By Chris Zuver, A&E Editor
On November 14, the joint meeting of the University Assembly and Faculty Senate took place in room 202 of the J.C. Penney Conference Center. While numerous topics were discussed, one particular resolution was put forth which created controversy within all four caucuses.
Student Government Association Assembly Speaker Joseph Dordoni, sophomore, anthropology, stepped in for SGA President Sean Burkett, senior, criminology and criminal justice, to give the President’s report. During this time, Dordoni presented a resolution about shared governance in the University Assembly. The resolution stated that shared governance is a problem at the University Assembly level with 38 representatives for faculty, but only 13 for students, and 3 for staff. This resolution was passed in the SGA General Assembly Meeting on November 10 and the full resolution was printed in the November 13 edition of The Current Student Newspaper.
After the meeting SGA Parliamentarian Daniel Ryerson, senior, pre-engineering, said, “What the resolution proposes is that we’d like to form a committee to talk about possible resolution, to talk about the disparity of shared governance… Two thirds of the University Assembly’s votes are strictly to the faculty. Yet, there are clearly more than just faculty on the university assembly.”
For two months leading up to the meeting, the idea had been on the table. Ryerson stated that both he and Dordoni had met with Chancellor Thomas George and the two of them had given him a draft of what they thought should be asked in front of the assembly. According to Ryerson, the two of them also spoke with students and the idea was addressed in front of the Student Assembly with their endorsement at the November 10 SGA General Assembly Meeting.
When Dordoni announced the resolution at the meeting, he said it would be presented during new business. The resolution was kept brief because, according to Ryerson, “in order for there to be proper debate, we wanted to be sure that it occurred during new business.”
Ryerson claims he had spoken to Senate Steering Committee Chairperson Dr. Pamela Stuerke, associate professor in business, before the meeting to let her know he had intended to bring forth new business.
Upon getting to new business, Ryerson sought the floor. Dr. Stuerke called the motion “out of order,” stating that it was in violation of the Senate operating rules. She claimed that any committee report must be vetted through the Senate and University Steering Committee in order for it to be put on the agenda and therefore for it to be discussed through the University Assembly.
“I’ve yet to find the particular clause she was referring to,” stated Ryerson. “What I was proposing was not a committee report, it was new business that any committee has the right to present. I reinforced that statement with my current understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order: any member of a deliberative body has the inherent right to seek the floor in a proper manner and once sought, may put forward business unmolested.”
Ryerson, in effect, yielded the debate and moved for a suspension of the rules in order to allow for the motion to be discussed. After a discussion and a vote, the assembly allowed the motion to be heard. The motion was then discussed. There was no vote. Instead, the motion was tabled until the next meeting.
During the meeting, SGA Senate Representative and Editor-in-Chief of The Current Student Newspaper Michael Plumb was there as a voting member of the assembly. Members kept switching back and forth on votes and SGA needed to know where votes officially were. Plumb took a picture and a video of the vote. Some members were upset by this action.
“From what I recall,” said Plumb, “at one point, someone told me that I shouldn’t do that again. Someone from the committee told me to ‘never do that again,’ but then corrected themselves and said ‘well, you can, but you probably shouldn’t.’”
“This is what I suspect will happen,” said Ryerson in both retrospect and anticipation. “This is the intent: for Student Government—on our own accord—to come up with some revisions and perhaps some amendments to the original motion. Hopefully, in accordance with faculty and staff input, we can come up with something that would be reasonable before we even get to the next meeting, so that when we get there, the first thing we can do is amend it in an agreeable way.”
Ryerson said that he and other student representatives looked at the mission statement of the University Assembly and Faculty Senate, as well as the mission statement of the University of Missouri System on Shared Governance, and thirdly at the mission statement of the SGA in regards to shared governance for wording of the resolution.
The proposal presented to the assembly mentions mission statements as separate where as statements that are typically seen in official government resolutions.
“Basically, in a nutshell,” said Ryerson, “the resolution just says: ‘Hey, we’ve already said these things on record, that we want shared governance, that we should work towards it. So, since we’ve said that, let’s do this in accordance with what we’ve said we’re gonna do. So, in the case of this resolution, let’s put together a special committee made up of all members of the University Assembly, specifically administrators, faculty members, staff members, and students. We come together in more-or-less a bipartisan approach to talking about what needs to be talked about. That’s the intent of the language.”
In the resolution draft presented and adopted by the SGA General Assembly, there was no call to action. In the edition presented to the University Assembly, there was a clause asking for a committee to be formed to investigate solutions to the disparity.
There was no notice given for this resolution coming forward officially. No one was notified that this would be on the agenda as it was brought up in the new business portion of the meeting.
“There is no requirement for that, according to parliamentary procedure,” said Ryerson. “There was no notice given largely because it wasn’t required, but also because of concern about getting it in front of the University Assembly in the first place. I understand that the Chairwoman would have preferred that this get vetted through the Steering Committee, which has no students in it. So, getting it in front of the University Assembly as it was in its form at that time was why there was no required notice given.”
Ryerson also spoke about events that happened at a meeting earlier this fall.
University of Missouri System President Mun Choi had asked that there be compacts created on different subject matters that investigate and try to measure the level of success of the campuses in various categories.
On September 12, during the first University Assembly and Faculty Senate meeting of the semester, the University Assembly was asked to give their endorsement of the timeline of the plan.
Ryerson said that he and other student representatives raised the issue that the students had not been consulted in advance and were then asked to give their opinion on endorsement on a subject matter.
“In other words,” said Ryerson, “there are different dates throughout the semester where different items need to be done and opinions finalized. Choi wanted these done. It was put forward by the Chairwoman, seeking the approval of the University Assembly for the timeline, not for the subject matter itself.”
“We were being asked to vote on this then-and-there, yet we had no perspective from which to draw any conclusion,” said Ryerson.
“We proposed that we table it so that we could be better educated on the matter. More or less, the sentiment of the larger body was that the vote went ahead anyway and it was passed.”
Ryerson concluded: “That is a large crux of why we believe there to be a disparity between the quality of shared government currently represented on the university assembly.”
The next meeting of the University Assembly and Faculty Senate will take place on February 20 at room 202 of the J.C. Penney Conference Center.