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Past problems aside, Senate looks to finalize faculty rules

In its first meeting of the year, the Faculty Senate set aside recent controversies and began focusing on new goals.

Senate President Elizabeth Bird opened the session by declaring the struggle with administration over faculty rules and academic freedom all but finished. The Senate’s rewrite of the rules is awaiting approval, expected in early October, by the state Legislature.

But the majority of the meeting revolved around a related issue. Much like the debate over academic freedom, a resolution passed Wednesday found its roots in the administration’s handling of the Semi Al-Arian case.

Al-Arian, a former USF professor, was arrested and charged with more than 50 counts related to terrorism in February.

While the resolution’s opening paragraph describing the Senate’s dissatisfaction with the handling of Al-Arian was stricken in a vote, the declaration itself outlined the Senate’s self-designated responsibilities of input into decisions regarding academic policy.

The portion of the resolution containing Al-Arian’s name was stricken after senators voted its usage unnecessary. The passed motion essentially stated that the faculty had overcome the issue, and inclusion of it in the declaration was superfluous.

The designation of the Senate to contribute to academic policy making and USF’s faculty union to contribute to employment policies resulted from the administration’s enactment of a set of emergency faculty rules when the collective bargaining agreement expired Jan. 7.

The resolution, written by the Senate Executive Committee, caused a debate when Senator Hector Vila of the College of Medicine stood up in defense of a similar resolution a committee he headed last year authored. Vila’s resolution was never presented before the Senate, and he moved to introduce it to the Executive Committee to review and reassess its own resolution. The motion failed, and the amended resolution was passed.

“We are still going to review Dr. Vila’s document,” Bird said. “(The Executive Committee) will probably invite him and the other members of his committee to share their resolution with us and we will make a decision from there.”

In another brief argument, Naval ROTC commander Richard Dick protested the Executive Committee’s decision to limit the Army, Air Force and Naval ROTC units to one Senate representative between it. Prior to the change, each unit sent its own commanding officer to the meetings. Dick’s motion to repeal the alteration failed when a fellow senator pointed out that the College of Engineering had three representatives, and to give three to the collectively smaller ROTC would be disproportionate.

“I guess it came down to a matter of proportion,” Dick said. “But the difference is the university is not in agreement (on the ROTC status). It has been interpreted in the past that (the three ROTC units) are individual bodies.”