Text of College FEC Letter to Senate LgA Members

The following is the full text of an email from the College Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) to members of the Senate Legislative Assembly (LgA) concerning the requirement for diversity-related courses.

 

From: FEC Chair
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2015 8:01 AM
To: FEC Chair
Subject: College FEC: Message to LgA Members

Dear Colleague,

Since you are a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Academic Senate, we wanted to inform you about a recent development related to a vote made by the LgA on November 20, 2014 to Amend Divisional Regulation A-458(C) in the College of Letters and Science, which would include a diversity-related course in the College undergraduate curriculum.  The Academic Senate Office informed the College FEC Chairs on December 28, 2014 that on December 11, 2014, Senate Chair Joel Aberbach received a challenge in the form of a petition referencing Bylaw 155 and “asking for an electronic vote of all Senate faculty on the adoption of a diversity requirement for undergraduates in the College of Letters and Sciences.” (Memo from Senate Chair Aberbach dated December 16, 2014 to the Executive Board).

You may remember that the proposed College of Letters and Science regulation revision was included as a regular agenda item and opened up for a lengthy discussion at the LgA meeting on November 20, 2014. At the meeting, the LgA heard Pro and Con statements and entertained questions from the floor. The LgA meeting was well attended by at least 117 voting members, and a motion was made to approve the College diversity course requirement.  The motion was seconded, and the LgA voted decisively to approve the regulation change (85 in favor, 18 against, and 4 abstentions).

You may also remember that after the vote passed, an LgA member who spoke against the Amendment to Divisional Regulation A-458(C)  (also one of the faculty who signed a “con” email sent to College faculty on October 24) sought to immediately undo the favorable LgA vote by invoking a rarely used provision of the UCLA Senate Bylaw, Section 155 (B)(1), which states that “actions taken by the LgA shall be submitted to a…ballot of voting members of the Division if the request for the mail or electronic online ballot is made at the meeting at which the issue has been considered and one-third of the members of the LgA present join in the request.” A motion to compel a vote of the full membership of the Division was made, but it fell well short of the required one-third support from LgA members present.

Traditionally, a positive vote by the LgA is the final approval necessary for College curricular changes involving a regulation change. However the Academic Senate Office informed the College FEC Chairs on December 28, 2014 that on December 11, 2014, Senate Chair Joel Aberbach received a challenge in the form of a petition referencing Bylaw 155 and “asking for an electronic vote of all Senate faculty on the adoption of a diversity requirement for undergraduates in the College of Letters and Sciences.” (Memo from Senate Chair Aberbach dated December 16, 2014). In the document accompanying that memo, entitled “Extended Summary of Divisional Bylaws related to the Challenge to the November 20th LgA vote on the College Diversity Requirement,” it is explained that the petition was signed by 59 Divisional (rather than LgA) members (who asked to remain anonymous) “requesting that the issue of the Diversity Requirement for undergraduates in the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences be put to a ballot of voting members of the division” (Extended Summary accompanying memo from Senate Chair Aberbach).

This petition has been accepted by Senate Chair Aberbach. As a result, the favorable vote by the College faculty in October 2014 and the final vote of approval by the LgA in November 2014 are effectively invalidated by individuals who remained unknown outside the Academic Senate office. Instead, the proposal to establish a College of Letters and Science diversity course requirement has been scheduled to be put to a vote of the entire UCLA faculty (approximately 3,600 individuals).

On January 8, 2015, members of the College Diversity Initiative Committee and the College FEC Chairs submitted a formal appeal to Senate Chair Aberbach as well as the UCLA Rules and Jurisdiction committee on the grounds that Bylaw 155 has been misinterpreted and that a petition to take a vote to the full faculty must be made by one-third of the members of the Legislative Assembly. This interpretation is more consistent with the language of the entire 155 bylaw than the interpretation offered in Senate Chair Aberbach’s Extended Summary. Moreover, this interpretation preserves the fundamental principles underlying faculty governance.  In contrast, the interpretation presented in the Extended Summary essentially renders meaningless any action taken by the Legislative Assembly since less than 2% of the faculty can overturn any and all of its actions and send them to a vote of the entire faculty; it also sets a troubling precedent, as it fundamentally undermines the long-held privilege of Faculties to determine the curricula for their students.

To date there has been no response to the appeal from Senate Chair Aberbach or the UCLA Rules and Jurisdiction Committee addressing concerns over the interpretation of Bylaw 155 or the decision to allow this petition action to proceed anonymously.  Instead, individuals have had to resort to filing requests for a copy of the full petition through the Public Records Act, which was released on January 21 by the Records Management & Information Practices Department.  Although the minutes of the LgA meeting have yet to be formally distributed, and Legislative Assembly and Faculty members have not been formally informed, the Senate leadership has already scheduled a campus wide vote based on this petition for February 25 – March 10, 2015.

As a member of the Legislative Assembly, it is critical that you are aware of the current situation because the integrity and legitimacy of the Legislative Assembly are at stake.  For your information, we have also included an abbreviated version of the appeal that was submitted as a challenge to the petition.

It is our understanding that a formal letter raising concerns about the lack of transparency of the petition process, the unresponsiveness of senate leadership, and the precedent set by this anonymous petition action is being circulated. However, we are writing you as a member of the Legislative Assembly to inform you of the situation and encourage you to contact Senate Chair Aberbach and the UCLA Rules and Jurisdiction Committee to call for transparency and request that they provide a clear explanation to all UCLA faculty as to 1) their unusual interpretation of Bylaw 155 that has allowed this petition to proceed, 2) their decision to allow this action to occur in secrecy, and 3) why faculty of the College of Letters and Science should not have the autonomy to decide upon their own curriculum — decisions supported by a vote of College of Letters and Science faculty and approved by the Legislative Assembly.

Christina Palmer, Chair                         Mike Alfaro, Co-Chair
College Faculty Executive Committee               College Diversity Initiative Committee

Joseph Bristow, Vice Chair                              M. Belinda Tucker, Co-Chair
College Faculty Executive Committee             College Diversity Initiative Committee

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