CAPT Amendment Postponed; Some Straw Polling Done
At the faculty meeting on Dec. 1st, the faculty decided to postpone a vote that would restructure the Committee on Appointments and Tenure, or CAPT, until after winter break. This came on the heels of a round of unofficial straw polling to gauge the reaction of faculty to various aspect of the CAPT proposal. The polling, which was initially supposed to wrap up at the meeting, dragged on for over an hour as faculty debated the merits of “en banc,” a procedure designed to make the process more fair. Eventually the faculty voted to suspend the polling, since about a third of the faculty had to leave the meeting.
The first component of the CAPT motion that was polled on had to do with the proposed en banc procedure. With this procedure in place, a five-member sub-panel of CAPT would vote on a tenure candidate, and a negative decision by the sub-panel would be automatically reheard by the full eight-member CAPT. Various forms of the en banc procedure, as well as the use of the procedure itself, were put to a non-binding vote in an attempt to inject what Dean of Faculty Beau Breslin called “messy democracy” into the process. Other components of the CAPT reconfiguration were also scheduled to be voted on during the meeting, but were postponed.
The faculty debated the “en banc” procedure for about forty-five minutes before it was put to a vote. Reginald Lilly, one of the opponents of the procedure, feared that the proposal would dilute the votes of the five-member sub-panel and gave some historical reasons for his opposition. According to him, the college used to have a procedure in place where negative CAPT decisions would be regularly reviewed by the Tenure Review Board, leading to wasted time and frustration among the CAPT members that their judgement was not trusted
Proponents of the procedure said it will ensure that tenure candidates are not given a negative decision by one sub-panel that may have been a positive one under five different members. Proponents argued that a more robust system of appeals is merited for such a weighty decision like tenure. One faculty member also asked for input from non-tenured tenure-track faculty. Chris Mann, a political science professor specializing in voting methods, suggested an anonymous vote among the tenure-track faculty so they could speak their minds. The vote showed that tenure-track faculty approved of the en banc procedure by a margin of 42 to 9.
After the debate, the full faculty voted on the en banc procedure, and approved of it by a margin of 81-63, with 15 abstentions. The faculty then voted on whether a tie vote by the full eight members of CAPT would result in a positive or negative result, or whether the proposal’s sponsors should find a way to automatically reduce the size of the full CAPT to seven. The faculty chose the tie-vote result would be a positive decision.
A motion was proposed to suspend the straw poll at about 5:00, and was promptly approved. Beau Breslin, the Dean of Faculty, said that the CAPT reconfiguration proposal will be under revision until the next meeting. It is unclear at this time whether the full CAPT motion, including the en banc procedure, will be formally voted on at the next faculty meeting.