. 

Provost Elizabeth Bejar began the meeting with the provost report, highlighting the soon-to-be-approved state funding for 2023-2024, including $32 million in continued operational funding.

“In operational support… we received a combination of $25 million in recurring and $10 million in non-recurring for a total of $35 million in operational support,” said Bejar. “And $17.5 million of nonrecurring funding that is titled performance-based recruitment and retention incentives.”

It’s worth noting the nonrecurring $17.5 million in funding mirror those given to New College following the DeSantis-led shakeup and restructuring of the small public university, as a means of replacing “unproductive tenured faculty.” 

Yet, unlike New College, FIU has shown no signs of replacing its current tenured faculty.

Other funding announced by Bejar included $5.5 million in recurring funding for the Adam Smith Institute, as well as $6.6 million in annual performance-based funding. She would also unofficially announce FIU’s top ranking within the annual performance-based metric ranking. 

“Nothing is final until it is approved by the Board of Governors but they posted all the other scores, and [FIU’s] 94 non norrmalized was the highest performance funding score in the state,” said Bejar. 

Following the provost report came nominating committee member and engineering Senator Peter Clarke announcing the nominees for Chair of Faculty Senate. 

“For chair, first nominee is Senator Noel Baringo who is currently the Vice Chair. The second nominee is Senator Nathan Dodge, who is a member of the steering committee,” said Clarke.

The meeting would serve as the first reading of the nomination, with the vote for chair set to occur during the beginning of the Fall 2023 semester.

Butchey would end this portion of the meeting, highlighting Dodge’s call for more Senators to join the nomination pool, highlighting the importance and challenge of being Chair of Faculty Senate.

“Doctor Dodge made an entreaty at last week’s steering committee that we need to have some diversity in the pool,” said Butchey. “So we’d love to hear and please, we have one more meeting where you can reach out to your colleagues if anyone is willing.”

“It is a tough job, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s very rewarding at the end of the day.”

Honorary degrees limbo

Honorary Degree and Award Committee Chair Steve Moll then moved on to nominations for honorary FIU degrees – which to the shock of faculty haven’t been awarded in nearly half a decade. 

The Hospitality Senator would announce courtesy professor, and Groot Hospitality President David Grutman, as well as the late Marie McDemmond, the first woman university president in Virginia, and at one point, interim dean for FIU’s College of Education.

The Senate would vote unanimously in favor of both candidates. 

However, Butchey would announce that the university president had not received the names for honorary degrees since 2018, as they have only been sent to the provost’s office.  

Butchey would go on to state that she is unsure of the number of honorary degrees awarded, highlighting that the degree is only official if granted at the discretion of the President.

“In light of what you just said, maybe we should not offer any congratulations or inform anyone about the nomination because we don’t want to have egg on our faces,” remarked Clarke.

Looking forward to 2023-24

Senate wrapped up with several issues to set the stage for 2023-24, from revamping the syllabus system to trends in tenure. 
Starting with the unveiling of Syllabi @FIU, senators were introduced to a public central repository for all University Core Course Syllabi created in collaboration with syllabus management company, Simple Syllabus.

Raush-Montono discussed the timeline of the project, highlighting the need for such a repository following the passing of Florida House Bill 1467, legislation that requires public institutions to publicly archive their core curriculum.

Courtesy of FIU Faculty Senate 

She explained the benefits of the new repository, highlighting the quality-of-life features which would allow professors to autofill their syllabi based on previous syllabi already adopted into the repository. 

Yet, multiple Faculty Senators would express their hesitation toward the new system. Most notably, CASE Senator Hassan Zahedi questioned if the legislation’s call to display all grades that would impact the course’s final grade would limit faculty’s ability to add new assignments to aid students. 

“A lot of times due to some unexpected reasons that the whole class does not do well and the professor decides to make a makeup or add another assignment,” said Zahedi. “But ahead of time, I cannot predict what is going to be.”

Associate Teaching Professor Sara Moats, faculty representative for the implementation team, replied that make-ups and reexaminations should not conflict with the statute.

“I think that thinking of the spirit of the intent is, students should be able to look at a course and know what’s going to happen in the course before they sign up,” said Moats.

Faculty senate would continue in a relatively calm tone until the end, following a Budget Committee report highlighting that 20% of student credit hours are being taught by tenure track faculty. 

This is without mentioning the reduction in the proportion of salary paid to non-research faculty, which as of the most recent year of analysis, 2021, sits at 9 percent.

Allan Rosenbaum, SIPA Senator, would sound the alarm, calling for the creation of a special task force to further research the trend.

“We clearly are moving significantly away from a tenured faculty towards an at-will faculty,” said Rosenbaum. “This really is, I think, evidence of a substantial transformation, a profound transformation that has grave potential consequences for academic freedom and the nature of American universities.”  

College of Law Senator Scott Norberg would concur, highlighting what he has witnessed in the law school.

“At the law school, we have this year, about 15 percent of our tenured faculty will have accepted what are referred to as ‘look see’ visitorships at other law schools,” said Norberg. “And that 15 percent of our tenured faculty, they are disproportionately minority faculty members.”

Thomas Breslin, SIPA Senator, would highlight how the original support for non-tenured track faculty had come as a means of reducing adjunct positions, not replacing tenured faculty. 

After extending the meeting by 15 minutes, Butchey would question the purpose of this task force, contending that this policy, beginning under former Provost Kenneth G. Furton, was to give a status to non-tenure track professors.

Rosenbaum would respond by stating the task force would look more closely into this issue compared to the Budget Committee, and responding that status does little for non-tenured professors.

“I understand that often, these changes are couched in a kind of positive way, that this will provide opportunities for nontenure track faculty,” said Rosenbaum. “The best opportunity for nontenured track faculty, I would argue, is to provide more tenure lines for such faculty.

“I mean, we are undermining, under nice phrases and efforts, the most important engine that has driven the American economy since the mid-1940s.”

Yet, due to time constraints, Butchey would end the discussion period, with no vote toward the task force’s creation.

“We only have seven minutes left and unless we keep going another 15 minutes and another 15 minutes we’re never going to end today,” said Butchey. “So can we leave that?”

Ending Faculty Senate would be the Student Government Report presented by Alex Sutton, student body president.

Sutton would highlight SGA’s recent efforts combating the recent higher education reforms, including the passing of the “Can’t Ban Us” resolution in favor of Diversity, Equity and inclusion programs as well as the importance of critical studies, including Critical Race Theory.

“I wanted to relay the student concerns that I think are very similar to a lot of the concerns that were expressed by faculty in this very meeting about Senate Bill 266, and other related policies,” said Sutton.  

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