Faculty Senate resolution expresses concern over Board of Trustee faculty position

Imran Majid

The Sacramento State Faculty Senate passed a resolution Thursday endorsing the statewide Academic Senate’s concern over Gov. Jerry Brown’s delay in appointing a faculty member to the Board of Trustees.

The 25-member Board of Trustees, which serves as the governing body of the California State University system, is without a faculty trustee to represent the group’s respective interests, Academic Senator Christine Miller said.

“Things that get done are done in a collaborative way between the board, the faculty (and) the administration,” Miller said. “When one of those three entities is not represented, shared governance suffers.”

Miller said without a faculty trustee voting and participating in meetings, CSU faculty are disenfranchised from representation.

Faculty trustees serve for two-year terms and are recommended to the governor by the Academic Senate.

Academic Senator Tom Krabecher said the Senate has been concerned and sensitive to the issue after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not appoint a faculty trustee between 2009 and 2011.

Brown appointed CSU Humboldt theater professor Bernadette Cheyne as the faculty trustee in 2011.

Her term ended last June, and while the Academic Senate recommended Cheyne for reappointment, the Board of Trustees remains without a faculty trustee.

“On a number of occasions, it was expressed to me by members of the Board that they were very pleased to have a faculty person,” Cheyne said. “It really did help, particularly in terms of issues involving curriculum to provide a broader perspective.”

Krabecher said many members of the Board do not have a background in higher education, work in other professions and are not always aware of practicalities when implementing policy.

He said many of the difficulties regarding Senate Bill 1440, which established collaboration on associate degrees between the CSU and California community colleges in 2010, could have been avoided if a faculty trustee was present.

“Because [the trustees are] busy, they often times simply don’t have the opportunity or time to dig in on the day-to-day detail,” Krabecher said. “They need as many perspectives as possible.”

Resolutions endorsing the Academic Senate’s concern have passed in other CSU campuses, including Fullerton, San Diego and Sonoma.

The resolution passed by the Sac State Faculty Senate was amended several times to mimic Fullerton’s resolution and require it to be sent to President Alexander Gonzalez and local legislators.

It was also amended to include a line from the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act stipulating joint decision-making among faculty and administration in higher education is “essential to the performance of the educational missions of these institutions.”

Krabecher said there is no indication as to why Brown has not made an appointment.

Mike Uhlenkamp, CSU Director of Public Affairs, said that without a faculty trustee, no one is there to represent the faculty’s interests in terms of voting on policy issues.

“The idea is that you have different individuals coming from different perspectives,” Uhlenkamp said. “They’re sharing their various experiences for the common good.”

Cheyne said the faculty trustee does not represent only faculty, because her oath of office was to serve Californians and the state’s interest in higher education.

“That was a distinction that sometimes I had to communicate to my colleagues,” Cheyne said. “Although I considered it an exceedingly important job of the faculty trustee to communicate faculty perspectives, ultimately, once you become a trustee and you take that oath, your actual responsibilities become broader than that.”

Miller said the Fiscal and Governmental Affairs Committee of the Academic Senate will meet this week and consider legislative action regarding appointment of a faculty trustee.

“We would hope that (the committee) can know the sentiment of (Sacramento State) faculty as it considers that matter,” Miller said.

Krabecher said over 20,000 faculty serve across 23 CSU campuses and having a faculty voice on the Board of Trustees is important.

“The faculty experience and perspective is crucial to the development of policy that works on a very practical level,” Krabecher said.