Faculty Senate Minutes: Special Session

May 23, 2007

 

Officers attending: Nick Reeder, President; Jackie Myers, Vice President; James Brooks, Secretary

 

Senators attending: Derek Allen, Moez Ben-Azzouz, Luis Gonzalez, James Houdeshell, Eric Kraus, Cindy Schoonover, Tom Singer, Charles C. Williams

 

Senators not attending: Mohamed Ali, Jennifer Barr, Mark Echtner, Amanda Romero

 

Others attending: Susan Callender, Laurel Mayer

 

Nick called the special meeting to order at 3:34 pm in Rm. 11-443.

 

1. Approval of Minutes

           

As a special session, no minutes were presented for approval.

 

2. Board Committee Meetings

 

Nick summarized the events which caused Senate to request the special session.  He noted that   Senate, at its May 16 meeting, had directed him to request the times and locations of the Sinclair Board of Trustees committee meetings (finance, personnel, strategic linkages), assuming these meetings were open to the public, as are the regularly scheduled Board meetings.

 

In response to his e-mail request, Denise Jepsen, Executive Secretary to President Johnson, answered, in part: “The committee meetings of the Sinclair Community College Board of Trustees are not open to the public. The committees do not have a majority of Trustees as members or participants, a quorum does not exist, and binding decisions are not made. All official decisions and deliberations are public, open, and conducted at the full meetings of the Board of Trustees.”  In her e-mail response, she also mentioned that if Nick had a particular item to discuss with the committee, then a request, along with any accompanying materials and a specific time frame (typically 5 – 20 minutes), could be made through President Johnson, who would present the request to the appropriate committee. Dr. Johnson would then convey to Nick/Senate the committee’s decision with respect to the request.

 

Nick, along with several senators, who reviewed the Open Meetings Act, felt that Sinclair was misinterpreting the terms of the Act.  Nick disclosed that he had a meeting scheduled with Saundra Schuster, Sinclair’s Legal Counsel, to discuss the issue of interpretation, but that the meeting had been cancelled twice, evidently because Dr. Schuster needed more time to research the issue.

 

Nick further explained that he had mentioned Senate’s disappointment over the college’s stance to Dr. Grove at the weekly officers’ meeting, at which time Jim informed Dr. Grove that during his tenure as President of the Assembly in the mid 1990’s, he regularly attended the Board committee meetings without incident, and found this to be a valuable experience. 

 

After Nick’s opening remarks, senators offered various views on the issue. One senator pointed out that he was aware that some public school boards opened committee/sub-committee meetings to the public, but others did not.  The question was raised, “Can an individual board, then, set its own rules?”  Several senators felt strongly that the law allowed all meetings to be open, recognizing that specific exceptions did exist for entering into executive (closed) session.

 

With respect to the legal questions surrounding this issue, Nick commented that Senate did have a legal fund, established many years ago, to use in the event legal advice was needed, and that Senate could direct use of those funds, if necessary.  Until Senate receives a definitive decision from Dr. Schuster, seeking legal counsel will remain on hold.

 

The importance of being able to have a direct line of communication with the Finance Committee and Personnel Committee, in terms of FIT discussions about the compensation package, was emphasized.  Nick reminded senators that FIT was scheduled to meet with the administration on Friday, May 25, and concerns were expressed about the pressure to reach a satisfactory agreement before the June 5 Board meeting.  Again, frustration at not being able to attend the Board committee meetings was expressed.

 

Several options were offered as to how Senate should or could respond if the outcomes of the FIT discussions were not satisfactory.  One senator asked, “Is there precedent for direct communication with the Board of Trustees?”  After a short discussion about the best course of action to take, senators directed Nick to write a letter to the President of the Board of Trustees, Katherine Hollingsworth (copying Dr. Johnson).  The content of the letter would focus on Senate’s desire to attend the Board committee meetings as a way to enhance communication and maintain an open dialogue with the Board. Nick, on behalf of Senate, would ask for clarification with respect to Board policy on open committee meetings, being positive in tone and yet assertive, holding that the meetings should be open as they were in the past.

 

In addition to the letter, senators directed Nick to request time at the June 5 Board meeting for the FIT members to present the highlights of the faculty’s compensation proposal, in the event there is little or no progress made at the May 25 meeting. Based on the outcome of the May 25 meeting, and acting upon the recommendation of the FIT members, Nick would then either confirm the request or cancel it.

 

In addition to the letter and request for time on the Board of Trustees agenda, it was suggested that faculty could benefit from hiring a “negotiation consultant” with its legal fund.  Related to this, it was suggested that faculty should be asked to “re-embellish the fund” for this purpose. Some senators felt that such a course of action would send a message to the administration that faculty were determined to be pro-active and assertive in their support of FIT members.  No action was taken, but senators agreed to revisit the idea at a future meeting.

 

 

  

3. Announcements

   Next meeting: May 30, Rm. 7342, 2:30 pm.

 

The meeting adjourned at 4:28 pm.

Submitted by James Brooks

Approved by Senate:  May 30, 2007