Senate self-study released

September 27, 2000

Nick Marinello

In its first meeting of the new academic year, the University Senate heard the results of a study it commissioned to review and evaluate its own structure, processes and image within the Tulane community.

The report, which detailed findings and recommendations related to the university's governing body more effectively serving the Tulane community, was met with some concern by senators and will be reworked for the senate's meeting on Oct. 2. Delivered to the senate by Amy Koritz, associate professor of English and chair of the ad hoc Governance Review Committee, the report summarized the results of several on-campus surveys as well as a review conducted by an external consultant firm.

It also made recommendations pertaining to the senate's representation, its ability to communicate with the Tulane community, its committee system and its administrative operations. Details of the report, including suggestions from the Towers Perrin consulting firm, can be found at http://www.tulane. edu/~usenate/ (click on "Committee Reports").

In terms of senate representation, the report called for the senate to change its composition by adding the dean of libraries as an ex officio voting member, increasing staff and student representation by one senator each and eliminating faculty representatives for Tulane and Newcomb colleges. The report also suggested that the work of the senate was not well understood by members of the university community and that the senate should more broadly communicate its mission, as well as the missions of each of its committees.

Also, Koritz reported that the outside consultants suggested there were "too many committees" in the senate and that an attempt should be made to "consolidate or eliminate" some committees. Finally the report included recommendations for buttressing administrative and operational support of the senate by hiring an administrative assistant and considering release time from teaching for the senate's vice chair and secretary.

A vote on the committee's recommendations was slated for the senate's October meeting, but concerns voiced by several senators have postponed any referendum on the report until the committee has revised it. At the heart of the matter are those recommendations that involve changes in the senate constitution.

"What the report includes are some recommended changes to senate membership and senate membership is defined by the constitution," said Harvey Bricker, professor of anthropology who is serving his fourth term as senator.

Tulane University Senate Constitution specifically prescribes the composition of the senate and lists its standing committees by name. Any proposal to make changes in membership or committees must be made at a regular senate meeting preceding the meeting at which the vote is taken and must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the voting senate.

Bricker, along with several other senators said the committee's report lacked sufficient language to address changing the senate constitution.

"If the committee wanted to move as quickly as possible, this language would have been in the report," said Bricker. Koritz said, however, that the committee was simply following the procedure outlined in its initial charge. "We were doing our job," she said.

Michael Kuczynski, chair of the English department and senator, suggested that the committee return with a report that separates those issues that are constitutional in nature from those that are not.

"I thought that perhaps the way to proceed was to divide the question," he said. "Have those nonconstitutional issues such as those dealing with senate communications and operation addressed on Oct. 2 and save the constitutional matters for a later day when the committee can present the senate with constitutional text and language."

Koritz said that she and her committee would respond to all concerns. "I will call the committee together and we will look at the senate's response and determine what has been asked of us and attempt to fulfill that request."

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