Faculty Senate asserts True Commitment violated constitution

TU’s body of 32 faculty members voted that True Commitment should have first passed through them.

On Thursday, Aug. 29, the University of Tulsa’s Faculty Senate voted to pass a resolution asserting that the administration violated the senate’s constitution in its rollout of True Commitment. By announcing True Commitment without input from the Faculty Senate, the administration fundamentally undermined the concept of shared governance outlined in Article VI, states the resolution. The vote to declare the breach took place and passed 30-13, but the lead up to the decision was reminiscent of the hostility that defined last April.

The faculty senate is a body composed of a minimum 32 faculty members from all of TU’s colleges, the deans of those colleges, as well as the provost and the president. The body meets every month, seeking to cultivate healthy academic programs at the University of Tulsa as well as providing a forum to promote shared governance. The latter purpose was the final item on the agenda and the source of the most friction in this particular meeting.

The resolution itself reads, “The submission of the PPRC [Provost’s Program Re- view Committee] recommendations and the True Commitment Proposal to the Board of Trustees, and the efforts to implement these plans violate Article VI(C) of the Faculty Senate Constitution.” The specific part of the Faculty Senate Constitution referenced, Article VI Section C, states that, “Except in emergencies, major decisions and plans of the administration that significantly affect the academic affairs of the University should be discussed with the Faculty Senate for an expression of views prior to implementation or submission to the Board of Trustees.”

Following the opening of discussion on the resolution, Senator Miriam Belmaker from Arts and Sciences, a professor of Anthropology and a former member of the PPRC, broached the subject of emergencies. Belmaker specifically requested evidence from the resolution’s supporters that the University was not in an emergency. Senator Matthew Lamkin from the College of Law responded with prepared remarks, specifically citing language used by the Provost herself throughout the last year to substantiate this claim.

Senator Lamkin heavily emphasized that the administration had several weeks be- tween Feb. 22 and April 11 after the PPRC submitted their proposal to the Provost that were opportune to inform the Faculty Senate of their True Commitment plan. Therefore, if these opportunities had been justly acted upon, the breach of Article VI would not have taken place.

The discussion later returned to the language of the article. Senator Belmaker, seeking to illuminate the intentions of the word “emergency,” inquired about the author with this aim in mind. Senator Wray Bradley from the College of Business, the author of the article in question, was present. Senator Bradley clarified that he had modeled the language after that of Duke University’s Faculty Senate Constitution and elaborated that the intentions were that of an extreme emergency, such as when Hurricane Katrina catastrophically damaged Tulane University.

Moments later, a notable exchange occurred involving Provost Levit and former Faculty Senate President, now-Senator Stephen Galoob from the College of Law. Senator Galoob was the sitting president during the later-confirmed breach of Article VI, and a considerable conversation took place debating the placement of blame.

Provost Levit claimed that the onus to discuss True Commitment before the day of its announcement rested on the Faculty Senate rather than the administration who were announcing the changes. During this exchange former Steering Committee Chair, now Senator, Ram Mohan said that True Commitment “should’ve been discussed” at the March Faculty Senate meeting but was not.

Senator Galoob then claimed that “literally no one on this campus discussed this” with him before the March meeting, despite the fact that Galoob sat on the Provost’s Program Review Committee that recommended the changes announced with True Commitment.

This claim initiated a series of attempts by Galoob to assure the Faculty Senate that he truly never thought to bring up True Commitment, but it should be noted that he was under a non-disclosure agreement at the time.

Steering Committee Chair Lars Engle unequivocally ended discussion on this matter, stating that, “When we discussed this in the Steering Committee, we discussed whether this happened, not whose fault it was. It is clear to me, simply as a factual matter, that the Faculty Senate was not consulted, and in fact this was a major change in policy.”

Shortly after this subject, it was noted that the Senate was reaching the end of its allotted time, and a motion was put forth to end discussion and move to vote on the resolution to accuse the administration.

Senator Scott Carter, a professor of economics representing Arts and Sciences, interrupted with a final appeal: “We’re talk- ing about a major structural change of our curriculum at our university … this is something that requires that we go before the Faculty Senate … whether you agree with the PPRC or not is not the issue. The issue is where do we stand as a body, with integrity?
Are we going to be pushed around and say, ‘Well, that doesn’t matter?’ If it doesn’t matter, then don’t waste our time.”

President Clancy, Provost Levit and every dean voted not to end discussion and vote.

After the faculty won that first cloture vote, President Clancy got up and left. The others left quickly after they lost the second vote, the one to confirm the resolution, by a margin of 30-13.

Although the vote was by secret ballot, certain conclusions can be drawn from the vote totals. The faculty-only vote (no administrators included) was 30-6. Therefore, seven administration votes contributed to their final total. Dean Misra from Arts and Sciences was absent with no proxy. The present administrative votes consisted of Provost Levit and President Clancy, as well as the deans of the remaining colleges. It’s worth noting that every single dean present voted against closing debate and holding the vote — that is, voted not to vote on the resolution. Every college Dean present voted lockstep in overall contrast with the faculty.

The six remaining votes in favor of the administration can merely be the subject of speculation. Although, it is worth noting that Senator Belmaker provoked a discussion regarding the extent to which a senator should faithfully vote with their constituents’ expressed desires; for context, the Arts and Sciences Faculty voted on April 17 to reject the implementation of True Commitment by a margin of 89-4.

The outcome of this vote is a notable setback for the administration, given their previous claims regarding the state of shared governance at the University of Tulsa. Early in the rollout of this plan, Provost Levit even went so far as to laud True Commitment as a “triumph of faculty governance.” The passage of this resolution directly refutes their claim of shared governance, with this glaring defeat putting the administration on treacherous footing with their own governing bodies.

Post Author: Chris Lierly