Faculty Senate steering committee discusses election

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Mark Hammontree

Following the controversial Tuscaloosa municipal elections on Aug. 27, many students and faculty members vocally expressed their opinions about the alleged conduct of certain greek organizations at The University of Alabama, as well as how the University’s administration handled the controversy in the wake of the allegations.

Tuesday, the Faculty Senate’s steering committee met to discuss the various issues, including the election controversy, that the entire senate will meet to discuss Sept. 17.

The Faculty Senate, the representative body of all UA faculty, meets each month to address various issues concerning the entire campus.

Steve Miller, president of the Faculty Senate and a professor of library and information sciences, immediately brought the issue of the election up for discussion once the steering committee meeting began citing the many emails and resolutions from faculty members and certain faculty senators that he has received.

“A number of faculty members have asked the Faculty Fenate to act,” Miller said to the group of steering committee members. “Now, we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do. You know what I said at the start of last year was that my hope was that this will be a proactive Faculty Senate. We need to address this in the right way with the whole University in mind.”

The discussion turned to the recent email that was sent out to students and faculty by UA President Judy Bonner, outlining the University’s position on the allegations and controversy surrounding the election.

One member of the committee quickly voiced his frustration with the timing of administration’s response.

“Clearly, they caved into pressure, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten a statement at all,” John Vincent, a professor of chemistry, said. “That [email] could have been written the day after. I have no problem with what was in it, but the timing is typical of what’s been happening currently, in the last two to three years with the administration.”

Vincent said the election controversy is just a result of the current culture surrounding the administration.

“What we have is symptomatic of a long period of lack of leadership in the administration and student affairs that has been allowing these things to just continue and build, and we’re seeing the newest manifestation of it,” Vincent said.

The discussion turned away from the municipal election to focus more on campus-specific examples of the issue Vincent spoke of, including the Machine and SGA politics.

“The Machine has existed for over a hundred years, and no one has been able to rein it in,” one member of the committee said.

Vincent and others suggested the Faculty Senate could use the negative public opinions generated by the elections to urge the administration to address the broader issues facing student life and campus politics, even if the administration cannot get involved in the municipal election.

“We can go to the administration and say, ‘This thing has to take its course, but what’s your long-term plan to deal with what’s broken in the student government, with the fraternity and sorority system; what’s happening across campus in terms of things with students affairs; what are you going to do to work on that?’” Vincent said.

The committee also discussed other ways of addressing future issues concerning elections, including the system of voting online for SGA offices and the student code of conduct.

Before Miller guided the discussion toward other matters facing the senate, he wrapped up the talk on the election controversy to express his appreciation of the faculty members who voiced their opinions on the matter publicly.

“I think that one of the good things, to me, to come out of this was that so many faculty members rose up in tremendous irritation because they love this place,” Miller said.