The University must put more consideration into what role its emeriti professors play in academics and administration, faculty and staff members asserted during Friday’s faculty meeting.

The discussion centered on an amendment to the Faculty Handbook regarding emeriti representation on the Faculty Senate. The proposed additions, which establish an emeriti representative seat, also indicate that the position would be non-voting and ineligible to serve as the Faculty Senate chair or on the Faculty Senate Council. 

While most faculty members agreed that the eligibility constraints regarding the chairperson and Faculty Council were called for, many took issue with the emeriti representative’s non-voting status. 

Prof. Sarah Lamb (ANTH) argued that if an emeritus faculty member runs for election, they are most likely doing so because they want to serve the community and thus should have a vote. Moreover, she said, this proposed change would allow emeriti faculty to vote and be represented in the Senate, whereas under the current structure they are not. 

Another faculty member recalled some objections to the amendment voiced at a previous faculty meeting, citing the issue of emeriti faculty being able to vote on the Senate but not in faculty meetings. Additionally, she said, some established and widely-respected emeriti could be seen as more influential or intimidating. 

Lamb replied that she does not think emeriti would have undue power over others, also citing the fact that emeriti would only hold one of the the Senate’s 18 seats. 

Prof. Bernadette Brooten (NEJS) told the faculty that she had heard the non-voting clause described as ageist, implying that older faculty are only conservative or more regressive. However, she said, she has also heard that many younger faculty members see emeriti as constantly needing to be brought up to speed on the University’s issues and as more interested in preserving the University’s past than in driving its future. However, Brooten added, another way of thinking about how to create a more racially diverse faculty is to “consider the reasons for which faculty retire late.”

“I hypothesize the following: the faculty love their work, they love to be connected to the University community and don’t have the resources to retire, especially in light of the fact that Brandeis … doesn’t provide for health and dental insurance in retirement,” Brooten said.

“If the connection to the community could be strengthened so that faculty feel less as if they were leaving the community and more as if they were transitioning to a new location in it, and if the University could provide more attention to the benefits, … then perhaps more faculty would retire, which would open up positions that could be filled by a more inclusive faculty,” she said. “The underlying question here is: who has a voice, and whose voice is heard?”

Brooten concluded her remarks by saying that she fears emeriti faculty will not run for the Senate if they see the seat to be a “second class” one. 

Additionally, the faculty read a second amendment to the Faculty Handbook, which would require the University president to confer with the Faculty Senate Council during any future searches for provosts. This amendment, faculty members explained, is intended to ensure that the Senate is kept in the loop during crucial administrative hires. 

The faculty also discussed establishing a standing committee to review promotions to full professor within the tenure structure, as well as new faculty appointments to tenure. This committee would disperse decision-making power now concentrated in the hands of Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren, which she called the “evil dean” model. Moreover, the committee — which would likely be comprised of faculty with some understanding of a potential tenured professor’s area of study — would also allow for a deeper discussion of an individual’s work. 

The faculty then heard proposed curricular themes and requirements from the Task Force on General Education, launching into a lengthy discussion about what those requirements should entail. The meeting concluded with a presentation from Prof. Daniel Bergstresser (IBS), the faculty representative to the Board of Trustees. Bergstresser discussed the Board’s approval of a $50 million bond to cover the construction cost for the residence hall that will replace Usen Castle. Given the University’s need for newer dorms, this decision was not a controversial one, he said.