[The following report was presented to the UTK Faculty Senate on August 18, 1975.]
President's Report to the Senate
The By-Laws require the President of the Senate to "submit an annual report on the economic and educational state of the University for the past year at the first fall meeting of the Faculty Senate." This I could not attempt last fall, for I was certainly not prepared. And this fall I shall no longer be in office! Today, at this last meeting of the 74-5 Senate, I'll make a try. But this will not be an attempt to review the Senate's activities (which are recorded in the minutes and preserved in many committee files), nor will it be an assessment of the University's economic state (which is too dismal to mention). Rather, I should like to give you my thoughts about what the faculty, through their Senate, are doing, in their role as citizens of this academic community. What are the issues we face (or that face us), and how do we resolve them?
Our community, it seems to me, is like any other organization in its bare framework. It has a purpose. This purpose is agreed to by all of its members, who perhaps understand its purpose differently. And to carry out the purpose, some members of the organization administer, others labor at specific tasks, and still others (the outsiders? the consumers? the tax payers?) receive with praise or criticism the product. Our roles are well defined, we think. Some of us are chancellors (unique or vice-), deans, department heads, etc., with our array of helpers. Such people manage the educational enterprise. Some of us are students; we, or the goods we acquire here, become the product by which the outsiders chiefly judge our institution. Some of us are teachers, who try to discover truth and impart learning. Such is the theoretical division of labor in a university.
But of course things are not really like that. The labor is not actually divided. Administrators try to allocate money to keep the programs active and the teachers fed. Their work is often hindered by demands they cannot meet, demands from the teachers themselves as well as demands from the great public outside. Teachers go about their business of teaching, but their time is not entirely their own; their committee-work, report-writing, roll-keeping, advising, even their social and family life, prevents complete commitment to teaching and scholarly development. Only the students can pursue their part of the three-fold task; they can study all they like! Even they, however, have been breaking the academic barriers, daring to question teachers and administrators about the quality and content of their education. So we see not an efficient factory, a military juggernaut, or a computerized cybernetic nightmare; we see a community of individuals striving with anarchic enthusiasm for the common good, whatever that may be!
My meaning will be clearer if I review two issues that arose this year.
The first involves a matter brought to the Senate at the Chancellor's initiative. Late this spring, after the legislature and the governor had permitted higher education to, go into the next fiscal year poorly fed, clothed, and housed, the Chancellor suggested that perhaps the Senate could appropriately react to the situation. The result was a statement which the Executive Committee approved, and which was sent to the legislators, to other leaders, and to the media for public information. Everyone involved in this effort worked rapidly and effectively, effectively at least to the point of stimulating some good second thoughts among our political representatives. The statement came from the Senate; the initiative came from the Administration. The process was cooperative.
A second example of how an issue can be resolved is the delicate matter of charges made against the University's Department of Safety and Security. The Student Affairs Committee asked the Senate to investigate these charges, which, if true, would have cast grave doubt on the integrity and professionalism of an important branch of the Administration. The Senate referred the matter to its Executive Committee. The Chancellor urged the committee to accept his proposal that a committee of faculty, students and administrators be named by him to examine and make recommendations concerning record-keeping by Safety and Security. The Chancellor doubted that an attempt to respond directly to the charges would be helpful. Some members of the Executive Committee disagreed, wanting to have the Senate set up its own investigative machinery, free of administrative control. After lengthy consideration, the Committee accepted the Chancellor's proposal, subject to a condition that the new committee be empowered to look into the possible basis for the derogatory allegations. The Chancellor readily accepted this condition. Whether the work of the Committee will satisfy anyone remains to be seen. I mention the matter now because I think it shows how the Senate, for the Faculty, can interact with the Chancellor on its own initiative.
Exchange of information within the University Community is perhaps more important than such other kinds of interaction as the above. At the Campus level, faculty, students and administrators work together on committees, committees set up by each of the three divisions. At the System level, the President's Counselors from all the campuses meet regularly with President Boling or Vice-President Johnson. They are asked to submit items for discussion. During my ex officio membership in the Faculty Counselors the discussions were lively, valuable exchanges of facts and ideas. The Chancellor's University Council could serve the same valuable function on this campus. I think the curiosity of students and faculty, directed at supposed "secrets" of administration, protects our community from experiencing the degeneration of reasonable skepticism into destructive paranoia.
Committees, however, where so much exchange of information goes on, and where the work of the community is best prepared and rationalized, are not much sought after by would-be members. It is still considered a little indecent to ask for committee appointment. Who really likes committee work? Well, I do, and I know others who will admit they do. It is my hope that the enjoyment many have found in the successful work of some Senate committees will be spoken of openly. There is really no reason to be ashamed of enjoying productive intellectual intercourse with one's colleagues, students and deans!
But one source of frustration to the enthusiastic committee person is the sometimes chilling response of the Senate to a proposal from his committee. This brings me to a comment on the Senate as a deliberative body.
An example the senators will remember is the persistent attempt by the Special Committee on Student/Faculty Rights and Responsibilities to persuade the Senate to adopt its document. I worked with Harry Rutledge and the rest of the committee from beginning to (I hesitate to say) end. Undoubtedly, the reports of that committee sparked the year's most memorable debate. Part of the committee's problem was its naivete; we honestly thought that a statement which had developed over long months of close student-faculty study, with help from the Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs and the good offices of the University Ombudsman, and which the student organizations had accepted with understanding, would meet with Senate approval. We knew, of course, that some faculty members oppose the codification of any rules for faculty behavior, just as some students, presumably, object to even the slightest restraints upon student behavior. But we were stunned by the reasoned, logical, and devastatingly effective parliamentary attack which tabled our motion and all but extinguished our candle of enthusiasm. We kept the faith, however, faith in the wisdom of the Senate. When the matter was removed from the table at our request at a subsequent meeting, and we presented modification which the debate had prompted, the Senate acted favorably. Participatory democracy is a difficult, frustrating process, but, to quote, "it is the best we have". In the Senate, the democratic process is rooted in committee work, and it flowers (or sometimes withers) in the light or heat of senatorial deliberation.
Yet the wisdom of the Senate, which is believed to reflect the wisdom of the faculty, is not, in my opinion, fully employed. Senate meetings are not well attended. Sometimes a bare quorum (a majority of Senate members) is present. The colleges and divisions which elect senators are not well represented by some senators. This neglect of the faculty by the faculty is not new, but it is a source of wonder to those of us who labor, however fruitlessly at times, in the vineyard. I know most of the causes. Bill Keenan once summed it up in the following analysis, quoted here from memory, without permission. "There are four faculty types. One is the true scholar, 'above the battle', busy with important research and publications. He leaves mundane matters of university business to ordinary folk. A second is the true incompetent, one whose real interest is some activity far removed from the University, who misuses tenure as a pension while he does as little as he can for the community. A third is the AAUP type, member of a small group who watch to see what is happening, and who try to alert the rest of us to danger, hopefully before it is actually upon us. The fourth faculty type is the rest of us, the 'silent majority'. When crisis threatens, or some scandal stinks, the fourth group may splinter a little, swelling the ranks of at least two of the others. But most of the time, faculty participation in university government goes by default."
Up to now in this report I have praised and blamed the senate and by implication my colleagues of the faculty. Now I would end by making a plea for a change in the By-Laws that I think will help matters. It is the subject of the one major defeat I personally have suffered in my year of so called leadership, and before I say farewell, I would like to make an argument I could not make, from the chair, during earlier discussions.
This is the question of continuous eligibility of faculty to represent the faculty. The By-Laws state that "after completion of any term of more than one year, an elected member shall be ineligible for one year for reelection."
Several reasons have been advanced in favor of the rule, and after giving these, I shall try to show that they are neither as wise nor as cogent as many think them to be, and that other reasons strongly support the right of continuous service, or complete franchise.
Service in the Senate is said to be a chore. Thus it would be unfair to senators to permit them to serve two consecutive sentences. This argument reveals a view of faculty participation that is depressingly negative. Representing one's colleagues is so unrewarding, this view holds, that the burden should not be imposed twice without a year's "vacation" in between.
Another argument, rather amusingly, views the Senate as a group of power hungry politicians. To allow the advantage of incumbency to those holding Senate seats would perpetuate privilege at the expense of democratic sharing. "Old heads" would run the Senate until their increasing senility would ruin it!
The contrast between these earnestly invoked arguments is so clear to me that I apologize for calling it to your attention. Perhaps we can, as a body, hold conflicting views; as an individual I have difficulty.
Arguments for repealing the non-succession rule are the following.
The Senate is an increasingly effective voice of the faculty. Its prestige has increased during its first three years. Individuals actively seek election to the Senate, and senators welcome committee involvement. There is little compulsion to serve a second term; reluctant candidates need only refuse nomination. If reelection were permissible, it would not be assured. Incumbents who were negligent or idle could be removed by their constituencies by refusal to renominate or reelect. Hew candidates would replace them. Good senators, on the other hand, could be retained.
The risk of a developed power structure, the emergence of a "club", should at this time be welcomed, not feared. The By-Laws of the Senate give only advisory power in all but academic matters. I would hope that no faculty member sees the Senate as a place where major decisions are initiated in areas of administration; that would be an unrealistic view, I think. The development of consistent continually developing educational policy by a permanent deliberative body is the only kind of power the Senate aspires to. Reelection of able senators would aid this aspiration.
Aside, it is interesting that no one questions the propriety of the Chancellor's serving continuously as a member of the Senate. I think that all recognize the real value of ex officio members such as he and other administrators. But it is "arbitrary and capricious, not to say discriminatory" for the By-Laws to grant continuous membership to some administrators while denying it to all faculty, in the faculty's own representative assembly! The rule effectively disenfranchises the faculty by denying it the right to vote for incumbent senators. This was pointed out to me by a political scientist. Perhaps that would not matter if the faculty were indifferent to its Senate. Yet, as the Senate improves its reputation, the right to vote for senators of one's choice becomes important.
Therefore I hope that the Senate and its Executive Committee will at some future time examine the rule that some of us find so damaging.
That's all, except for a word of gratitude and farewell. It was a great privilege to serve as the Senate's presiding officer, to work as ex officio member with most of the committees, to confer in a spirit of mutual trust with administrators at campus and system levels, to discuss common interests with officers of the senates of the other campuses, and to share with student leaders our mutual concern for the well being of the community. No one who has had these experiences 'can feel discouraged about the University. The new officers and new members of the Senate have much to look forward to.
I wish you all an even better year than this has been.
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