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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Faculty Senate holds special session today

    Today’s special session of Mississippi State University’s Robert Holland Faculty Senate will peacefully propose that Mississippi’s Institution for Higher Learning start listening. Dan Embree, chairperson for MSU’s Faculty Senate, said the Senate is holding today’s meeting to deliberate a measure that will ask fellow faculty members to “politely decline to serve on that committee (the MSU’s presidential search advisory board to IHL) by appointment.” However, IHL members said that is not an appropriate response.
    Embree said he and the 50-member Senate want to be able to elect a majority of the members that will serve on MSU’s advisory board under chairperson Frances Coleman rather than having her appoint the entire board. Embree said their request was denied by Coleman and the six-member IHL presidential search board for MSU. Coleman was unavailable for comment.
    “It doesn’t sound real democratic does it?” Embree said. “This (elections) is our new idea.”
    Embree said he and the senate are “appealing to the spirit of principles for university governance,” which is a guideline that was set out by the Faculty Senate, Administrative Council, Professional Support Staff Advisory Council, the Student Association and the general faculty in 1996 saying how they wanted MSU to conduct self governance.
    Although the guidelines specifically state how administrative, faculty and professional staff appointments should be conducted through elections, it does not mention the selection process for presidential searches.
    The guideline reads, “A majority membership of search committees for permanent faculty, administrative and professional staff positions should be reserved for elected representatives of the faculty and professional staff, as appropriate, drawn from the affected on and off campus units.”
    Embree said the Senate’s position on how the advisory board should be selected has been clear from the beginning. As soon as the Senate’s executive board was notified that Coleman was the chairperson, Embree said they held a meeting with her explaining their concerns of an elected representation versus an appointed board. But, Embree said her decision was clear.
    “We asked (Coleman) why elections would not be the best way of selecting faculty representatives. Dean Coleman said that sometimes the wrong people get elected,” Embree said.
    Embree said Coleman is “simply doing what the board (IHL) told her to do.”
    Coleman’s response in that late January meeting made some senators worried for more than the right to vote.
    “Imagine a situation where you’re searching for a president and there is no agreement between the faculty and IHL,” senator Mark Goodman said. “What president would want to come in?”
    Goodman said the fire behind the Senate’s request is a matter of principle.
    “This is extremely important,” Goodman said. “What is MSU? The faculty does a majority of the work by educating generations of students-IHL and the administration don’t do that. For IHL to say we should have no say in the process is a slap in the face to our professionalism and ignores the role we (faculty) play in the university. If the students and faculty aren’t helping, then essentially what is IHL telling us all?”
    During the Feb. 15 Senate meeting, Goodman said the senate was greeted with what seemed to be support by IHL’s chair for MSU’s presidential search committee, Carl Nicholson Jr.
    “I want you (Senate) to have an election,” Nicholson said at the Feb. 15 meeting.
    That is a promise that Embree said was diminished after the IHL board held a closed meeting Feb. 21. Embree said the Senate received a signed letter, by all six members, thanking them for “their interest in the search” but declining their request to begin an election process.
    Embree said he contacted three members Coleman appointed and asked them to resign-a strategy he said was successful in each situation. He also said Coleman contacted him Tuesday and asked him to accept an appointment. “You can guess my answer,” he said.
    IHL board members said they are not and do not want to keep faculty from voicing their concerns in the selection.
    “We have invited and encourage faculty participation,” said Scott Ross, member of IHL presidential search for MSU. “Non-participation is not an appropriate response just because the search is not in a way they (Faculty Senate) like-the search will continue. In order to join the discussion, you have to be at the table.”
    “Our board has a process that has been very successful,” Nicholson said. “We believe that the on-campus committee needs to be a diverse group-sometimes elections don’t do that.”
    Nicholson said that in his 10-year history on the board, there has been no difference in past or present searches for university presidents. Goodman said he and fellow senators feel it is time for a change.
    “IHL seems to want a confrontation over this,” Goodman said. “Our not being able to elect representation also means students will have little or no say in the selection process.”
    Ross and Nicholson agree that “the search will continue” whether the Senate approves of the manner it is conducted in.
    Embree said he does not expect his actions or the senate’s actions to change this year’s selection.
    “We acknowledge the board (IHL) is in absolute control by law,” Embree said. “We know for sure it ( the request) will not succeed-this battle is for respect.”
    Embree said the meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in the Coskrey Auditorium in Memorial Hall. Embree also said their meetings are open to interested listeners.

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    The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
    Faculty Senate holds special session today