Elimination of departments easier after vote

By Max Loos

The Macalester faculty voted on Tuesday afternoon to change the procedure for eliminating academic departments, giving the faculty body less power to prevent the elimination of a department or program if such an action were to be recommended by the Educational Policy and Governance committee. Under the new rules, if EPAG, which is made up of seven elected faculty and two students, recommends to the faculty body that a department be eliminated from the curriculum, the faculty would have to introduce a motion to reject EPAG’s proposal, and the motion to reject the recommendation would require a two-thirds supermajority in order to be approved. If no motion to reject were introduced, EPAG’s recommendation would automatically be implemented. According to critics and supporters alike, the new rules will give the faculty body less control over the curriculum and the process of eliminating departments, giving the primary decision-making authority to EPAG. In the past, getting rid of a department required a motion to be approved by a majority of the faculty body. For the faculty, the nature of a vote on the elimination of a department is changing. In the old procedure, faculty had to actively vote for the elimination of a department, while under the new rules, faculty will have to actively vote to save departments from elimination.Those who spoke in favor of the new rules argued that such a change was necessary, because Macalester faculty would never actively vote against one another to eliminate a department. “I’ve been here for 30 years. The faculty has never once voted out a department that did not want to be disbanded,” said Mathematics professor Dan Flath. Critics, though, contend that faculty should be able to exert as much democratic control over the curriculum as possible. “I would be open to this idea if we had genuinely contested [EPAG] elections,” Media and Cultural Studies professor Clay Steinman said. “I don’t think that a basically unelected committee should have this kind of power.It’s not democratic.” Not many faculty go out of their way to run for EPAG, so there are seldom contested elections for the committee. The first half of the faculty meeting in which the new rules were approved was spent debating an amendment to the rules, introduced last month by Environmental Studies professor Dan Hornbach, that would have allowed an EPAG recommendation to be overturned by a simple majority, as opposed to a two-thirds majority. Sociology professor Erik Larson spoke in favor of eliminating the two-thirds majority. “Moving to require a super-majority vote to overturn.sets us up for a little bit of a risk,” Larson said. He added that the faculty do “own the curriculum,” and that they are capable as a body of “thinking institutionally” and giving rational deference to EPAG. EPAG chair and Chemistry professor Tom Varberg argued that such an amendment would run counter to the goal of the new rules, which are to give EPAG’s decisions more authority, and he said that EPAG would withdraw its support of the new rules if the simple majority amendment were to pass. “It’s the status quo with some window dressing,” Varberg said. The faculty eventually voted against the amendment, and soon after voted to approve the new EPAG procedures . The vote tally for adopting the new EPAG procedures was 75 in favor, and 28 against.