CSU East Bay’s Academic Senate, the governing body that handles issues regarding instruction and curriculum, has recently started a controversial petition hoping to reduce the number of student representatives who can serve on committees, a decrease from 7 to 3 and an elimination of over 12 percent of voting power.
Mitch Watnik, Chair of the Academic Senate, submitted the petition on Sept. 26 along with a few other faculty members, in hopes to reduce the amount of student influence.
“The rational was that there were the faculty members who felt the students were, for lack of a better term, over represented on the Senate, and that our student representation was inconsistent with other campuses,” said Watnik.
Student representatives say this proposal could severely hinder students’ abilities to have a say in issues regarding their curriculum and academics – a pivotal change in CSUEB’s history.
This issue has quickly become a highly contested in the campus community. Current Academic Senate student representative Elizabeth Ortiz believes it limits student voice in their education at CSUEB.
“It’s upsetting to hear that the faculty feels this way,” said Ortiz. “We as student representatives want to support the faculty, just like we’d want the faculty to support us.”
According to the petition, there are currently 55 members on the Academic Senate. Aside from San Jose State University, CSUEB has a “disproportionately” large number of student representatives with a voting power at 12 percent. Other CSU’s, such San Francisco State University, Cal State Monterey Bay and CSU Chico, all have two to three student representatives, and what Watnik believes is ideal.
In turn, the 12 percent greatly influences the outcome of votes for the vast majority of resolutions in the Academic Senate, said Watnik, and because of it he believes the change is a smart and necessary one.
Ortiz strongly disagrees. “The 12 percent student representation can’t on its own, tip the voting scale,” she said. “The faculty members represent 73 or 74 percent of all the votes.”
Ortiz and body president Jerry Chang say the petition, if passed with a two-third of the votes sealed with CSUEB’s President Morishita’s approval, would only take into effect during the spring quarter of the 2013-14 school year.
Chang argues the “timing” is frustrating, as they have an entire year to have a dialogue with students, “but that’s not happening.”
“This is going to a faculty vote because it’s done through petition, so it actually bypasses the senate and goes straight to the faculty,” he said. “And there is no student representation when it goes straight to the faculty like it would if it went to the senate.”
“Why isn’t it being done through the Senate,” Chang argues.
“The faculty signatures came from all four colleges and the library,” said Watnik. “The only student I’ve spoken with is ASI President Jerry Chang, and he’s not happy.”
“I don’t know if I’ve ever said that directly,” Chang told The Pioneer in reference to Watnik’s statement. “If I did, it was in the context that it was not a positive thing for students.”
The issue was discussed at the ASI board meeting Wednesday, where Chang said though he does not want to speak for everyone, there was confusion as to why this action has been taken.
Chang told The Pioneer that Watnik’s argument to reduce the student seats from 7 to 3 is “not a fair argument to make.”
“The purpose of the faculty on this campus, and I’m pretty sure if you look through the bylaws, or the constitution of the senate, there’s a mention that the faculty are here to help ensure that students have access to the best possible education they can,” said Chang.
“To my understanding, that is why there is a strong student representation on the faculty senate,” he said about the current number of seven student representatives, what Watnik refers to as roughly 12 percent of the senate.
Watnik said he hopes Morishita approves the petition.
“If this change does happen, we [university community] would be taking a step back instead of positively moving forward,” said Ortiz.
Natalia Aldana, Keely Wong and Joseph Geha contributed research to this report.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 at 2:23 pm.