Faculty council meeting gets heated over SNL fate, race issues

Emma Oxnevad, Asst. News Editor

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Tensions flared Wednesday amidst proposals ranging from the university budget to questions institutional racism to restructuring the School of New Learning at the monthly Faculty Council meeting.

The council met for over three hours, discussing a wide range of topics.

Combating institutional racism

A proposition with a list of five actionable items crafted to combat institutionalized racism and inequality at DePaul was presented, with many of them appealing to Academic A airs and the president’s cabinet.

The topic was proposed by a coalition of professors from different colleges, including Quinetta Shelby, Matthew Girson, Ginger Hofman, Bernhard Beck-Winchatz, and Sonia Soltero.

The proposition intends to deal with matters such as making available information regarding the recruitment and hiring of faculty of color, redesigning the position of Faculty Diversity Advocates, who are responsible for providing support to diverse faculty, and improving diverse faculty hiring processes.

The proposition was crafted following a Faculty Council retreat earlier this year focusing on institutionalized racism at DePaul.

“Our goal was to recognize patterns of institutionalized racism and to discover how to eliminate institutionalized racism at DePaul,” Shelby said.

While a majority of Faculty Council were in agreement with the proposition, some worried that little change would come from them.

“Asking Academic Affairs to attend to these issues is asking the fox to watch the hen house” said Valerie Johnson, a representative from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “Academic Affairs does not care about these issues. I worry that it won’t be enough.”

Those behind the proposition remain confident in the ideas behind the actionable items.

“We wanted to come up with concrete things that can be accomplished,” said Soltero, a representative from the College of Education. “We want to achieve it for this year, also we have something to show for.”

The proposal was approved, resulting in 33-0-0.

School for New Learning Buyout

One of the largest sources of debate was the discussion regarding DePaul’s School of New Learning (SNL). SNL, which will be renamed the School of Continuing and Professional Studies in July 2019, recently announced that they would be offering buyouts to tenured professors and retirement incentives to eligible staff.

“Asking Academic Affairs to attend to these issues is asking the fox to watch the hen house. Academic Affairs does not care about these issues. I worry that it won’t be enough.””

— Valarie Johnson, DePaul Professor

Provost Marten denBoer and interim dean for SNL, Don Opitz, presented an overview of the changes to the college to the council at large.

Opitz explained that enrollment for SNL has been on a steady decline since 2010, with the majority of the students in the college only attending part-time. This, combined with stiff competition from adult-based learning programs at schools like Northwestern and Loyola, partially served as the basis for the college’s rebranding.

“The School for New Learning has been a forerunner for competency programs,” Opitz said. “In that competition, we have lost ground.”

Members of Faculty Council questioned the truth behind the voluntary buyouts. Many accused denBoer and

Opitz of creating a situation in which the SNL faculty would be forced to comply with the buyouts out of fear of losing their jobs.

“By offering the buyout first, it makes me think that [DePaul’s administration] is trying to get rid of the School for New Learning staff,” said Shelby, one of the representatives from the College of Science and Health.

denBoer repeatedly insisted that the bouyout was not mandatory, and SNL’s faculty had a choice in the matter.

“We’re giving people a choice,” denBoer said. “The college will be changing in pretty significant ways, and those ways might not be what the existing staff wants to be associated with. It is not mandated.”

Opitz added that there was not an ulterior motive behind the buyout, and that it was crafted with SNL’s best interest at heart.

“What we do know is that the faculty who don’t choose a buyout will remain in the unit,” Opitz said. “This is not a plan to move those elsewhere, and the simple answer is that they will remain in the unit.”

The Faculty Council posed two resolutions relating to the SNL buyout. The first requested that SNL faculty members who choose to participate in the buyout receive one payment equal to 24 months salary and benefits as is required by the Faculty Handbook.

The proposal additionally required that even after the 24 months had passed, the retirement benefits of any faculty accepting the buyout would not be tampered with.

The second resolution proposed that the current voluntary buyout be extended to SNL’s two untenured tenure-line faculty and that they be given the same severance payment as all tenured faculty.

The first resolution received a vote of 30 in favor, zero opposed and one abstention. The second resolution received a unanimous vote of 31 in favor.

Financial Planning

DePaul’s finances were also a point of contention during the meeting.

Executive Vice President Jeff Bethke gave a presentation regarding the financial plans for the fiscal year 2019.

Bethke said that during fiscal year 2018, DePaul had an operating income, which is a basic measurement of profit, of $44 million and total expenses of $541 million, due partially to the increase in pricing and aid distribution.

The increase in pricing was due to a consistent decrease in enrollment at DePaul.

Bethke addressed the possibility of staff cuts, trying to assure the crowd that staff would not be fired at random.

Bethke alluded to the possibility of staff cuts, remarking that DePaul was “running out of road in terms of affordability.”

Bethke’s presentation was met with a slight degree of disdain, particularly when regarding staff cuts.

“I wonder about the truth of it all, since you talked about the raises and making staff cuts, and that pits us against each other,” Johnson said. “I find that obscene.”

Johnson went on to suggest that DePaul use its surplus in order to cover costs, rather than staff cuts.

The next Faculty Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 55 E. Jackson Boulevard.