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Motion of no confidence a rarity: New general studies program sparks serious debate on April Fool's Day
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff

The four-hour marathon Faculty Senate meeting on April Fool’s Day proved concern about the general studies process was no joke, even though the vote of no confidence failed to pass.

The new general studies program to be implemented fall 2010 is the goal that stirred emotional debate from Faculty Senators.

Approval of the various courses and structure of the new program has been the responsibility of the Academic Affairs Committee, within the Faculty Senate, and the General Studies Council. Concern with the process resulted in a motion by professor of history and Faculty Senator at large Dr. Roger Davis, for a vote of no confidence in the general studies process.

The vote failed to pass, but the Faculty Senate did pass a motion by chemistry professor Scott Darveau: According to the draft of the meeting’s minutes by Faculty Senate secretary Aaron Dimock, the motion read: “That the Faculty Senate work with the Executive Council and the General Studies Council to commission a joint committee of the Faculty Senate and General Studies Council…”

This body will be charged with addressing any problematic issues remaining in the general studies program.

Several Faculty Senators felt the process had been rushed and favored taking more time to address lingering problems. However, implementation of the new general studies program is under a tight deadline according to Executive Council and General Studies Council member Daren Snider. A report showing the university has resolved the problems with assessment in the general studies program will need to be submitted to the North Central Association, the regional accreditation association, in April 2011. “I don’t even know if it would be an option to delay now,” Snider said.

Other Senators did not agree that the process was forced through. Dr. Ralph Hanson, chair of the communications department and General Studies Council member, was involved in a similar process at West Virginia University and said, “To characterize this as a rush job would not fit with what I’ve seen.”

In response to Davis’s motion, professor of psychology Dr. Richard Miller pointed out that the faculty senate has considered a vote of no confidence only twice in the last 20 years. He insisted that faculty senators consider the professional and personal implications of such a vote and said, “A vote of no confidence should never be taken lightly. It is the nuclear option.” The motion was then amended into a vote of concern, which failed to pass.

Despite unwillingness to pass either motion, faculty senators were more than willing to voice their unease. Various senators raised problems with the process of making structural changes and course placement within the general studies program. Issues also arose over the faculty senate’s lack of authority over the General Studies Council. In reference to earlier debate professor of history Dr. Jim Rohrer said, “It’s interesting that we have the authority as faculty senate to pick apart the first year program, but with something as fundamental as general studies, many, many people feel that they were totally disempowered in the process, because Senate didn’t really have oversight. It was given away to general studies.”    

During debate the process was compared to the health care debate and a motion to suspend debate failed only after a tie vote was decided by Executive Committee President Dr. Joseph Benz.

 Dr. Rohrer broke faculty concerns down to two problems that were “both serious and both need to be dealt with.”

“One is the immediate problem that general studies is overwhelmed.”

The second contrasted worry that a vote of no confidence would hurt feelings. “I don’t think we can deny that things have already happened that have been hurtful, that have been divisive. If you just plaster that over and pretend that it doesn’t have implications for how people feel about what general studies is doing you’re fooling yourself. There has to be some way of dealing with the hurt that’s already been caused.”

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