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Senators debate bylaw change

by Archives April 10, 2002

Last Friday’s university senate meeting was riddled with indecision and disagreement surrounding the university’s bylaw revisions and the position of a chief researcher.
The first item on the agenda to incite debate concerned changes made to university bylaws. The changes came about in response to questions raised about the bylaws at the last senate meeting.
Patrice Blais opened the debate on the bylaws regarding the expulsion of a senator. According to the bylaw, “Two thirds majority vote of the voting members of senate present at a meeting shall be required to remove a senator from [senate].
Blais criticized the bylaw saying while there was no process at all concerning the removal of members from senate in the past, now there is. This raised questions about potential conflicts with the union’s accreditation law and on what grounds a person should be removed from senate. “I think the grounds for removal of a senate member should be stated, because if the bylaws are read only on a technical basis, someone could be kicked out because you don’t like their face,” he said.
Senate member Silvy Panet-Raymond agreed with Blais. “There are no clear guidelines,” she said. “Students have a code of conduct, but I have no idea if something I’ve done is at odds with other Senate members or their mandates.”
Another senator said, “the article is identical to virtually any other corporation.” He said in trying to make up possible conditions upon which a senate member could be terminated, some could be forgotten. He added this could cause further problems in the future.
Rector Frederick Lowy echoed his concern. “There are many reasons for which a person could be terminated, including mental illness, misdemeanors – you can’t put them all in.” He also assured senate that the two-thirds majority vote stipulation would assure that “no members would be excluded in a frivolous fashion.”
Student senator Sabrina Stea, however, was not convinced by these declarations. “I have difficulty with the notion that we don’t need guidelines,” she said. “For sake of procedure, we need a breakdown of guidelines.”
“Constituencies have mandates which could come into conflict with other senate members,” Stea added. “To leave a blank void makes no sense.”
No final decision was made on this article. It was tabled when it became apparent that further discussion at that time would not lead to agreement.
Agreement was reached, however, on another bylaw. It too was questioned by Blais, who raised concern because its terms gave power to the rector to dispense with regular meetings in any given month.
“This is an issue that came up last year when the February meeting was cancelled by the rector,” said Blais. “The feeling I got from the steering committee at the time was that it should be their responsibility to cancel senate meetings.
“I don’t like the idea of giving such power to the rector, I think its preferable that the steering committee do that. It’s their job.”
“I’m am quite happy with the idea of the steering committee having the decisive power to decide when meetings will be held,” said Lowy. He recommended the article be rephrased the rector along with the steering committee may decide when meetings will be held.
New administrative position
Provost Jack Lightstone discussed the establishment of a chief research officer.
Lightstone urged to consider the importance of its external elements. “I can’t underestimate that aspect or the need for the position due to growing demands on the research sector of the University.”
According to Lightstone, increased federal funding allotments for research have been made available to universities on a competitive basis. In order to seize these opportunities, academic institutions need to implement new programs. He said in order to accomplish this goal, universities are dependent upon researchers to gather information, lobby and form outside alliances.
Fulfilling these requirements have become too much for Lightstone and the Dean of Graduate Studies Claude BZdard to handle, said Lightstone.
Senators recognized the need to establish such a position and agreed the person occupying the role should have a background in research as well as academia. They also established the person should be a voting member of senate, who would report to the provost rather than the rector. However, there was much debate on the title of the position.
Dean of arts and science Martin Singer argued against calling this position associate vice-rector, research. He said that doing so would create confusion and internal problems. “[In the past,] the university had two vice-rectors, which resulted in disaster.”
“Good researchers at the Faculty member level require the same title as other organizations,” said BZdard. He added that because the term associate vice-rector, research was adopted by 13 other universities, it was the term most recognized externally and thus carried more weight outside of the university.
No final agreement was reached on this issue.

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