The Hard Task of Representing the Faculty March 4, 2013

By Leonard Zwelling

Mia Love is the young
(37) mayor of Sarasota Springs, Utah. She is a conservative Republican,
African-American, Mormon and an articulate spokesperson for the right. (It’s a
great country!).

 She appeared on ABC’s This Week on March 3 and had a rather
unique spin on the sequester. Her claim is the sequester doesn’t really pit
Republicans against Democrats. Rather it is a contest for the relevance of the
federal government to the long-term benefit of state and local municipalities.
Those local governments that break free of dependency on the federal largesse
through responsible budgeting will feel little sting from the sequester. This
places mismanaged into a dependency on hand-outs, may suffer. The sequester
should be a wake-up call for all leaders of local and state governments to get
their houses in order for the feds can no longer bail you out.

As usual, there is a
lesson to be learned for the faculty from this serious politician who had
unsuccessfully run for Congress in Utah. Dependence on yourself and your
neighbors is the best way to contend with incompetence and greed at higher
levels of the food chain.

The Faculty Senate has made a
several year case for shared governance. In so doing it has taken the posture
of asking for things from the administration and being surprised when first the
Mendelsohn crew and then the DePinho crew (is there a difference?) said no. Why
ask? It was Jock Ewing on the old Dallas TV show who told Bobby, his son, when
Bobby was whining about some dirty trick JR had orchestrated:

“Real power is not something you’re
given. It is something you take”.

If the Faculty Senate wants to move
the administration, it first has to demonstrate it really represents the
faculty. I believe the Senate has not done the homework required of any
representative body.   Our
Senate members make the same mistake the Senators in Washington make. They get
elected and think their job is done. To try to stay relevant they write reports
and do surveys and whine about conditions. This will be no more effective here
than it is in DC.

Here are some positive ideas:

One member of the Executive Committee of the
Faculty Senate should attend every single departmental and divisional meeting
that takes place.

They should be a permanent agenda item and
report directly to all those in attendance the latest thinking of the Executive
Committee and then hear and record the opinions of the gathered faculty members
as to their concerns.

These concerns would be relayed back to the ECFS
every week and should influence the weekly message to the departments which in
turn should be posted on a public web site for all to see, comment upon and
debate about.

Following 6 months of this, a report to the
President should be formulated that clearly represents the sentiments of the
faculty rank and file, not just the ECFS or the Senate itself. Whether any
solution has the consensus backing of the faculty or is as yet unresolved also
should be clear in the report.

With the true backing of the faculty at-large
and the identification of two to four specific goals for the next year, the
Senate would be in a powerful position to suggest to and negotiate with the
administration on solutions, something they are not at present. (I will have to
be convinced than an IFAC consisting of the ECFS and the Executive Committee
plus their significant others is the ideal forum to resolve issues without the
ECFS doing the work I describe).

Retail politics is both hard and
time-consuming but as Tip O’Neill taught us, “all politics is local”. Either
the Senate continues its current stance of insular decision making without
faculty input that leads to power struggles with the administration that are
usually losses or it finally devises a way to convince the faculty at-large
that the Senate truly represents its interests and can make a difference in
faculty members’  lives. 

It is unfortunate that politics is
such a hard game but as Mitch McConnell’s head health staffer once said to me:
“It’s supposed to be hard”.

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