By STEPHAN KOZUB
Over 100 faculty members held a silent protest over violations of University Statutes today.
The protest, taking place outside of the Board of Trustees meeting in the Bateman Room of the Fordham Law building, included faculty members placing white tape over their mouths as members of the Board of Trustees and the administration made their way to the room.
In September 2016, the Fordham Faculty Senate filed grievances against the Board of Trustees and three senior officials of the university. The grievances, filed with the Hearing Committee of the Senate, came after the administration imposed a salary increase that was not approved by the Senate, violating the University Statutes.
A Faculty Hearing Committee independently investigated the issue and confirmed that the administration had violated the statutes, according to emails reported on by the Fordham Ram. University Counsel Elaine Crosson said in an email on the results of the Committee that “Since the Committee had no authority to act upon the grievances, the decisions of the Committee are not determinative.”
“We felt that, with student clubs and other things going on campus, there’s an increasing disregard for the kinds of governance processes in place,” said Andrew H. Clark, Ph.D., chair of the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee and associate professor of French and Comparative Literature. “We think that is a significant danger and threat to the health and future of this institution.”
Clark said that the first goal of the protest is “to remind faculty that they are a strong, important voice that should be heard. It is to remind our interlocutors, the Board, the administration and other people that we take this seriously and we’re not so happy with the decision. We’re going to continue to fight until governance is respected.”
“We’re not going to get a top-down driven institution where people make decisions based on what they believe are savings without the input and serious discussion with faculty and joint decisions,” he continued.
At the protest, Clark also distributed red pins for faculty to wear to show their support for one another.
President of the Faculty Senate Anne Fernald, Ph.D., said that the goal of the protest was to “to show the administration that all of us faculty members are united in our support for the faculty leadership, in our support of the statutes, in our hope and our expectation that we will come to a negotiation agreement on salary and benefits and our disappointment that we did not last year.”
Some of the faculty members taking part in the protest later attended the Board of Trustees meeting. Fernald said that “We have encouraged them to do so because we want to continue to seek ways to collaborate.”
She added that the protest was “not a strike” and that the participation in the protest was “an impressive show of strength from us and I think we should be really proud of the way in which the faculty has united in support of the faculty governance.”
Patricio I. Meneses, Ph.D., associate professor of Biological Sciences and president of the Fordham University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said that “the goal is to unify the University, to have the faculty unified in their mission as to what it is that they see as important needs and important changes. It’s about governance, that a conversation needs to be had between us and the University that needs to be open and more two-way, rather than a one-way street that it seems to be at the moment.”
Faculty members such as Senior Lecturer of Music Sevin Yaraman, Ph.D., were also among the participants.
“The major issue that I share with my colleagues is the breach of the statute and that the administration made a decision without the Faculty Senate’s approval,” she said.
Faculty members began gathering outside of Bateman Room at noon, passing out pieces of tape amongst themselves until 12:15 p.m., when they formally began the protest. They continued until 12:45, when Fernald briefly addressed the group.
“We are completely overwhelmed by the support that you have shown us today and we could not be more grateful to you,” she said. “This is the beginning for us.”
For Clark, the protest touched on an issue of social justice.
“I think if you look at most of the issues with respect to social justice is that it nevers affects just one population,” Clark said. “It always affects the whole community. So violating the statutes with respect to faculty gives precedence to how students can be treated, to how workers can be treated. So it’s not good for the community as a whole.”
Prior to the event, Bob Howe, senior director of Communications for Fordham University, told The Fordham Ram that “The University stands by its Nov. 11 2016, letter to Professor Barry Rosenfeld, chair of the Faculty Senate Hearing Committee, specifically that the Fordham University Board of Trustees has the ultimate authority and responsibility — by law and according to University statute — for setting the University’s budget in a timely and fiscally prudent manner.” The administration is “currently engaged in productive compensation negotiations with the Faculty Senate, and have every reason to believe that we will conclude the process on time, and present a University budget that is both equitable to faculty and reflects fiscal reality,” according to the statement.
The Observer has reached out to the university for comment on the protest.
(PHOTO GALLERY BY STEPHAN KOZUB/THE OBSERVER)