Members of the student and faculty caucuses at York are in open rebellion against President Marcia V. Keizs over revisions to the college’s charter, which were voted in on April 29 with a number of amendments that would alter the balance of power in Senate decisions.
York’s charter establishes the rules and regulations of decision-making for the college Senate comprised of both faculty and student leadership groups. The current charter, established in 1986, allows students an equal amount of representation to the faculty through student government senators.
The new charter proposed by Keizs on April 22 reduced representation to two student senators per academic department. The new charter also established the President of the college as the Senate chairperson, a move that upset not just SGA members but also faculty leaders.
“The president deserves some power, but how much?” said Faculty Caucus Leader and Associate Professor of English Theresa Rooney. “I don’t know why she has the power there.”
But there seems to be disconnect in history, Keizs said.
“In addition to our saying we should look at ourself, there was some legal precedent from the state that caused a number of different people within CUNY to make some changes on their charter,” said Keizs.
Keizs was referring to the “Perez Law,” which was brought by a Hostos Community College student after he was denied entrance to a 2001 senate meeting and a number of changes were secretly made to the college’s curriculum. Since then, CUNY College Senate meetings have been required to operate under the Open Meetings Law, which allows anyone to be present.
For York, after a large overhaul in curriculum and recommendations from York’s accreditation commission Middle States in 2007, the legal minutiae needed to be written into the charter.
However, whatever’s written on paper doesn’t seem to matter, according to Rooney.
“I have to constantly remind them of the rules,” said Rooney. “The people who know the rules enforce them, but only as they wish.”
In a recording given to Pandora’s Box, during a charter review meeting the week before the vote, most of the time was spent on a laundry list of how-to’s for making motions and introducing amendments for the vote.
The faculty caucus submitted amendments to the Keizs charter that included giving representation to part-time faculty where there was none prior, ensuring student representation equal to the number in the faculty caucus and also making the Senate chair an elected position.
But Keizs argued that she had fought for more student representation in the curriculum committee the year prior, but was voted down.
As the charter currently reads, the curriculum committee — which, among other things, decides for-credit classes — had equal representation between students and faculty.
“The curriculum committee is not a place where students need to be in the middle of,” said Keizs.
But after reducing the amount to half of students, Keizs motioned to raise student involvement to three-fourths representation.
“I went to bat for students, but they voted down that charter,” she said.
For the current charter amendments, York’s SGA President Shaikh Amin had been accused of wheeling and dealing with faculty members to create the amendments. Amin said that there was no alliance between the two groups and the only help students asked for was in formatting the amendments.
Later, Keizs sent an email out to all students and faculty urging them to vote yes on the charter and against the proposed amendments given by the faculty and student caucuses.
“I am a little concerned,” wrote Professor of Anthropology William Divale in an email to faculty. “I am not being disrespectful but I think President Keizs’ urging puts a lot of pressure on junior faculty in the senate.”
In the charter review election on May 1, the amended charter was passed with 48 votes – five votes more than needed to pass.
Keizs has the power to veto the amended charter, which would leave the current charter from 1986 in place till next year’s review.
“I will have to consult with people internally and externally,” said Keizs after the vote, to which Divale raised his hand and asked if she would let the faculty know of the changes she made before putting in place her own rules.
“It’s my hope as faculty caucus leader that she follows the senate’s motion,” said Rooney.
“Everything that comes out of the Senate is a recommendation to me,” said Keizs. “We haven’t gone much beyond last week’s vote, yet. But we need resolution.”
York’s charter had been changed only once before 1986 in 1979.