Voting rights of zero-time Senate appointments in academic departments

[Advice to a department chair 9/5/2002]

The principal question was whether it is permissible to restrict the voting rights of a zero-time appointment in a department.  The Standing Orders of the Regents and Academic Senate Bylaw 55 guarantee the right to vote on departmental business to all Senate members in a department.  ASB 55 restricts this right only with respect to voting on personnel actions.  Those restrictions all involve rank and step.  Departments have some flexibility to modify voting -- for example, to allow Associate Professors to vote on actions of Full Professors when the default follows an at-or-above rule.  They do not, however, have the right to restrict voting on the basis of a member's zero-time or fractional-time appointment.  While the answer is clearly that every Senate member of a department has full voting rights in that department, except as limited by ASB 55, it is perfectly possible for such members to adhere to a custom of not voting.  But that would be custom -- it can not be insisted upon and there are no acceptable enforcement mechanisms.

The suggestion was also made that a department might wish to remove members with zero-time appointments if it became clear that they had full voting rights.  This turns out to be a puzzling issue.  The puzzle is that the Standing Orders of the Regents, Senate bylaws, Academic Personnel Manuals and the Policy and Procedures Manual generally refer to Senate membership and Faculty membership but not to departmental membership.  It is assumed that departments must vote on admitting new faculty, but the relationship of the faculty member to his or her department after that point is simply not mentioned as far as we can tell.  Can a department decide that a colleague is no longer a member of that department?  Can a dean reassign a department member to another department?  These are questions for which CERJ can find no explicit answers.

Nevertheless, the Committee is inclined to the view that the reason that we do not find explicit answers is that, implicitly, both Senate and Administration rules assume that a faculty member's departmental affiliation is his or her most basic affiliation and requires no further elaboration.  For example, it is one's departmental membership that determines to which Senate Faculty one belongs.  Senate members are protected from demotion or dismissal without due process.  But demotion or dismissal from what?  We believe that this protection is first and foremost a protection for departmental membership.  Whatever protects us as Senate members protects us as department members.  Since no distinction is drawn anywhere in Senate or Administration rules between zero-time, fractional time and full-time faculty, if departments were able to vote out zero-time members, surely they could just as well vote out full time members.  We cannot believe that departments can cast out unfavored members with full-time or fractional time appointments.  We, therefore, regard it as a reductio ad absurdum proof that departments cannot vote out zero-time members.

CERJ recognizes that our conclusion rests on the interpretation of an absence that would make a post-modern literary scholar blush.  Since the governing rules are not Davis rules, but systemwide rules, a definitive interpretation would have to come from the University Committee on Rules and Jurisdiction.  And the only resolution might be to propose explicit legislation clarifying the issues.

Absent such resolution, CERJ's own best interpretation is this: All Senate members in a department have full voting rights; and no Senate member may be dismissed from a department except for cause and with due process.