Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Some faculty accuse committee organizing no-confidence vote of bias

Posted on April 15, 2012 in News
By Noah Hurowitz

USM President Selma Botman speaks to reporters April 3. Botman faces a vote of no confidence triggered by a petition circulated among senior faculty.
Paul Koenig
USM President Selma Botman speaks to reporters April 3. Botman faces a vote of no confidence triggered by a petition circulated among senior faculty.

A faculty vote of no confidence in University of Southern Maine President Selma Botman is tentatively scheduled for the end of this month, but some faculty members have raised concerns over  the neutrality of the committee organizing the vote, as well as the process.

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Faculty Senate Chair Jeannine Diddle Uzzi must organize the referendum, but some supporters of Botman are concerned about Uzzi’s public statements of opposition to the president.

Eileen Eagan, professor of history, criticized Uzzi for making public statements about her views on Botman. She said she is worried about how fair process and results of the vote will be if its organizer has a clear bias.

“Maybe some United Nations observers should be called in,” she joked.

But Uzzi said she has gone to lengths to prevent her own views to affect her planning and implementation of the referendum.

“We’re trying to make this as transparent as possible, and I’m hoping a large and reasonable majority will be happy with the process,” she said. “But there’s a small minority of very vocal people who have criticized everything I’ve done.”

There is also disagreement over the interpretation of wording in the Faculty Senate bylaws regarding how to call the results of referendums like the vote of no confidence.

The Faculty Senate bylaws dictate two-thirds of faculty must support any referendum in order for it to be passed on to the University of Maine System as representative of the views of faculty. But members of the faculty disagree over whether to read that as two-thirds of all faculty or two-thirds of faculty taking part in the referendum.

The dispute over the bylaws’ language and its effect on the results of the referendum appear to be split along the lines of those who support Botman and those who oppose her.

The manner of how the vote will be conducted has not been decided yet, though Uzzi said it looks like they’ll mail paper ballots to faculty. She said the committee had considered using electronic voting, but that it would have cost about $1,000, and there were concerns about the security of an electronic vote.

Uzzi, who as an associate professor did not sign the petition but has said she no longer has faith in Botman’s ability to lead the university argued for interpreting the bylaw as meaning two-thirds of those who vote, rather than two-thirds of all faculty. Uzzi said the vagueness of the language — it doesn’t specify whether “faculty” includes part-time faculty — effectively makes passing any referendum next to impossible.

“There’s no way we’ll get two-thirds of the entire faculty to the polls, let alone get them to vote in favor of the referendum,” she said.

But others, including visible and vocal defenders of the president like Eagan, say it’s important to respect the original language of the bylaws.

“The language isn’t even faintly vague,” Eagan told The Free Press on Friday. “It’s clear that for a referendum to pass it must be two-thirds of the faculty. Anything else is dishonest. It’s just not what the documents say.”

 

  • intolerable silence

     A basic rule of ANY debate is to define the terms first.. this is inherent in any critical thinking problem… ONe also needs to know where to find the correct answers and the role and scope of each document and Governing Body. The definition of Faculty is found in USM’s Governance Documents that grant the USM Faculty Senate the authority to hold referendums. The procedure outlined in the USM Governance Documents for a Faculty Senate Referendum states that “50% of Faculty must vote” and the vote occurs “within 5 school of receipt of a petition.” This did not occur… It is incumbent upon the Faculty in moving forward to begin the process again according to proper and approved procedure.
     (
    http://usm.maine.edu/sites/default/files/accreditation/governance_05.pdf  ) There appears to be a conflict between the USM Governing Documents and the USM Faculty Senate By Laws. All are filed with the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. Various USM and UMS Administration, Faculty and staff were aware of a similar problem with the definition of “student” in the USM Student Senate documents several years ago. Why have these critical governance and procedure  issues not been resolved? Can students debate due process or negotiate authority?The USM Faculty Senate  “ideally” approves their by-laws annually and proper procedure as well as the levels of authority is understood by all members.  The President of USM  approves the Faculty Senate By-Laws which are  then sent to the The UMS Board of Trustees for final review. This process occurs with all USM and UMS governing documents.   The final interpretation of these By-laws rests upon  the University of Maine System  Board of Trustees and is traditionally reviewed by Kelley Wiltbank of UMS the Chief Counsel and Clerk of the Board of Trustees. What was UMS’ response when asked about this issue?  Perhaps the Faculty Representative to the University of Maine System should address this issue with the BOT and other system schools to ensure that all governance issues are clearly established. The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)  self-study committee and white report should have resolved ALL such  issues in the governing documents or identified any outstanding problems before submitting the report  in 2011.( http://usm.maine.edu/accreditation ) 

  • Anonymous

    A key ting to keep in mind is that the vote is NOT binding.  Even if 100% of the “faculty” (however defined) vote no confidence, the ultimate authorities (the BOT and the Chancellor) are not compelled to act. 

  • Enough Whining Already Eagan

    So what is Eagan’s issue?  Let it be 2/3 of the faculty who vote and if those who don’t want Botman removed don’t feel strongly enough about it to check off a box on a ballot then clearly they aren’t supporting Botman half as much as Eagan would like to think.  All elections are based on those who bother to turn up to vote.  If that wasn’t the case we’d never elect anyone to anything because the majority of people are too lazy to vote