University Senate took on a packed agenda in their first virtual meeting, electing a new vice chair, overhauling the class absence policy, passing a resolution to fight food insecurity and approving an anti-Asian bigotry statement.
Accusations and silencing: A heated election
Senators chose from four candidates for the vice-chair position: Stephen Beaudoin, a professor of chemical engineering; Ralph Kaufmann, a professor of mathematics; Jozef Kokini, a professor of food science and David Sanders, associate professor of biological sciences.
Each candidate had 3 to 5 minutes to introduce themselves and argue why they should be elected for the position. During Sanders’ monologue, he said another candidate was improperly appointed to the Senate steering committee which oversees communications and the agenda of the governing body.
“It now falls to me to have to share with you the fact that the members of the steering committee have been appointed by a clique within the leadership,” Sanders said. “We have not had the elections that are necessary.
“One of the candidates today, Steve Beaudoin, knowingly (serves) on the steering committee, having been appointed to that office. He has not been elected to that office by any means. … There was a clique that is interested in perpetuating their own power through the steering committee.”
University Senate Chair Cheryl Cooky stopped Sanders from proceeding, citing dilatory tactics aimed to delay the vote.
“We are generously listening to you, but now it has devolved into dilatory tactics attacks on senators, attacks on honest leadership that I will not tolerate as chair,” Cooky said.
Despite the claim, Beaudoin won the election by a simple majority, garnering fifty-eight votes out of eighty-seven. Kaufmann won eighteen votes, Kokini acquired 4 and Sanders finished with 7 votes.
A commission of inquiry was established to investigate the selection process for Senate personnel. Before the vote, Sanders asked to delay the election until the committee finished their report but was unsuccessful.
Coronavirus looms over meeting
Although most legislation was not targeted at the pandemic, the issue loomed over the meeting as both the chair and President Mitch Daniels said in their opening remarks.
“Certainly, none of us expected to have the spring break that we did,” Cooky said. “We must recognize this reality that whatever we can do and whatever our students can do will be the best we can do.”
Daniels echoed Cooky’s remarks while pointing to the long term implications of this crisis.
“There will be potentially new questions and new challenges about the value or the necessity of education as we have delivered it,” Daniels said. “We’re going to need the best minds of our faculty helping us think through what the Purdue of tomorrow, what the higher-ed of tomorrow is going to look like.”
Daniels reassured faculty that the University was on the trajectory of a moderate surplus which would provide a helpful cushion during the situation.
He said news on graduation alternatives and academic grading flexibility will be coming out shortly.
“I will say that our general tilt, is to … continue with grading and with trying to have a fair evaluation of students but to give a lot of flexibility in cases where that seems unfair or the student would prefer something different.”
Purdue is utilizing 3D printing and makerspaces to produce personal protective equipment and is looking into providing temporary quarantine space and drive-by testing, said Daniels.
The Senate also passed an anti-Asian and anti-Asian American bigotry statement, in recognition of the increased incidents of prejudice against those from Asian descent.
“As a university that is home to thousands of international students and a large Asian American community, we write this to condemn any form of anti-Asian or anti-Asian bigotry,” the statement reads. “Attacks inflicted upon these communities will not be tolerated at Purdue University.”
Overwhelming support for class absence policy
A revised class absence policy was passed that provides greater flexibility in times of grief, military duty, jury duty and family leave.
The new absence policy establishes the aforementioned four categories as excused absences. Instructors must provide makeup coursework for students during the time off and cannot penalize students for missing class.
The grief absence policy expands eligibility from 3 to 5 days excused absence for immediate family with additional absences granted for travel. Students are eligible for up to 3 days of excused absence for people outside of immediate family.
The military absence policy remained relatively unchanged with up to fifteen days for military-required absence per academic year.
Both the jury duty and parenting leave policies were new additions. For the parenting leave policy, students must petition for a leave of absence through the Office of Institutional Equity before getting an excused absence.
The resolution passed with only one objection.
Senators anxious to pass food insecurity resolution
Senators suspended the rules to vote on the food insecurity resolution in its first reading. The resolution urges the administration to work with Purdue Student Government and Purdue Graduate Student Government to combat food insecurity across campus and to include a grocery store in the new Provenance residential development in the Discovery Park district.
In regards to the feasibility of the grocery store, Provost Jay Akridge did not know of specific plans but said “the potential for some kind of food market would make some sense.”
When asked by the chair on how the administration is addressing the issue currently, Akridge listed a number of projects on campus through Student Life, PGSG and the Honors College.
“I think this idea is around looking at maybe bringing those together in some coherent way,” Akridge said.