Faculty Senate approves closed-door amendment

Butler University Faculty Senate members voted today to give themselves the option of holding closed-door sessions in the future.

The 24-7 vote added language to the bylaws that allows four or more senators to request a closed-door discussion of only elected senators and guests invited by the majority of the senate.

Vivian Deno, associate professor of history, accepted three amendments to her original proposal. The changes increased the number of senators who would have to call for a closed session from three to four and added the phrase “on rare occasions” to the beginning of the amendment.

Agenda minutes from closed-door sessions would still be provided to faculty, and Deno said she foresees the amendment only would be used in serious cases.

“It wouldn’t happen with any regularity,” she said.

Discussion about having the opportunity to close meetings started when administrators, including President Jim Danko and Jamie Comstock, provost and vice president for academic affairs, asked the senate to consider why they were invited to attend faculty meetings.

This sparked a debate about whether or not upper-level administrators should be blocked from attending certain meetings.

Many senators, including Deno, said better discussion about certain issues could come about if faculty members—especially junior faculty members—were not concerned about having to talk about delicate or controversial topics in the presence of their superiors.

“It can be incredibly intimidating at any rank,” she said.

Some senators questioned whether the change to the bylaws was specific enough and instead suggested that the language be changed to directly address administrators.

“If the issue is to have discussion without upper-level administrators, then it should say that,” Elizabeth Mix, associate professor of art, said.

Vice Chair Doug Spaniol said such a distinction would be difficult to draw, since many upper-level administrators are also considered faculty. He also said a reason for adding the amendment was to keep The Butler Collegian from covering some discussions.

Faculty Senate meets next on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Its regular meetings are open to the Butler community.