Faculty revisits quorum following failed Iraq war motion

By Matthew Stone

When faculty members avoided a vote in October on a motion that would have called on administrators to cancel a day of classes in protest of the war in Iraq, the faculty’s failure to make quorum at their meeting was ultimately the reason. A series of questions subsequently emerged at that October meeting over what exactly constituted quorum.Professors have settled the matter for now, after voting Wednesday afternoon to require that fewer professors be present at faculty meetings in order for valid votes to take place.

The approved changes to the faculty by-laws require that only faculty members currently working on campus be counted toward quorum at faculty meetings. Quorum is the minimum number of professors required to attend a meeting in order for a vote to take place. Faculty rules currently require the presence of one third of faculty members to make quorum.

When professors debated the Iraq war protest motion in October, the faculty’s presiding officer, International Studies professor David Moore, determined that not enough faculty members were present to make quorum.

Language in the faculty constitution that professors have all but ignored in recent
memory puts quorum at a third of all current professors in addition to professors and presidents emeriti, most of whom no longer spend time on campus. The addition of the latter two categories to the faculty count increased the quorum threshold beyond normal attendance at faculty meetings.

“We would need to have a quorum that allows us to conduct business as a faculty,” said Psychology professor Kendrick Brown, chair of the faculty’s Educational Policy and Governance committee, which brought forward the proposal for the change.

The change professors approved Wednesday does not remove the rights of professors and presidents emeriti to vote if they attend faculty meetings. The approved change affects faculty by-laws but leaves the language in the constitution unchanged.

With the current faculty size equal to 157 full-time professors, 59 professors, or one third of the faculty, constitute a quorum under rules normally used. Adding professors and presidents emeriti to the quorum threshold would push the quorum number closer to 80, according to Geology professor Kelly MacGregor, secretary of the faculty.

Discussion among professors before the vote focused on attendance at faculty meetings. Professors approved a change in October that will move monthly meeting times to Tuesdays at mid-day with the hope of boosting professors’ attendance.

Mathematics professor Danny Kaplan spoke in opposition to the change, saying that the move to redefine quorum was a move away from professors’ active participation in college governance.

Governance is hard. It’s work. Participation in governance is important,” Kaplan said. “That’s the message we should be sending to our students.