WCU faculty seeks role in university restructurings

It required barely 15 minutes and a minimum of discussion for Western Carolina University’s Faculty Senate to unanimously vote it be given a role in any future reorganization efforts.

Whether they get what they ask for will depend on WCU’s next chancellor, David Belcher, who was hired two days after the meeting took place. He replaces John Bardo starting July 1.

The faculty leadership’s resolution comes in the wake of at least three internal reorganizations at WCU in just five years. A growing number of faculty members at WCU have protested against what they have dubbed top-down, administrative-driven changes.

Perhaps the prospect of a new boss dampened discussion, or maybe it was the ongoing pressures to a faculty weary of worrying about how deeply the General Assembly will cut into higher education (at least $8.6 million, and probably more, is expected to disappear from WCU). Regardless of exactly why, the group was considerably muted last week when compared to an earlier meeting this month — then debate raged for more than two hours over the faculty’s role in these restructuring efforts.

This time, the most impassioned discussions involved particular points about Robert’s Rules of Order, which included frequent references to the meeting-guideline book, and an explanation by Secretary Laura Wright that the electronic voting clicker wasn’t working again, so should voting take place by a show of hands or by paper ballots? Paper ballots won out.

Cheryl Waters-Tormey, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Erin McNelis, emphasized at the outset that this resolution seeking faculty participation lays out a procedure of sorts for the university.

And, Waters-Tormey added, perhaps more hopefully than anything else, “it is not tied at all” to a resolution that sparked the initial debate and failed the week before. That resolution was brought by nine faculty members who wanted their colleagues in the Faculty Senate to intervene in a particular reorganization — one that would consolidation the College of Education and Allied Professions from five to three departments.

A tenured professor has resigned in protest over the realignment and alleged targeted non-reappointments of some professors.

The substitute resolution just passed seeks the formation of a task force to study reorganization issues, and for the development of a “clear, coherent, and effective” reorganization policy and process that protects the integrity of WCU’s academic mission.

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