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Arts and Sciences Council reaffirms role as governing body

The Arts and Sciences Council ended its last meeting of the millennium by tying up loose ends in preparation for the next one.

A discussion of the council's role in the University infrastructure at the end of the meeting raised some initial debate, which was quelled after the council passed a resolution "reaffirming that we are the group for faculty governance." The resolution passed unanimously, with three abstentions.

Steven Baldwin, chair of the council and a chemistry professor, sparked the discussion by asking the faculty to consider the responsibilities of the council.

"I'm not sure that everyone is comfortable with the fact that the Arts and Sciences Council is the body for faculty governance," he said, noting that there were questions about how the role of the council compared with that of department chairs and other groups.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe and most of the faculty agreed, highlighting the absence of visible standing committees on the council and ambiguity about whether the council is working according to its bylaws.

"On paper right now, the Arts and Sciences Council is the body [for faculty governance]," said Greg Lawler, professor of mathematics. "But it hasn't acted that way in the past few years."

Kalman Bland, professor of religion, questioned why issues like the potential merger of the botany and zoology departments have not been brought to the council. "There are a large number of pragmatic issues... that don't come to us. We have a standing bod; it's just not being active," he said. "It's time to put our foot down."

Baldwin also expressed his desire to facilitate discussion with the Academic Council about the specific responsibilities of each governing body. "I think the opportunities of working with the Academic Council are excellent," he said. Baldwin added that both he and law professor Robert Mosteller, chair of the Academic Council, have discussed possible joint meetings when issues of interest to both councils arise.

"We have agreed that there should be regular discussions between the two chairs," Baldwin said. He added that he just wanted to garner an idea of faculty sentiment on the issue and that there will be additional discussions.

The earlier part of the meeting went rapidly, as faculty voted to begin a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and a certificate in applied science. The council also elected associate statistics professor Robert Wolpert to its executive committee. Wolpert will replace Michael Lavine, a statistics professor who is going on leave in the spring.


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