Faculty Council vet race relations committee members, approve student leaders’ modifications to religious observance policy
Administration will give update on response to Call to Action during public race relations meeting April 29.
Apr. 23, 2015
Faculty Council discussed race relations, the religious observance policy, academic calendar modifications and Title IX policy during its meeting April 23.
Race Relations Reveal
Faculty Council vetted 11 faculty, staff, administration and student members for membership in the committee on race relations during a closed session.
Berkley Hudson, chairman of the committee on race relations, assembled the group after speaking with concerned parties across MU’s campus. He said the 11 people he’s brought together have signed to being members of the committee and duly represent the campus in terms of their positions and ethnic make-up.
Among the group are faculty, staff, administrators, graduate students and undergraduate students, Hudson said. He said five of the 11 are caucasian, and that there are African Americans and Latinos in the group. He said he’s still working on finding an Asian American to participate. The group is 60 percent male and 40 percent female, Hudson said.
The demographics of the group he’s assembled acknowledge the fact that approximately 75 percent of the 2,000 faculty on MU’s campus identify as white, Hudson said.
“That’s the area we have to pay attention to in terms of the psychology, the motivations of why that group of people may or may not think that race relations is something that needs to be dealt with,” he said.
Hudson, who has attended all of the past open forums on race relations, said there is “considerable tension” about these issues on this campus.
The administration is holding a public meeting 6 p.m. April 29 at Conservation Auditorium to give an update on its response to the “Call to Action” made by leaders of the Missouri Students Association, Graduate Professional Council, Legion of Black Collegians and other student organizations last December. While administrators invited all MU students, faculty and staff to the meeting via an April 22 mass email, there will be no open mic or indicated way for students to respond to the administration’s update.
Hudson said he is concerned about this and would like for students’ voices to be heard during the meeting.
Councilmember John Lory did not disagree with Hudson, but argued that students speaking into a microphone isn’t going to do much to solve racial tension on climate. He said real progress will only be made once the committee on race relations begins its work.
Hudson said he hopes the committee will hold its first meeting within the next 10 to 14 days.
Beg your pardon: time off for religious observance and a solar eclipse
Faculty Council voted unanimously to approve students leaders’ proposed modifications to MU’s religious observance policy.
Last October, MSA passed Resolution 54-11 during full senate. The resolution sought a change to MU’s religious observance policy.
MU’s current religious observance policy “expresses no clear requirement to respect the diverse religious observance practices of students,” according to the resolution.
In the resolution, MSA senators Alex Nidkum and Ben Vega, among others, specifically asked that professors respect students’ religious obligations and have flexibility in regard to tests and due dates that may fall on religious holidays.
Councilmember Nicole Monnier lauded students for being unified on the issue and bringing it to Faculty Council’s attention.
Several student leaders were present during the meeting and received applause from council members.
Some council members, however, voiced concern over what they thought would be an uptick in student requests for exemption based on religious obligation.
Monnier said the procedure for requesting pardon for religious observance was extensive and not an “easy out.”
“Because this is a procedure that involves paper and deadlines, I personally don’t believe there are going to be tons of students saying, ‘I believe in X,Y and Z and I’m going to ask for time off,’” Monnier said. “I am a non-believer and I kind of find it cynical and slightly offensive that the knee-jerk reaction is that this is going to be another way for students to abuse the system.”
Faculty Council has concluded not to grant students time off for a solar eclipse, however.
Columbia will be at the epicenter of a total solar eclipse August 21, 2017, the first day of the fall semester as mandated by the collective rules and regulations.
Faculty Council voted unanimously against the universal cancellation of classes on that day, though they ratified a provision that would allow individual faculty members to cancel their class and make up any missed curricular items on a reading day later in the semester.
Council members agreed that cancelling the first day of classes would encourage students to move into residence halls on the day of the eclipse, which they said would lead to unnecessary and avoidable hoopla.
Tabling Title IX
Faculty Council passed a motion to postpone its vote on proposals regarding the processes with which the administration handles Title IX cases on campus.
Councilmember Ben Trachtenberg expressed his hesitance to vote at the opening salvo, nearly interrupting Faculty Council chairman Craig Roberts’ introduction of the topic.
Trachtenberg was primarily concerned with shooting down the motion to vote on the role of attorneys in MU Title IX investigations and hearings. Some council members wanted to vote down the idea that attorneys should speak during Title IX hearings.
Trachtenberg said he was reluctant to do this without hearing whether or not Intercampus Faculty Council and the UM System will allow attorneys to participate in the earlier, investigative stages of the process.
Some schools have indeed barred attorneys from the Title IX trial process. Trachtenberg said Harvard University Law School faculty have denounced their potential participation as a “due process catastrophe.”
Attorneys from the UM System detailed Title IX processes during a presentation to MU faculty last week. MU’s representative to IFC Dennis Miller said the attorney’s assessment of MU’s Title IX policies didn’t reveal any gaping holes; that the administration was “on the right track but had room for improvement.”
Council members were wholly impressed by how informative the attorney's presentation was. Councilmember William Wiebold said that his time was “well spent,” and that he was “so glad they were able to come to campus."
Despite being well-versed on the issue, council members ultimately decided to postpone their vote indefinitely. They cited the need for more development of the issue at the system level and at MU. Trachtenberg said they needed to give MU’s new Title IX Coordinator Ellen Eardley time to settle into her new role.
Eardley, who formally took office April 20, said she was looking forward to beginning work.
“I hope that we will all work together on these issues of critical importance to our campus,” she said. “My door is always open.”