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Outgoing Senate chair notes ‘a bumpy but exciting ride’

By Dave Jones on June 23, 2006 in University

Know your responsibilities as Academic Senate members and exercise such responsibilities with diligence, the senate's outgoing chair told his colleagues at their last Representative Assembly meeting of the 2005-06 academic year.

Law professor Dan Simmons noted a "long and difficult" term as chair, but said: "I believe the Davis Division is stronger and more effective today than when I started two years ago."

Simmons served an earlier term as senate chair, from 1991 to 1993.

"The role of the Academic Senate in the University of California is not only unique but pivotal to the greatness of our institution," he said.

He said the UC Davis administration had responded to the senate's resolution on graduate student support by revising the funding formula and adding money. The administration announced that it will "buy down" 25 percent of fees and tuition for graduate student researchers supported by external, or nonuniversity, funds.

The senate's Davis Division wants more, though: elimination of nonresident graduate student tuition. The division put this to a vote of senators throughout the UC system; the tally showed 83 percent of the voting faculty in support of the Davis resolution. The vote was 3,447 for and 720 against.

The resolution has been forwarded to UC President Robert Dynes, for presentation to the Board of Regents.

On another front, Simmons said a new UC Davis policy on program approval and degrees is "imminent," and it is marked by "clarity and simplicity."

He said the faculty salary scale "is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the near future" — specifically referring to newer faculty receiving more pay than longtime faculty members. "Loyalty is not being rewarded," he said.

He acknowledged that the UC Davis administration is working on the salary situation, and added that the problem is really a systemwide issue.

Simmons thanked the senate staff for its help during his term, and thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to lead the senate. "It's been a bumpy but exciting ride," he said.

He did not list any of the bumps, but confirmed later that they involved the controversy surrounding executive compensation in the UC system, and the turmoil over the agreement that UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef forged with Celeste Rose. She resigned as vice chancellor of University Relations, but continues to receive her full salary as a special adviser to the chancellor, for a two-year term.

Critics within the senate brought a no-confidence vote against Vanderhoef. The measure drew 1,054 valid ballots, with 70 percent rejecting the no-confidence bid.

The systemwide senate had some trouble of its own, ousting UCLA cell and molecular biology professor Cliff Brunk as chair. UC Davis law professor John Oakley moved up from vice chair to take the senate's top post.

Simmons' successor as Davis Division senate chair is Linda Bisson, viticulture and enology. She is due to take office Sept. 1 along with Vice Chair Robert Powell, chemical engineering and materials science; Secretary Patricia Harrison, design; and Parliamentarian Jerry Kaneko, veterinary medicine.

In other business, the senate:

  • Heard from sociology professor Bruce Haynes, chair of the senate's Affirmative Action and Diversity Committee, about the absence of racial and gender data in a report on academic performance of the university's NCAA athletes. The report is a baseline for research on the university's move up to Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and whether students' academic performance may suffer as a result. Simmons said the senate would take up Haynes' concern, and see about having the racial and gender data included.
  • Heard from Lin King, chair of the Staff Assembly, on three issues that the staff and faculty can tackle together next year. The issues are tuition subsidies for employee dependents, child care subsidies and exercise facility discounts.
  • Passed a resolution urging the administration "to work more constructively and cooperatively" with the investigative arm of the senate's Committee on Privilege and Tenure.
  • Passed a resolution urging "immediate remedial action regarding the processes by which foreign scholars are (and are not) granted visas to the United States." History professor Bill Hagen presented the resolution, saying the federal government's visa policies are "a strangulation on the republic of letters." The resolution states: "We ask that qualified individuals who are invited to teach, to participate in conferences or to engage in other types of academic activities in the U.S. and who pose no demonstrable threat to the U.S., be given convenient and timely access to visas." Simmons said he would ask the UC Davis administration to forward the resolution to the University of California system's lobbying office in Washington, D.C.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,