Eighty percent (of taking a vote) is showing up
UB Faculty Senate reaches quorum for only second time this year
Correction: A version of this article published March 9 incorrectly stated that the Faculty Senate executive committee consists of five members. The Spectrum regrets the error.
Fifty faculty senators met Tuesday to speak about, among other matters, how to increase attendance to the dismally unproductive Faculty Senate meetings.
The conversation was both desperately needed and long overdue.
The Faculty Senate is comprised of elected UB faculty members. The group is charged primarily with representing the interests of faculty to the administration. Through regular meetings, resolutions and reports, the democratic body consults UB President Satish Tripathi on the faculty's viewpoints in regard to proposed objectives and operations.
The Senate holds monthly meetings at which resolutions and positions are voted on - so long as quorum is reached. Reaching quorum, which requires the attendance of one more than half of the faculty senators, is an unjustifiably rare occurrence. Tuesday was only the second time this year enough senators were present for a vote.
Before last semester, the Senate hadn't reached quorum since at least 2007.
The poor performance raises concerns over the organization's legitimacy. Understandably, it seems difficult to take seriously a group of elected, volunteer collegiate faculty members that cannot get even half their enrollment plus one together monthly.
Though barriers to attendance exist, such as the time and locations of meetings, senators are strictly volunteers. Before signing up, any faculty members running should first consider whether they could meet the requirements of the position so the group can meet its requirements to the university.
On Tuesday, the group addressed some of the more structural barriers to attendance, such as voting to move the location of meetings from the Center for Tomorrow to the Spine. The Faculty Senate has also been cutting the number of senators, now down to 88, so that quorum is easier to meet in the future.
This was an important step - if enough senators are not present, then resolutions are decided in a small, 25-person executive session.
The importance of the Faculty Senate cannot be overstated. It is an organization that stands for both the interests of this university's faculty and democratic process generally. Students should keep in mind that issues concerning us are far more visible to professors than to distant administrators.
The Senate's votes on Tuesday were relatively minor, with the exception of propositions to increase attendance. The vote in December, however, which addressed increasing the transparency of the UB Foundation's funds, was monumental. The decision represented the Senate's position as an arbiter to hold the administration accountable.
More votes and actions like this from the Faculty Senate are necessary. The group deserves applause for this past action and encouragement to continue this mission.
Likewise, the group should be commended for attempting to advocate for higher attendance. Last week's meeting represented promising progress, but the road ahead is long and merits complete commitment.
The Faculty Senate has the potential to effect positive change on behalf of this university's faculty and to hold the administration accountable in a way unique from other groups. But that potential cannot be achieved if members do not show up.