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Entire faculty offered seat at senate meeting

Oct. 27, 2005

by ANALIZ GONZALEZ, staff writer

Following a growing trend of transparency at Baylor, the Faculty Senate is opening its Nov. 15 meeting to all faculty for the first time.

Around the time interim President William D. Underwood took office, senate members started talking about opening up senate meetings.

That led to a 31-0 vote to "encourage" Faculty Senate Chairman Eric Robinson to exercise his right to invite people to the meetings.

Robinson invited all faculty to next month's meeting, which is from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

"I figured let's just see what happens," he said. "I think that was the spirit of what the senate wanted."

Although the Faculty Senate constitution gives the chairman power to invite faculty members, chairmen have rarely exercised that right.

Dr. Sara Stone, professor of journalism, said the openness of the Underwood administration and feelings of dislike toward the Baylor Board of Regents' closed meetings led to discussions on open faculty meetings.

"The biggest thing was, how can we be critical of the regents not having open meetings if we don't have open meetings ourselves?" Stone said.

Robinson said he plans to also invite faculty to the Dec. 6 meeting.

He said he doesn't anticipate any problems, except not knowing how many to expect.

The senate meeting, traditionally held in 103 Cashion Academic Center, will meet in 112 Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, which holds about 110 people.

An e-mail from Robinson inviting faculty members to the meeting said faculty who aren't on the senate can't participate in the meeting. Guests also will sit in marked sections behind the senators and need to be seated by 3:30 p.m.

On June 17, the senate executive committee issued a statement on open senate meetings:

"The Faculty Senate's Executive Committee now unanimously believes that open Senate meetings are desirable because they would promote and facilitate healing thanks to the markedly improved atmosphere on campus and the Underwood administration's unprecedented openness and information-sharing.

This fall, the Executive Committee will place before the Faculty Senate a motion to conduct senate meetings openly, with the customary proviso that matters of an extremely sensitive nature will continue to be handled in executive session at the discretion of the chair."