Faculty Senate discusses Chavez Holiday, future goals and chickens

Greg Kane

Debates about the California State University?s newly-imposed Cesar Chavez holiday, setting goals for future semesters and bands of wild chickens terrorizing the campus filled the air at Sacramento State?s Faculty Senate meeting March 15.

Senators turned down a proposed resolution expressing disappointment in the CSU Board of Trustees for its hasty and disruptive action in implementing the holiday celebrating the late Mexican labor leader after determining it was a legislative decision that was out of their hands. Governor Gray Davis signed the holiday, which will be observed on Friday, March 30, into law in January, and its announcement took many instructors by surprise.Many spoke out against observing the holiday. However, claiming it will force them to change their class schedules by pushing their syllabus back.

An extra day would take valuable class time from instructors and students, particularly those in classes that meet just once a week, said Donald Hall, Physics and Astronomy professor.

“Did (anyone) stop to think that these actions might knock an entire week off the academic calendar (for some instructors)?” Hall asked.

Hall also added that he meant no disrespect to Chavez, but if every important figure in history were to be observed with a holiday, there would be no time for classes at all. Chavez?s memory would be better represented if students were allowed to come to school and get an education, he explained.

“Will Cesar Chavez really be honored by a skip day for students to sleep late or go skiing?” Hall asked.

Despite the inconvenience of the holiday, the Trustees were required by law to implement the holiday, said Senate member Ted Lescher.

“The bottom line is that all state employees, under state law, are entitled to that day off,” Lescher said. “It wasn?t the Trustee?s decision. It was the legislature?s decision.”

The senate also discussed the Council for University Planning?s requirement to recommend accountability goals for upcoming semesters, which CSU has asked each of its schools to provide. Though CUP identified goals that can be reached in several categories, including Retention and Graduation, Teacher Preparation and Outreach and Student Preparation, the Executive Committee decided to abstain from voting to recommend the goals until concerns such as their purpose and inappropriate timelines are resolved, said Senate chairman Bob Buckley.

“What was revealed was that at the end of the day we had more questions than answers,” Buckley said. “There are other dynamics involved that we don?t yet understand. How the numbers and the goals are going to be used still has to be specified.”

Although setting these goals, which has been used as a measure for funding by legislatures in other states, is a challenge, Sac State can consider itself fortunate that it has the freedom to set its own goals, said Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs Bernice Bass de Martinez.

“At least in this instance we have the opportunity to set our own goals,” Bass de Martinez said. “Other universities back East had theirs set for them. There?s nothing worse than having a legislature say what you must do.”

And then there were the chickens. President Donald Gerth discussed a recent media report that described the Sac State campus as being overrun by chickens and roosters, making a racket and disrupting classes. He said the numbers of the animals has ballooned over the years, and it was time to do something about it.

“The chickens have become so numerous that the group needs to be thinned,” Gerth said amid the laughter of the senators. “It will be done in a way that is humane, and they will be able to live out the rest of their existence with other chickens.” Gerth said they would be delivered to a chicken farm.

Reaction to the thinning of the campus? livestock was mixed. One instructor told a story about how one of the chickens actually came into one of his classes, and that their constant crowing was disruptive to lectures. Another instructor pointed out that he liked the animals, and has brought his children to the campus on weekends to see them.Buckley pointed out that although they bring character to the campus, their numbers have grown too much of late.

“Back in the ’80s, I think I remember having a couple of roosters,” Buckley said. “I think the report said now there?s 75.”

The senate addressed other topics as well. Senate member Art Jensen said campus security needs to be upgraded after the theft of four laptop computers from locked department and faculty offices recently.

“I used to think that this was a very comfortable kind of environment,” Jensen said. “I was wrong, this is not a comfortable environment.”

An update on a work group set up after the Senate?s last meeting to identify how Sac State can make Faculty Merit Increases work was also given. A particular work group was excited about the chance to help out with the implementation of FMI, which are the center of a huge debate between CSU and the California Faculty Association, but said it plans to take it slowly, said Executive committee member Joan Bauerly.

“We?re aware of the fact that we could shoot ourselves in the foot as well as make progress, so we?re advancing carefully,” Bauerly said.

The findings of the group would be an important tool for the senate for whenever it?s asked by CSU to provide information on FMI, said Statewide senate member Tom Krabacher

“By the time we?re told to do something, it?s the middle of the summer and no one?s around,” Krabacher said. We?re trying to be proactive.”