February 16, 2009


A. Resolution Affirming the Ban of Firearms on Campus (D 6849).

Chair Hillis said he was presenting the following resolution on behalf of he Faculty Council Executive Committee:

The Faculty Council at The University of Texas at Austin believes carrying firearms on the university campus by anyone other than law enforcement officers is detrimental to the safety of the students, faculty, and staff.

Chair Hillis reminded Council members that the Faculty Council is not allowed to lobby for or against a particular piece of legislation that is being considered by the Texas Legislature. He said this prohibition does not apply to raising a general safety concern about the campus if the Council members consider this appropriate. He said that the Faculty Council Executive Committee had purposely worded the resolution in a general manner to indicate its concern about safely issues. Since there were no comments or objections, Chair Hillis called for a vote on the resolution. The resolution passed unanimously by voice vote.

B. Proposal to Change the Name, Function, and Composition of the Faculty Rules Committee (D 6850).

Professor Alan Friedman (English and Faculty Council Executive Committee member) introduced the proposal with a brief summary of his involvement with faculty governance at the university. He explained that he had served as chair of the ad hoc committee that created the Faculty Council in the mid-1990s and made the following changes:

  • Eliminated the redundancy that existed with the bicameral University Council and Faculty Senate organizational structure
  • Established the Faculty Council Executive Committee and linkages between the standing committees to the Faculty Council
  • Sought to create a cooperative, shared governance model where issues would be worked out through increased communication with the president and thereby eliminate administrative vetoes of council legislation

Professor Friedman emphasized the importance with which the cooperative procedural model was pursued by quoting the following passage from the guidelines approved when the Faculty Council was established:

Should the president be inclined to disapprove council legislation or to approve it only with substantive change, the matter will be returned by the president to the council so that the council will have opportunity to consider the objections and to modify, withdraw, or reaffirm the original legislation before the president acts on it. Within a reasonable time, the president will inform the council of the review that the matters have been given and of the disposition that has been made of each recommendation.

Professor Friedman said he discovered there had been a lapse in institutional memory and practice when he became a member of the Faculty Council Executive Committee this past fall. After learning the cooperative procedural principle was not being followed, he located the approved guidelines, brought them to the attention of the committee members and administration, and was pleased to see them immediately followed. Professor Friedman said this experience made him realize that a standing committee on rules and governance was needed to address questions such as the following:

  • How can faculty voting participation be improved on the campus?
  • Should the deans be encouraged to attend Faculty Council meetings as they used to, and if so,
  • Is the present Faculty Council Executive Committee makeup as it should be?
  • Is there a way to re-conceive the Faculty Council year so as to avoid cancelling Council meetings in the fall and then having committee reports pile up in the late spring?
  • Can long, complex reports that are often presented to the council on what feels like a take it or leave it basis be minimized?
  • Can standing committees be made more effective?
  • Can we preclude having ad hoc committees appointed to perform tasks already being charged to standing committees?
  • Should the structure of all standing committees be the same? For example, a chair plus a chair elect who first serves as vice chair. That’s the case of some committees now, but not of others?
  • Should there be greater consistency in how the committees are elected or appointed?

Professor Friedman said he realized no standing committee, regardless of its charge or configuration, could guarantee that a perfectly functioning, shared governance system will exist. However, he thought such a committee would provided procedural oversight and call attention when lapses occur and provide a forum for discussing, interpreting, and improving faculty governance policies, procedures and issues in an on-going manner. He said he thought this was preferable to establishing ad hoc committees to deal with specific governance problems as they occur.

Chair Hillis said the proposal would essentially modify the existing Faculty Rules Committee by broadening its function and changing its name, composition, and member selection process. He asked if there were any questions and comments on the proposal; there were none. Chair Hillis then called for the vote, and the legislation was unanimously approved by a voice vote of the Faculty Council. Chair Hillis said the election process for committee members would be implemented this semester if administrative approval were received in time.

Chair Hillis called attention to the announcements, which are listed below, and encouraged Council members to participate in the joint meeting with the Texas A&M Senate and the nomination/election process for at-large Council representatives.

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