Faculty Council elects first female president of color, Black VP

Sonia Soltero is the first woman of color to be elected Faculty council president.

DePaul University

Sonia Soltero is the first woman of color to be elected Faculty council president.

DePaul’s Faculty Council elected a new board of officers at the final meeting of the academic year to serve for the next year, with Sonia Soltero becoming the first female president of color to hold the position. 

“I was always interested in shared governance and faculty rights — being at the table when decisions are made,” Soltero told The DePaulia in an interview. “…When I came to the university, it was just a natural fit for me to be involved. So that’s why […] it’s felt like a natural fit to go into the president position.”

Soltero, the chair of the department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum in the College of Education, previously served as vice president for the past two years and was elected as president in a 21-10 vote against incumbent president Scott Paeth. 

One of the core issues of Soltero’s platform is an increase in communication and transparency at all levels of the university. With over 870 full-time faculty and about 1,500 adjuncts, getting information to everyone is often challenging and the past year has only made the issue more pressing, Soltero said. 

“The more information, the more transparency, the more that we are sitting at the table,” Soltero said. “Faculty, Staff Council, SGA — the more that we’re all at the table, the better the university becomes. And in the end, we’re all here for students.”

Soltero’s former position was filled by Quinetta Shelby from the College of Science and Health in a unanimous vote. 

“I started attending Faculty Council meetings, before I was a rep or an alternate, and I did that because I wanted to know what was going on at the university,” Shelby said. “That’s where you learn — you know, that’s where faculty really learn — all of the moving pieces, where they are and where they’re going.”

I was always interested in shared governance and faculty rights — being at the table when decisions are made

— Sonia Soltero

Shelby has been an advocate for various initiatives on Faculty Council, including recently co-sponsoring the revision of the language in the Faculty Council Handbook’s section 4.4.1 that addresses employee misconduct. 

“My goal has always been to protect faculty from subjective language in the faculty handbook that falls under misconduct,” Shelby said. “And the amended motion that was passed provides a back door that leaves faculty, particularly faculty of color, vulnerable to discriminatory abuse.” 

“So that, in my mind, still needs to be addressed. But I think that the current officers will agree that the whole chapter four needs revision.”

Serving as the new secretary is Victoria “Toy” Deiorio, the Theatre School’s chair of design and technology. Deiorio noted that her new position in particular brings an abundance of organizational work for each meeting, but it also offers her more access to how and why certain decisions are made.

“I eventually decided to do it because we’re at a time where transparency is not at the forefront of our shared governance,” Deiorio said. “And as somebody who always felt in all my years of Faculty Council like I was in the dark somehow, I want to know where the decisions are made, how they’re being made, what’s happening. So it was more of my quest of wanting more information on that to help guide the communication that can open up the transparency between faculty and the administration.”

Greg Brewster from the College of Computing and Digital Media is the only officer returning to their position as the Committee on Committees Chair, a role that is unique to DePaul. Brewster oversees the more than 200 faculty members that sit on various committees at any given time, coordinating their interests with the agenda of the Faculty Council. He also enforces rules particular to the committees including a six-year term limit for faculty to sit on the same committee. 

“These rules that we enforce I think keep our overall faculty governance much stronger than it is at other places,” Brewster said. 

Departing president Scott Paeth reflected on the last year of representing the interests of the Faculty Council in increasingly difficult circumstances. 

“During the time that I have been in the position we have dealt with police violence, election violence, a pandemic, the needs of our students in the midst of all of these situations and ensuring that faculty rights are protected and shared governance is honored,” Paeth said. “And so it’s been a challenging time and I think that if I’m proud of anything I’m proud of the fact that I did my best to stand with integrity on behalf of all of our faculty in trying to press those issues to the administration and the [Board of Trustees].”

The new board of officers is the most diverse group to lead the Faculty Council with two women of color at the helm. For Soltero, the role comes with as much honor as it does responsibility considering DePaul’s history with racism and discrimination. 

“I think the number one thing is that we have to educate, we have to make sure that the more people that understand that are not affected directly by racism, the better it is for all of us,” Soltero said. “So that is not just racism, but also this lack of inclusivity, a lack of a real sense of being welcomed and being part of the community and fully part of the community.”

The officers will officially begin in their roles July 1.