Senate Faults Regents on Two Fronts

Concern Over Stand on Shared Governance, Partisanship Spurs Action

by Fernando Quintero

A vote taken at a special April 23 meeting of the Academic Senate showed majority support for a motion to censure the Board of Regents for alleged violation of shared governance principles and failure to protect the university from partisan political influence in view of the board's decision last July to end affirmative action policies.

A mail ballot will be conducted this fall to determine whether the regents should be formally reprimanded in light of the board's controversial July 1995 vote to eliminate considerations of race, ethnicity and gender in admissions and hiring--despite opposition of faculty, administrators, students and staff.

Following discussion over what collective response, if any, should be taken, senate members voted 75 to 37 to censure the regents.

However, senate parliamentarian Paul Hilfinger said a subsequent majority vote to submit the censure motion to a mail ballot in the fall to gain wider faculty participation superseded the senate's earlier vote.

"It is the outcome of the mail ballot that will determine the senate's official position," Hilfinger said. "Technically, the vote of those present at the meeting that supported the motion to go ahead and censure the regents amounts to a straw ballot."

The senate also voted to endorse the efforts of a governance advisory group on the regents, chaired by former UC President Clark Kerr, which is working to restore a commitment to shared governance.

Faculty members debated the merits of taking a moderate versus a more bold approach.

"I think it would be dangerous to have a headline in the newspapers saying, 'UC Faculty Censures Regents," said statistics professor Leo Breiman.

The regents "did something wrong, and we must hold them accountable," said sociology professor Kristin Luker.

She and others cited the board's refusal to open a dialogue on shared governance following its July decision, and the belief by some that the regents repeatedly acquiesced to partisan political influence.

They said this was evidenced by an anti-affirmative action platform in Gov. Wilson's failed presidential candidacy and Regent Ward Connerly becoming director of the "California Civil Rights Initiative."

Mathematics Professor Marina Ratner expressed what she said "might be an unpopular opinion" that the two issues of shared governance and the call for recission of the regents' July decision should be dealt with separately.

"I believe (the regents' decision) was a courageous act. I believe affirmative action is demeaning to women and minorities, but many who share my belief are too intimidated to express their views in public," she said. "Only a vote by mail ballot would reflect the genuine faculty opinion."


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
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