Faculty Assembly discusses controversial amendment to bylaws


Illustration by Angeli Mittal

Faculty Assembly met Tuesday to discuss a new bylaws amendment Faculty Senate introduced that may have serious consequences on its decision-making power.

Joshua Perry, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Faculty Assembly discussed a proposed amendment to its bylaws at its first meeting of the 2021-22 academic year Tuesday. Assembly members said the amendment would nullify the Assembly’s voting power.

Former Faculty Senate President Therese McGuire introduced the resolution, which she said was approved by the Senate’s governance and executive committees. The strongest revision presented would make all resolutions and recommendations passed by the Assembly “nonbinding,” which Assembly members said would eliminate their power in University politics. McGuire said all changes proposed are intended to clarify and simplify the document.

The Assembly fell short of its quorum of 408 faculty members with 206 attendees, so while it was able to discuss the amendment, it could not take a vote. Faculty Senate will vote on the amendment again at its next meeting.

Political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens objected to the amendment, calling it a “brutal power play” that undermined the joint power arrangement of the Assembly and Senate.

“This isn’t simply a ‘simplification’ or ‘clarification,’” Stevens said. “There’s a very fundamental change being proposed here to deprive the Faculty Assembly of authority as part of a bicameral institution.”

Spanish & Portuguese Prof. Jorge Coronado agreed that McGuire misrepresented the amendment, and he added that the virtual format of the meeting limited his ability to communicate with other faculty members. Others in attendance echoed his concerns about the meeting’s format.

Coronado’s main objection, however, was with the “nonbinding” clause. Just because members of the Assembly weren’t regularly exercising their right to vote, he said, doesn’t mean it should be taken away.

“The idea that the Faculty Assembly hasn’t been used much is not a reason to remove that possibility,” he said. “On the contrary, what the Faculty Senate leadership and us faculty should be doing is encouraging people to (participate).”

Some faculty members in attendance said their colleagues were not informed properly of the gravity of the night’s meeting.

Pritzker Prof. Sam Tenenbaum said he didn’t understand why the Assembly needed a quorum to have a say in the resolution when faculty members could give their input remotely.

But not all in attendance were opposed to the changes to the bylaws. Medill Prof. Ceci Rodgers, President-elect of Faculty Senate, said she was glad the clarifications were made because neither the Senate nor Assembly have ever been “legislative bodies.”

“There isn’t anything in my view that’s been taken away from the faculty assembly,” Rodgers said. “If anything, it’s basically streamlining and codifying what has always been the case.”

McCormick Prof. Luís Amaral said he understands that many people don’t get involved in University politics until an issue directly involves them. Still, he said he believes when faculty members need to use the Assembly, it should be able to serve their needs.

NU needs to pay more attention to faculty concerns, Amaral said. In his view, the amendment is a step in the wrong direction.

“I wish that we would be working on something that actually tries to increase the representation of faculty in decision making,” Amaral said. “Let’s try to make something in which we all are better heard and have a more important role in what happens at this University.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joshdperry

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