Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Faculty Regent? - Part 2

Yesterday, in response to a news article indicating that there was a campaign to add a second student Regent (with voting rights), we asked why there was no voting faculty Regent. Faculty representatives from the Academic Senate participate in Regents meetings as "advisers" but with no voting rights.* You could rationalize this arrangement on the grounds that a hypothetical faculty Regent would have a conflict of interest since the Regents vote on issues such as pay. But since there is already one student Regent with voting rights, the conflict of interest rationale is inconsistent with current practice. The student Regent discusses and votes on issues such as tuition, i.e., issues where there is a conflict of interest. 

In response to the posting, I was sent a 2004 web link from the Academic Senate which discusses the issue of why there is no faculty Regent. You can find it at As you might expect, the conflict of interest concept is put forth:

A question frequently asked is why the faculty, unlike students and alumni, do not have voting membership on the Board of Regents... A constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1974 allowed that “The Regents may, at their discretion, appoint either or both a faculty and a student member to the Board.” This is now Bylaw Five, which further provides for a faculty regent who may be on the UC faculty or from another institution of higher education... The argument against full regental status, which ultimately prevailed, rested on the issue of trusteeship versus advocacy. President Hitch was forthright in expressing his view that having a faculty member as a regent would compromise the principle of regency as trusteeship. He felt, as did many faculty, that the trusteeship concept ruled out concurrent service as a regent and as an officer of the Academic Senate. A faculty regent could not function both as a trustee of the institution as a whole and as a representative or advocate of faculty interests. A faculty regent would have to withdraw from participating in matters where there is a conflict of interest, such as compensation, workload, promotion and tenure polities – indeed the very issues on which faculty would wish to see their representative exert strong leadership and influence. These arguments were persuasive, and in February 1987, the Regents adopted the recommendation of the Council to seat the chair of the Council on the Board of Regents as a nonvoting member...

The problem here is that the assumption in the item above is that where there is a conflict of interest, the faculty Regent could not participate. But that assumption is inconsistent with current practice in which the student Regent clearly participates and votes on issues in which he/she has a conflict of interest. Indeed, the campaign for a second student Regent is really a campaign to do more such participating and voting.

Of course, the world is full of inconsistencies. Hobgoblins of small minds, etc. And it is unlikely - but not impossible - that key issues will arise at the Regents in which one vote will be critical. However, if student representation goes up to two voting Regents, the inconsistency will be too glaring to ignore.

In short, the answer to why there is no faculty Regent is really "that's the way it is." But that's not the same as that's the way it has to be in the future.

Addendum: The constitutional amendment referred to in the italicized material above was placed on the ballot in 1974 by the state legislature. It's main feature was cutting the terms of appointed Regents from 16 years to 12 years. The amendment as it appeared on the ballot can be found at  It passed with 55% of the popular vote. The official summary read:
Adds Vice-president of alumni association as ex-officio member. Adds two additional members appointed by Governor with approval of Senate. No appointment to new term shall be made during first year of any gubernatorial term. Reduces terms from sixteen to twelve years after 1976. Allows regents appointment of one faculty member of institution of higher education and one student 'to board. Requires regents be persons reflecting economic, cultural and social diversity• of state, including ethnic minorities and women. Provides for advisory committee which Governor must consult with in selection of regent appointees. Financial impact: Minor increase in state costs. 

The amendment says that "no appointnent to the regents for a newly commencing term shall be made during the first year of any gubernatorial term of office." That language appears in the actual text of the amendment, not just the summary. You may wonder how Gov. Brown appointed some new Regents after the Nov. 2014 election as part of the tuition/budget fight. He actually made the appointments before he was inaugurated for his fourth term so they were made - at least by him - in the last year of his third term. One wonders, however, whether "appointed" would include confirmation by the state senate which came later. I will leave that issue to legal experts.

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