Blogs > Liberty and Power > On Faculty Senates

Mar 16, 2004 5:10 pm


On Faculty Senates



Yes, David, that is what Senates are for -- well named for their Roman predecessors of the Empire, not the Republic period, who understood the job description, to suck up to Caesar and ratify his wishes.

I found this to be true in the case of my alma mater; see William Marina and Charleton W. Tebeau (my old teacher who did the 50 year history), Rendezvous With Greatness, a 75th anniversary history of the U. of Miami (FL), (2001). and also in my forthcoming Where Tomorrow Began, a forty year history of Florida Atlantic University, where I taught from 1964 (its first year) until retirement last year. You might find the final chapter of interest, “The American University in an Age of Empire.”

In 1973 I was having lunch with the Chair of the Comm. of Committees of the Senate, which selected all of the folk, in consultation with the Adm., who would be on the various and numerous committees, enough to pretty much dilute power throughout the institution. He informed me, he could get anyone on any committee he wished.

”How is that?” I asked. “Simply by suggesting your name,” he replied, “the Adm. will accept anybody but you.”

Why was that? Because in 1969 I had risen in the Senate (all faculty could attend in those days) and given a talk against the Adm.’s plan to restructure the whole system, and asked for a secret ballot on the issue. It was the only time, I think, there was ever spontaneous and sustained applause in that “august” body. In the balloting that followed, the Adm. lost by one vote. The Prez, Provost & their minions were not pleased. I suspect they regreted I had just received tenure. I was fortunate enough 3 years earlier, when several administrators tried to fire me for my civil rights work and anti-Vietnam activities, that I was defended by other adminstrators, who were seeking to oust that group, and used my case as another reason for doing so. My group won, but was not happy with my breaking with them in 1969.

We made peace years later, because they eventually had it their way, and I was bringing in sufficient grant monies (they love that overhead rakeoff), so as to be tolerated for my entrepreneurship, but watched carefully.

Let me know if you ever find a university where these kinds of things are not the norm. We had an excellent president, however, in those early years, and that made all the difference, ultimately. He was not a hater, and appreciated what I had done with student activities despite our disagreements.


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