Today the Western Front published an article about the Faculty Senate’s proposed revisions to language within Section 2 of the Faculty Handbook and Code of Ethics. This article inaccurately represents the work of the Faculty Senate and the meeting this past Monday, May 20th. The article comes on the heels of another inaccurate article published on May 8th regarding a motion proposed in ACC and the events of two ACC meetings. Today the Western Front also published a revised version of the May 8th ACC article, including an acknowledgment of inaccurate reporting.
Below is the article regarding Faculty Senate that was published today and my comments to multiple statements within the article (they are bolded and placed between double asterisks):
The Faculty Senate unanimously passed a motion to revise the Code of Faculty Ethics to contain language that explicitly condemns racism in the classroom and pass it on for faculty comment period. Faculty will have a two-week period in which to comment on the revision before the senate’s final vote on the motion.
Following the faculty comment period, the revision of Section 2 of the code will go to a vote by the Faculty Senate on June 4. If the revisions are approved, it will be passed off for review by the Faculty Union to be ratified within the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the university and the United Faculty of Western Washington.
**The vote at the June 4th Faculty Senate meeting will occur after a discussion of faculty feedback received regarding the May 20th proposed revisions to the Faculty Code of Ethics language that all faculty will receive this week. Based on the feedback from faculty the vote may be to accept the proposed revisions, reject them, or revise them. The vote is by no means a “final vote” on the motion nor continued efforts to revise the Faculty Code of Ethics as determined by the faculty of Western Washington University. The Faculty Senate does not “pass off” the revisions to UFWW. If Faculty Senate makes changes to the Faculty Handbook and the Code of Ethics they must be ratified by the CBA and thus any changes would need to be collectively bargained between UFWW and University Administration.**
On Monday, May 20, senators discussed the implications of banning the use of the racial slur for nearly two hours before they agreed to revise the language in the code of ethics.
Section 2 of the current faculty code of ethics states that faculty condemn sexual harassment, intimidation and the exploitation of students. According to meeting minutes from April 22, the proposed revisions would add the elements of racism and discrimination against students based on protected characteristics to the list of condemned behaviors, and would explicitly state that academic freedom does not excuse racism or other forms of discrimination.
**Faculty Senate did not discuss “the implications of banning the use of the racial slur”, we discussed feedback that was received from faculty regarding the language of proposed revisions to Section 2 of the Faculty Code of Ethics and also addressed questions (mainly from the gallery) regarding why we could not specifically ban the N-word from being said, or any other words, based on information received from and presented to us by EO, the AG, and Risk Management. Also, we did not “agree to revise the language in the code of ethics”, rather Faculty Senate approved a motion to further revise the proposed changes to Section 2 of the Faculty Handbook and Faculty Code of Ethics.**
According to Western’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, any changes to the code of ethics require full review by the UFWW. The university would then involve the risk management office and Assistant Attorney General Melissa Nelson to ratify their side of the agreement.
**I refer to my note above, If Faculty Senate makes changes to the Faculty Handbook and the Code of Ethics they must be ratified by the CBA and thus any changes would need to be collectively bargained between UFWW and University Administration. When UFWW President, Rich Brown, explained this to Senators and members of the gallery in attendance at the Faculty Senate meeting he indicated that the Administration would likely include the AG and Risk Management in the process.**
This week’s Faculty Senate meeting continued a conversation the senate has been facilitating since its Feb. 25 meeting on academic freedom and inclusive learning, focusing on whether faculty should have the freedom to say racial slurs in the classroom.
**The Faculty Senate has NEVER focused on NOR discussed whether faculty should have the freedom to say racial slurs in the classroom. We are vehemently opposed to racial slurs both in and out of the classroom. As explained to Faculty Senate by EO, the AG, and Risk Management the N-word on its own or in certain contexts is not a racial slur and it is only when it is used in a discriminatory manner that it becomes such. The discussion(s) that have been occurring within Faculty Senate are focused on balancing Western faculty’s deep commitment and desire to create inclusive and safe learning environments for our students while also maintaining academic freedom, especially when teaching difficult topics and content areas.**
Prior to passing the motion on Monday, senators read through statements submitted by individuals and departments. The senate also discussed the implications of banning the N-word in the classroom as it relates to the First Amendment, referencing an earlier motion passed in April that banned the N-word in the classroom.
The earlier motion, proposed by former Faculty Senate President Kristen Larson, was rescinded on April 30 following concerns that it would violate legal agreements with the university and First Amendment rights of faculty, according to meeting minutes.
Before being rescinded, Larson’s motion passed by a vote of 4-3, with the in-favor votes cast by three students and Larson, according to Levi Eckman, Associated Students vice president for academic affairs and AS student senate pro-tempore.
**Please read the revised Western Front article that acknowledges the inaccurate reporting of their original article and attempts to more accurately address this the motion and actions that occurred in ACC:
Also please refer to the Faculty Senate website for accepted minutes of ACC and the most accurate information regarding specifics of the meetings.**
At Monday’s meeting, some faculty expressed concern about how a new rule would balance academic freedom against the need to address discrimination and racism in the classroom. Paul Mueller, director of risk, compliance, and policy services, sent an email cautioning senators about this point, which Faculty Senate President McNeel Jantzen shared at the meeting.
**Here is the exact language that Paul Mueller sent me via email,
“As we discussed, I completely support the proposed policy or value statements about discrimination that enhance and help clarify Section 2 of the Faculty Code of Ethics. However, I would strongly caution senators against connecting those statements to academic freedom, which Melissa mentioned is arguably faculty’s constitutional right within the education setting to teach, learn and research freely. I think this underlying right of all faculty should be preserved, while letting applicable case law, state and federal laws, University policies, employment contracts, etc. (and their related processes) govern alleged discriminatory behaviors of certain faculty.”**
Jantzen clarified his email, stating that discrimination is easier to prove legally than instances of racism. Other senators protested this distinction and called for explicit condemnation of racism.
**I explained to Senators that based on information received from, and presented by, EO, the AG, and Risk Management it would be difficult to prove an act of racism (which is also not illegal) whereas discrimination is more clearly defined and specific laws do exist.**
“Discrimination is the umbrella term. We are simply saying that racism is an egregious instance of discrimination,” Senator Babafemi Akinrinade said. “We are not creating a new class of discrimination; racism has always been.”
Other senators noted the need to move on from the discussion of which types of discrimination are easiest to defend legally.
According to parliamentarian Lizzy Ramhorst, there is another way to proceed with a change to the code of ethics besides a bargaining agreement. Ramhorst noted that the revised code language could be sent to all of Western’s faculty for a referendum vote, which would require the majority of respondents to vote in favor of the revised code before a final vote by the Faculty Senate.
**A referendum vote was suggested in lieu of a Faculty Senate vote, not in conjunction with it.**
“It would also be a stronger show of support on behalf of all staff,” Ramhorst said.
Ultimately, senators rejected that option. Akinrinade said a referendum might not encourage faculty who aren’t directly affected by the use of the N-word to vote.
“Sadly, many people will not care. It’s not their problem,” Akinrinade said.
Eckman shared similar sentiments, recommending a faculty review period followed by a senate vote rather than sending out the motion for a faculty referendum vote.
“There are a lot of awesome faculty on this campus but I don’t trust all faculty, and I don’t know what it would look like if this fails for the relationship between students and faculty,” Eckman said.
In the meeting, Jantzen shared concerns regarding most faculty members’ familiarity with the code of ethics.
“I have a feeling that most faculty don’t even look at this, that most of them honestly don’t even know the faculty code of ethics exists,” Jantzen said.
**This was in response to members of the gallery expressing concern that faculty don’t know what is expected of them or how to behave. I explained that many faculty are hired and come to campus not knowing that we have a Faculty Handbook, Code of Ethics, or even the CBA and that we need to work to ensure that all faculty are not only aware of, but familiar with all of these documents.**
After Monday’s filing, Eckman stressed the importance of faculty feedback and the vote to take place at the June 4 senate meeting.
“The next Faculty Senate meeting will be the last one that students who are currently in these positions will be sitting on, so I really hope we can honor the work of all the students sitting here in the gallery and that did all the work beforehand and we can pass that resolution,” Eckman said.