By Renée Bartlett-Webber
On Thursday, April 13, the Board Budget and Audit Committee meeting failed to advance two measures calling for the reinstatement of all full-time faculty and classified workers who were dismissed in last year’s layoffs, a total of 87 people, many of whom were tenured.
The committee has three voting members: Chair Shanell Williams, Board Vice President Anita Martinez and Susan Solomon. Trustee Solomon, who authored the resolution, was absent. The two remaining members had opposing views and the motions did not carry, which meant that the resolutions would not be forwarded to the full board.
“I can’t support this resolution without amendments and the first author and other member of this committee is not here,” Williams said. “It’s not that I want to shoot this down, but I want to make amendments and have further discussion.”
The committee’s inaction will delay a decision by the full Board of Trustees on whether to direct Chancellor David Martin to recall all employees who lost their jobs last year.
Tensions rose as attendees debated policies for passing the resolution to the full board and the limitations of the board actions.
Before the vote, both Martinez and Williams said they believed these resolutions would be forwarded to the whole board at the next meeting regardless of the outcome of the vote in this committee. However, Martin said that it would have to be approved by the committee first.
Martinez told The Guardsman that other committees allow for action items to be forwarded to the full board no matter the outcome of the vote, but this language is missing from the Budget and Audit Committee policies. She is working with the board president and chancellor to remedy this “oversight,” as she referred to it.
Board member Aliya Chisti was in attendance as a non-voting member and asked if these resolutions would be in violation of board policy. The chancellor responded, “if the resolution is to direct the chancellor to hire full-time faculty in specific disciplines by a certain date, I do believe that would be in violation of the board policies and accreditation standards.”
Martinez said “perhaps the chancellor does not agree with my perspective that this is a recall, it’s not hiring new faculty and there’s a distinction there.” She said the resolutions are well within the purview of the board.
According to the board policy manual, The Powers and Duties of the Board, the board will “delegate authority in all administrative matters to the Chancellor, including, but not limited to, hiring or promotion of specific individuals.”
Biology Department Chair Joe Reyes, who is vice president of the Department Chair Council, said, “[The trustees] really don’t have that kind of authority to be able to force [the chancellor] to hire folks back.” He added that on Friday, April 21, Martin distributed an accreditation update and Reyes said, “one of the points was to have a discussion with the board about them overstepping their boundaries.”
Martinez explained the resolution to The Guardsman: “The intent simply was to ask the chancellor to develop a plan and say how it’s going to be implemented for bringing back the faculty … the other intent is to affirm tenure, that we have a commitment to tenure, because tenure ensures academic freedom.” She added that tenure is essential for free speech and democracy.
“Laying off of tenured faculty is a real rarity,” said Reyes, although it’s happening more throughout the country, he added. “That’s why I think that everyone is treading so lightly because one wrong move in this bizarre situation and there’s going to be literally, lawyers flying in every which direction.”
Trustee Solomon requested that her interview be delayed until the resolution is passed on to the full board in May. Martinez is confident the full board will discuss these resolutions next month because both she and Solomon plan to attend the committee meeting, which will create a majority to pass their action items.