University Faculty Council had a closed, executive session with President Edward Ayers 4 p.m. Monday, said Jennifer Erkulwater, political science professor and member of the council.
Leadership professor Peter Kaufman said he was happy to learn that the faculty council had met with the president. But because the discussion of transparency and accountability — assuming those were the topics — occurred in a closed meeting, his colleagues were unable to specify what was resolved, Kaufman said.
“It does seem odd – an irony, I’d say – that transparency was discussed so secretively,” Kaufman said. “But we’ll have to await some other sign that faculty colleagues’ various concerns were or will be seriously addressed.”
The concerns raised in several meetings with senior faculty members that Kaufman attended included the focus of the capital campaign, the reconfiguration of varsity athletics preempting campus-wide discussion and widespread alumnae input, the conduct of administrative officials when criticisms were offered and the release of misleading information justifying preemptive administrative decisions, Kaufman said.
The 17 University Faculty Council members declined to comment on the expectations or outcomes of the meetings because executive sessions are closed to all except UFC members and the president.
“I cannot accommodate your request because of the closed nature of an executive session of a UFC meeting,” Chairwoman Patricia Strait wrote in an email. There will be no official announcement about the content of the meeting, she said.
“Those meetings operate quite differently and remain confidential,” Strait said.
Erkulwater said that minutes are taken at all open University Faculty Council meetings but not during executive sessions.
The University Faculty Council is a group of 17 faculty members. Ten members come from the School of Arts and Sciences, two from the Richmond School of Law, three from the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, one from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, and one from the School of Continuing Studies. The committee holds open meetings at least twice each semester.
The University Faculty Council has two main functions, Erkulwater said. One is to represent the faculty, to be the faculty voice, she said.
“Universities are supposed to be run on the principle of faculty governance,” Erkulwater said, “And it’s hard to have a direct democracy. So, UFC is supposed to represent the faculty.”
The council’s other purpose is the advise the administration, she said.
Erkulwater is in her second year of her three-year term as a UFC member, she said. Before meeting she said that she would not comment on the executive session and that Strait was working on a statement that would be released to all faculty. No statement has been released yet.
In The Collegian’s efforts to contact the 17 UFC members and Ayers, nine members responded, all declining to comment on the discussions of the meeting. Four of these members referred the reporter directly to Strait, who also said she was unable to comment and that there would be no official announcement of the findings or conclusions of the meeting to the other faculty or public in the near future.
Ayers, when asked by email to comment on the topics discussed and whether there would be any open meetings on transparency in the near future, gave no answer to The Collegian.
Contact staff writer Kylie McKenna at email@example.com