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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

The RTE Referendum Passed 408-to-89

The results of the referendum described below are in. The necessary bylaw change described in the proposal are now official.

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Dear Members of the University Faculty:

Recognizing the importance of broad engagement when acting on matters that concern research, teaching, and extension, the Faculty Senate approved

The UFC Proposal for RTE Representation

by a vote of 82-to-12 . Because this requires changes to our bylaws, the University Faculty must indicate its support through a referendum.

Click Here to Vote.

The referendum closes Tuesday, April 2, 5pm and is available only to members of the University Faculty.

If the representation plan is enacted, then among other things the following titleholders will be eligible to serve in the Senate and vote in elections that determine the Faculty Trustees, the Dean of Faculty, the Associate Dean of Faculty, the University Faculty Committee, and the Nominations and Elections Committee:

Senior Research Associate Research Professor (all ranks) Principal Research Scientist
Senior Lecturer Clinical Professor (all ranks) Research Scientist
Senior Extension Associate Professor of the Practice (all ranks) Senior Scientist
Librarian/Archivist Senior Scholar
Associate Librarian/Archivist

For more details take a look at the actual proposal (one-and-a-half pages) or  this brief, self-contained  overview. These tables show the ramifications for departments and colleges. The required modifications to the  Senate Bylaws are documented here.

If you have questions or concerns, then you can post them anonymously  below or share them with your senator

Charlie Van Loan
Dean of Faculty


Senate Deliberation History

 

 

Last Updated: April 12, 2019 at 7:07 am

Comments

  1. I am in favor of having the second senate seat for a department be either UF or RTE faculty when there are greater than 25 UF + RTE faculty in a department as this provides some degree of proportional representation. However, I am completely opposed to adding additional college seats, particularly to the degree proposed. Furthermore, the rationale for additional college seats for RTE faculty is unclear.

    My main concern is to keep the senate independent and preserve academic freedom, which relies on having a majority of UF faculty in the senate (who are, to a large degree, free from influence of administrators once they are tenured). Although the senate is largely advisory to the administration, some decisions are made that are impactful (e.g. vote on research and clinical professors).

    Here are my specific comments or questions:

    A rationale for providing 1 extra seat per College may have some merit in that it provides an opportunity for departments with no ability to have an RTE representative to have one (albeit at the College level). However, this will not provide departmental level representation for RTE faculty, particularly in larger colleges with more departments. RTE faculty often feel more affiliation with their department than the college. However, this proposal will add 10 extra seats to the senate and does not yield proportional representation. Adding eve more seats to the College level based on RTE faculty >25 at the College level would boost this by an additional 16 making it more difficult for the senate to reach a quorum.
    Keeping the change to the department level prevents an increase in quorum, which is desirable.

    Plus, we do not know what the future holds. Since it is unlikely UF will increase in number (unless new departments are created) and more likely that soft money positions RTE will increase, the senate will likely swell even more in future under these rules.

    The rationale for boosting the numbers of RTE per College to 2 depending on >25 RTE is unclear (this is using the same number as the departmental allocation but a College is far larger than a department). Why is this not applying at all to the UF (reverse discrimination)? This seems to me just a way for boosting RTE faculty as much as possible for unclear reasons. Providing 1 or even 2 RTE senate seats at the College level will not provide RTE representation for all departments.

    Furthermore, do these college seats HAVE to be filled or can they be filled only if people want to stand. There is concern that RTE faculty will be pressured by administrators to be representatives and they could not say “no” for fear of retribution. If College seats are given only to RTE faculty (and not UF), they should be optional and not a requirement (and should not be required for a quorum) but first this needs to be justified as indicated above.

    It is important to have RTE representation in the senate, however changing things too quickly and by too large a degree has the potential to lead to later regrets and changes that cannot be undone. Whereas if we do things more slowly and see how it goes (for example, how much interest is there for RTE representation by RTE faculty in the senate campus-wide) by applying the departmental changes and holding off on the College RTE positions and readdress again in the future if there is a need and desire of additional representation.

    1. Lots to comment on. I will use several “replies”. But first, thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns. It is only through constructive criticism that we’ll get to the right place.

      I agree that the independence of the senate is very important and that academic freedom of its tenure-protected members helps make that possible. However, I don’t regard the college-RTE feature as a threat to that independence because of how it chips away at the UF majority. It’s not about 52-to-48 versus 51-to-49. It’s about fresh ideas being brought in by a group of at-large RTE-ers who have a measure of independence from their home units. Just like, I might add, how the tenured UF have a measure of independence from the administration.

      On the matter of being an at-large senator, I asked each of our current university at-large senators why they volunteered. A recurring theme was that they like being able to contribute to university level discussions as individuals rather than as a representative of their home unit. I suspect that similar attitudes exist amongst the RTE* group.

      CVL

    2. I would be a little careful about advancing proportional representation as a relevant metric. The Senate is a senate–not a house of representatives. ILR has about 30 faculty per senator. There are some small units that have just 9 faculty per senator. Thus, although we should pay some attention to the size of the UF and RTE populations–and we do with the threshold criteria TT+RTE*>25– we should not get too carried away with what those proportions say!

      CVL

    3. It would not be a big deal if a college left its RTE seat vacant, but only if it is because no one chose to stand for election. It could be a signal that the RTE representation within the college is at a sufficient level. Or it could mean that pressure is being applied not to run. Regardless, support for the college RTE feature is something that should be assessed during the periodic reviews that are part of the plan.

      CVL

    4. Changing the quorum rule is something that should be considered if experience shows that poor attendance is a recurring problem. However, better use of senator-alternates and more frequent use of e-voting should take the pressure off. In any case, a quorum-based reason for opposing the college RTE feature does not make sense since that cohort of self-selected senators is likely to have an above average attendance rate.

      CVL

    5. Regarding the future and what it might mean for growth in the UF and RTE populations, I too am anxious. But far better that we go with a joint UF/RTE representation plan that forces us to pay attention than to drift along as we have in the past without careful monitoring.

      CVL

    6. On being careful by going slow, I think we are doing that. Certainly the choice of the senior-only UVR option reflects that. Growth in numbers is bound to be slow and the planned 3-year reviews should enable us to make timely adjustments along the way.

      CVL

  2. Looking at the numbers with the additional College level seats of 1-2 for RTE* faculty (looking at maximum representation for each category) for the current situation. These colleges could have more or equal numbers of RTE than UF presenting them in the senate.

    ILR: Could have 4 senators, either 2 UF and 2 RTE* or 1 UF and 3 RTE*.

    Vet Med: Could have 10 senators, of which 8 could be UF with 2 RTE* (College) or 5 and 5 UF with RTE* (3 dept, 2 college)

    Business: Could have 8 senators, of which 6 could be UF with 2 RTE* (College) or 3 UF and 5 RTE (3 dept, 2 college)

    Law School: Could have 3 senators, of which 2 could be UF with 1 RTE* (College) or 1 UF and 2 RTE*

    1. Thank you for spending time with the data and exploring the ramifications of the various seat-allocation rules. It is important to know that the UF-to-RTE* ratio can take on surprising values in the colleges. As you know, “ratio concerns” at the overall Senate-membership level figured heavily in the design of the UFC proposal. However, until your posting I was unaware that it may be an issue at the college level.

      Some thoughts:

      First, the at-large college mechanism creates an opportunity for the RTE* faculty to participate in shared governance no matter how their home unit thinks about representation. A look at the SOS-7 and SOS-8 vote tallies indicates that this will be a very important pathway in some colleges.

      Second, the faculty in a college know best how to optimize their representation and I am glad that the UFC proposal gives them that freedom. For example, ILR can decide for itself how to fill its two “department seats” given that it has two RTE*-only college seats. As an ILR outsider, it is not for me to even hint that 2+2 is a better UF*+RTE* summation than 1+3.

      Third, if the goal is to maximize the flow of great ideas to and from the Senate, then let’s focus more on “communication math” and less on “ratio math”. Thus, the UF/RTE senator numbers from CVM and Law are far less important to my way of thinking than how well those delegations can explain to the full Senate things like their nuanced clinical professor scenes.

      CVL

      1. My concern re these possible greater representations of RTE over UF faculty from colleges is the UF vote in a senate on important issues that may come in future that favor one constituency over another may be dictated by RTE faculty votes over UF. I think this is not a good place to be in, particularly with the two senators at large in some college rule.

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question for clarification. It’s an attempt to say what I wish I had at today’s meeting. My question is what is the status under the UFC’s proposal of a “staff scientist” at the synchrotron radiation lab (the CHESS lab).? As best I can tell under the proposal they are both Research Scientists and hence would both have UVR. and hence belong to RTE*.
    Much obliged for your latest thoughts Charlie., realizing that you had already responded during the meeting when I asked this question. I feel strongly that this addresses the concern raised in my earlier discussions in my department about the need for enfranchisement and representation for members of centers.
    Sincerely, Carl Franck, Physics

    1. by “both” I meant to say a recently appointed staff scientist and one that had been here for decades. Sincerely, Carl Franck, Physics

      1. The precise titles have to be identified. As a side note, one goal of this initiative is to pay more attention to the promotion opportunities within the various tracks. Thus, a unit should think hard about promoting to senior lecturer an individual who has established a record of excellence over a number of years as a lecturer.

        CVL

    2. Sometimes a lab or a department uses their own terminology for titles and that seems to be the case here in your example. “Staff scientist” is not an official title. “Research Scientist” is an official title and it belongs to the group of RTE titleholders who have University Voting Rights.

      CVL

  4. A clarification:

    Is it possible that the senate will be dominated by RTE*s? If so, would it be reasonable to set an upper bound, e.g., the number of RTE*s should not exceed that of UF*s? This will assure that the RTE*s and UF*s will be adequately represented?

    1. The TT-to-RTE* ratio in the Senate is a very important concern and we have looked hard at the possibilities. Please review the overview slides where we comment on this. The UFC originally endorsed the complete recommendation produced the Committee on Academic Titleholder Representation. The revised proposal under consideration insists that every department have at least one UF senator and that all but guarantees a healthy UF/RTE* balance in the senate.

      But if you want to pursue a “worst case” scenario then it goes like this. For ten or twenty years freeze TT hiring AND increase the RTE* population by about 40% in 20+ departments AND never once contemplate reviewing the allocation rules. That is what it would take to approach a 50-50 TT/RTE* balance. This is an extremely remote possibility.

      Here is another zero-probability concern. As members of the University Faculty, an emeritus faculty member can currently serve as a department senator. Thus, it is theoretically possible to have an all-emeritus/a senate. Should we worry about that? Nope!

      I think it is better to take some steps now to engage the RTE* faculty so that we can work together and more effectively on issues that pertain to research, teaching, and extension. This is an opportunity for the TT faculty to lead and to get more hands on deck. The TT-to-RTE* ratio is important, but it is far more important to increase the flow of good ideas into and out of the Senate.

      CVL

      1. I would just point out that if, in the future, the senate votes to expand voting rights to all RTE faculty and not just those with a senior title, that this 50:50 ratio could be achieved sooner and with extra positions for 1-2 College level RTE* positions as well (not available for UF), then some Colleges, such as mine, may very well have higher RTE* versus UF representation.
        Also consider if issues come up in the senate that favor one constituency over another and split the senate…
        Tracy Stokol CVM

  5. All the research staff (RAs, SRAs, Resarch Professors) housed in Astronomy are appointed via a separate non-departmental, non-college, university research center (CCAPS).

    They will have very limited ability to participate (seeing that there are only a few University wide RTE positions).

    1. I should add that this involves 25 or so individuals

    2. Yes, the proposed plan has weak points and one of them is that some small departments with a critical RTE operation don’t get above the TT+RTE*>25 threshold. So I fully understand your concern.

      But I do have two comments. First, right now we have two unfilled University at-large seats because no one wanted to run. Indeed, since I have been DoF we have never had an election for these slots where there are more candidates than positions. Thus, it is unclear just how hard it will be to become a university at-large senator. If it turns out be supercompetitive, then we can revisit the 3+3+3 apportionment rule and make adjustments.

      Second, while RTE* access to a senate seat is very important, let us not forget that there are other components of the representation plan. E.g., voting for Trustee, DoF etc. The proposal encourages the holders of these positions to pay attention to the RTE* scene. Currently, there is no incentive to do this. At the department level, the RTE* get to participate in the elections that determine department senator. Moreover, a department can choose to broaden the electorate any way it wants. Thus, Astronomy could engage the full cohort of CCAPS researchers when the Astronomy Senator is determined. This would send a message to the CCAPS group that they have a channel of communication to the Senate.

      CVL

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