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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Low attendance delays confidence vote in CAS and UB leadership

Faculty members directed frustration at Tripathi, Weber and lack of representation in administrative decisions during an informal discussion

<p>History professor Liana Vardi speaks in favor of an informal confidence vote at Tuesday's CAS faculty meeting, after low attendance at the meeting prevented a formal vote.</p>

History professor Liana Vardi speaks in favor of an informal confidence vote at Tuesday's CAS faculty meeting, after low attendance at the meeting prevented a formal vote.

Tensions rose among faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) during a heated two-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon, as low attendance tanked a planned confidence vote in CAS and university leadership. 

About 180 faculty members — short of the 219-member quorum required for a vote — arrived at 190 Norton Hall and on Zoom to cast votes on a confidence referendum in CAS Dean Robin Schulze, UB President Satish Tripathi and Provost A. Scott Weber.

The move for a vote comes as details have gradually come to light about CAS’ financial situation and the college’s planned spending cutbacks, amid more than a month of protests led by Classics Department students.

History professor Liana Vardi called for an informal discussion among the members who were present Tuesday. That idea drew backlash from philosophy professor Lewis Powell.

“It seems to me that’s a really sketchy way to get a vote of no confidence from the full voting faculty administration,” Powell said. “I felt gross when we weren’t following the rules about how you’re supposed to do that.”

Upon taking the microphone, Vardi muttered, “This is ridiculous.”

“Maybe those who are really clinging to Robert’s Rules of Order can leave or express their discontent somehow,” Vardi said. “But we are here, we are assembled…We’ll have a discussion first and then vote and you know...we’ll consider that later.”

“You know, personally, we don’t want to be here tonight,” mathematics professor Cagatay Kutluhan, who is head of the CAS Policy Committee, said. “I wish more people were able to join today so that we could settle this.”

Geography professor Sara Metcalf argued that the motion for a referendum should have been split into separate motions for Schulze, Tripathi and Weber. She said the current single-motion format places excessive blame on Schulze for higher-up decisions. Several faculty members applauded her statement.

“I do not want to send a negative signal about Dean Schulze, which could undermine her ability to advocate for the college, even though I would strongly support holding a no confidence referendum on Provost Weber,” Metcalf said. 

But several faculty members said Schulze shares blame for her handling of CAS’ financial situation.

“Dean Schulze could have fought for her college with more integrity, and if she had been relieved, we would have applauded her back into the English Department. She hasn’t done that,” English professor Jim Holstun said. “Yes, I think she’s following orders, but she is also seemingly ignorant about the bylaws of her own college.”

In a faculty meeting Monday, Schulze took responsibility for the college’s budgetary crisis, saying she “overspent” to add new faculty but that the additions haven’t led to the desired improvements in student retention.

Faculty members at Tuesday’s meeting expressed frustration with the meeting’s low attendance.

Jewish Thought Department professor Richard Cohen blamed insufficient advertising, saying emails sent to faculty in the days before the referendum left little time to effectively stress the vote’s importance. 

“This meeting was badly publicized and the point was made unclear,” Cohen said. “It should have been emphasized and said repeatedly to all CAS faculty that we needed a quorum, a certain number. And then people would have understood the urgency.”

Geology professor Tracy Gregg criticized the meeting’s 4:30 p.m. start time, saying it clashed with obligations such as picking up children, attending department meetings and teaching classes.

“This is possibly the worst time of day to be hosting a meeting like this,” Gregg said.

CAS faculty plan to schedule another meeting to hold the confidence referendum, and Kutluhan said he would seek a more favorable meeting time. No date has been set for that meeting.

CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this article incorrectly labeled Richard Cohen as a professor within the Philosophy Department, incorrectly named the CAS Policy Committee, and inaccurately quoted Sara Metcalf and Liana Vardi. We regret these errors. 

Sol Hauser contributed to the reporting of this article.

Alisha Allison is an assistant news editor and can be reached at alisha.allison@ubspectrum.com

Mylien Lai is an assistant arts editor and can be reached at mylien.lai@ubspectrum.com


MYLIEN LAI
mylien-lai.jpg

Mylien Lai is an assistant arts editor at The Spectrum. Outside of getting lost in Buffalo, she enjoys practicing the piano and being a bean plant mom. She can be found at @my_my_my_myliennnn on Instagram. 

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