Bylaws committee votes against part-time faculty as Senate officers


The University Senate’s Bylaws and Procedures committee voted down a proposal to recommend that Faculty Assembly amend Senate bylaws to allow part-time faculty to be officers of the organization.

The committee postponed until next month a vote that could recommend that part-time faculty be allowed as officers after a certain term of service with the University or other added qualifications.

The debate about this issue has taken place across several committee meetings and continued for much of an hour before the vote.

“I think that the faculty would have less forceful advocates” in the eyes of the administration if the Senate officers were part-time faculty, said political science faculty member Chris Bonneau, past Senate president and a Senate liaison to the committee.

Ruth Mostern, committee member and faculty in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences’ history department, countered that faculty officer eligibility should not be determined by what the administration may or may not think. “If they are disrespectful” of a part-time faculty member, “that is not our problem,” she said.

Not only are underrepresented minorities overrepresented in the part-time faculty, pointed out Chantel Mitchell-Miland, a student representative on the committee from the Postdoctoral Association, but “who is going to speak for them?”

Committee Chair Nick Bircher allowed that the administration may not look on all part-time personnel equally in any case. Bircher is himself a part-timer now, but is a professor emeritus and has taught in the nurse anesthesia program and anesthesiology residency since 1989. When he was elected president of the Senate during his full-time years, he also said, he was the first nontenured faculty member to be elected to this office, and that across the 80 years of the Senate’s history, part-time faculty have been “marginalized.”

Current Senate President Robin Kear, liaison librarian with the University Library System, added that part-time faculty do not always retain jobs from one semester to the next, which would make it difficult to undertake the commitment of her office.

She also noted that part-timers are allowed to serve on Senate committees and in Faculty Assembly.

Committee member Moriah Kirdy, English faculty member in the Dietrich School, said that her department uses a number of part-time faculty and that their appointments come so close to semester beginnings that they have a hard time even getting access to Canvas in a timely manner.

Could a part-time faculty member just take the job for the pay, another committee member wondered. Senate officers get a stipend from the University administration, currently $50,000, from which $20,000 is given to the Senate president and $10,000 each to its vice president, secretary and past president.

Bircher concluded the meeting by noting that “the overall intent” of the committee’s attempt to revise the Senate bylaws “is to improve the degree of inclusion for part-time faculty.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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