Faculty Senate falls to former low-attendance trend
Forty of 90 senators present at Tuesday’s meeting, body unable to vote
Senator Gabriela Popescu stands before a low-attended Faculty Senate meeting. Popescu believes the consistent lack of a quorum inhibits the Senate’s productivity. Yusong Shi
In its December meeting, the Faculty Senate had the chance to vote for the first time since at least 2007. The body seemed to be showing progress, as they broke a pattern of low attendance. Tuesday's meeting, however, showed old habits could persist.
The Senate was unable to pass any resolutions because only 40 members were present, six short of the minimum needed to vote. Half of the senators plus one is required for the body to vote. At this time, there are 90 senators total.
Motions are then either held to the next meeting, or moved to be voted on by the Faculty Senate's executive committee.
"It seems to me - and I'm new to this - that the absence of the quorum stifles the work of the Senate," said Senator Gabriela Popescu, a professor of biochemistry, during the meeting.
The executive committee will now vote on the two resolutions brought up at the meeting - one regarding a ballot cast to elect Henry Durand as a SUNY Faculty Senator and another to create a subcommittee "to consider the use in and consequences" for massive open online courses.
"I would prefer, obviously, to have a vote from the floor rather than have it move to the Senate Executive Committee," said Chair Ezra Zubrow before taking a quorum call. "I think that would be always better as a matter of policy."
The executive committee is authorized to act on behalf of the Senate between Senate meetings, according to the Faculty Senate's charter.
Zubrow said he's "actively pursuing" ways to improve the persisting quorum issue and he hopes it's something he is able to successfully combat in his administration.
Popescu felt the Senate's action of sending members a warning that consecutive absences can result in removal from the body made a difference at the Dec. 3 meeting, and she hopes the Senate continues to be firm with senators. After two consecutive absences, senators can be removed and, therefore, not considered for quorum.
"Last time, we did have a quorum for once in, I don't know how many years," Popescu said. "It was a big success - we're excited about that, so I think that your initiative actually paid off."
At the December meeting, the Senate voted to ask the UB Foundation (UBF), which manages millions of dollars donated to the university, to make its budget public. Fifty-five senators were present at that meeting.
The status of the Senate's request to UBF was not mentioned at Tuesday's meeting. But following, Zubrow said President Satish Tripathi is "aware of it because a letter is being sent to him this week."
The Faculty Senate describes itself as the "deliberative and democratic faculty governance body" of UB and helps advise the president on "all manners that may affect the university," according to its website.
The Senate will meet again on March 4 at 3 p.m. in the Center for Tomorrow.
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