Faculty Senate calls on University to investigate cheer team, support caregivers during March meeting


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Rebecca Crown Center, home to the provost’s office. Associate Provost for Faculty Sumit Dhar attended the March Faculty Senate meeting.

Megan Munce, Campus Editor

Faculty Senate passed legislation supporting faculty oversight of the University’s investigations into allegations of racism and sexism on the cheerleading team. Senators also endorsed a letter to address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on caregivers.

The legislation calls on the University to incorporate input from the Faculty Senate, update the Faculty Senate Executive Committee quarterly about the status of the review and ensure effective oversight of and a safe environment for the cheer team.

History Prof. David Schoenbrun, one of the legislation’s authors, said the legislation intends to give the Faculty Senate influence over the University’s actions. 

“The spirit of the resolution is to seek to know more about what the University is doing to understand what’s going on with the future of the cheer team and the issues that came to light around it that affect the broader University,” Schoenbrun said.

On Feb. 14, more than 80 women faculty members wrote a letter in the Daily expressing solidarity with the cheer team and calling for the University to apologize. Political Science Prof. Karen Alter, a senator and signee, said Provost Kathleen Hagerty’s response to the letter did not lead her to believe they were planning to incorporate faculty oversight.

Communication Prof. Kyle Henry stressed the importance of faculty involvement given what he called “conflict of interest” between members of the administration and Board of Trustees and the allegations that cheerleaders were forced to socialize with powerful donors for the University’s financial benefit. Following the discussion, the legislation passed.

The Senate then voted to endorse a Feb. 7 letter by the Organization of Women Faculty to the administration, which highlights how caregiving during the pandemic has hindered faculty’s ability to conduct research. Economics Prof. Robert Gordon said the letter made three recommendations: to collect more information on the “distractions and conflicts” that have impacted faculty research, to analyze the interaction between salary freezes and faculty research over several years and to take a similar multi-year approach to salary raises and promotions.

After the endorsement passed, Associate Provost for Faculty Sumit Dhar said the University was already forming a COVID-19 faculty committee to collect information about pandemic-related disruptions and provide recommendations to the University akin to the demands of the OWF’s letter.

Dhar also said he, along with the deans and associate deans of each school, would begin to document differences in tenure promotion and merit-based raise decisions across schools. The intention of the project was not to standardize those processes, he said, but rather to identify and address potential areas of improvement. 

Dhar added he plans to review the hiring planning process in consultation with Chief Diversity Officer Robin Means Coleman and consider whether it could be more “insightful” into areas where the University lacks diversity or could invest in new areas of study. 

According to Feinberg Prof. Lois Hedman, the passed legislation doesn’t obligate the University to respond. However, she called repetition the Senate’s “most effective tool” to elicit a meaningful response. 

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Twitter: @meganmuncie

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