Faculty council discusses reestablishing administrative trust

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Eric Henry

Students walk on the Quad, located on the Lincoln Park campus.

DePaul’s faculty council met on Oct. 6 to discuss ongoing faculty concerns and included a Q&A with Provost Salma Ghanem.

Faculty council president Sonia Soltero started off the meeting with an update on the presidential search. The presidential search committee received 444 responses to their survey for DePaul community members to submit their input regarding the search. Of those, 62 percent, or 281, were faculty responses.

“That response rate from faculty, the council of the whole attendance, as well as the ratification numbers [sends] a message that faculty are very much invested and involved [and] want to participate in shared governance at the highest levels of the university,” Soltero said.

Soltero refers to last month’s Council of the Whole — a special type of faculty meeting where members voted on a number of motions regarding faculty concerns. According to Soltero, 622 out of 874 faculty members attended the Council of the Whole, which is an unprecedented turnout.

“This time is an opportunity,” Soltero said. “We’re going to have a new president. Let’s fix what needs to be fixed and create new bridges so that we can work together.”

Another topic of discussion included a resolution to defend academic freedom, which passed unanimously.

Across the United States, state legislative measures aimed at discussions of racism, sexism and related themes in American history are being implemented in schools, colleges and universities. Texas became the fifth state to enact similar legislation this week, and more than a dozen more are exploring it.

This legislation aims to prohibit or restrict seemingly divisive concepts in academia, according to the resolution.

The resolution is a preventative measure, where faculty council would reject any attempts to restrict or dictate DePaul’s curriculum on any matter, including those related to racial and social justice. The motion also asserts that the faculty council will oppose any encroachment on faculty authority by the legislature or the Boards of Trustees.

“This is an effort that I along with a couple other faculty across the country are introducing not only in DePaul’s faculty council, but this similar motion is being voted on across the nation at colleges and universities,” DePaul political science professor Valerie Johnson said. “We see it as an all out attack on education.”

Another proposed resolution called to clarify the responsibilities outlined in faculty contracts.

According to the resolution, administrators have been requesting uncompensated services from faculty under 10-month contracts during the summer, including serving on committees and task forces as well as reaching out to students.

“Tenure-line faculty may not want to say no to administrator requests for service in July and August due to fear of future consequences (e.g. poor annual review or lack of support for promotion/tenure from a chair), a desire to gain favor in the eyes of that administrator, or unawareness that they, as 10-month contract faculty, are not under contract in July and August,” the resolution reads.

The resolution also passed by a majority vote, outlining that the provost will annually remind all administrators that 10-month contract faculty are not required to work during July and August.

Faculty council also discussed renaming the Rosati room — a room in the John T. Richardson library named after Bishop Joseph Rosati, one of the early leaders of the Vincentian community who was recently reported to have particpated in the slave trade.

While no specific motions were passed at this meeting, faculty council agreed to continue ongoing discussions over renaming the room, as well as further actions to reconcile with the school’s association with slavery.

The meeting also allotted a Q&A portion with provost Salma Ghanem, giving faculty a chance to engage in dialogue.

The faculty council executive committee comprised a list of topics for Ghanem to cover before opening the floor for faculty questions. These topics include Ghanem’s short and long-term goals for the academic year, how she plans to work alongside the Board of Trustees, as well as her response to the large attendance of the Council of the Whole.

Ghanem’s short-term goals include continuing with the health and safety of the DePaul community amid the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, Ghanem said that DePaul’s academic affairs department is developing a mentorship program for junior faculty to offer support for those who need it. Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts among academic affairs will also continue throughout the academic year.

Ghanem announced that the hiring freeze has been lifted, and DePaul will once again resume hiring of faculty and staff.

Long-term goals include program specific marketing to attract more incoming students. Ongoing searches for the dean of the school of business and theatre schools are also ongoing efforts this year.

Ghanem stated she is committed to rebuilding trust between academic affairs and faculty.

“That is my goal,” Ghanem said. “How can we work together to get things done? That is something I will continue to do. I meet with faculty when they need to meet with me. I come to faculty council not as administrative overreach, but really as a way of knowing what are the issues that faculty are looking at.”