Ben Latham / Courier. Members of PCC's Academic Senate (AS) listen to a presentation at their meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, in the Circadian. AS President Matt Henes announced the results of the faculty bylaw vote.
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With fewer than 100 ballots cast, 91 percent of PCC faculty voters approved the latest amendment to the Academic Senate bylaws after a month-long voting period during which one tenured associate professor on sabbatical questioned not receiving a ballot.

David Cuatt, a senator representing Visual Arts and Media Studies (VAMS), also serves as chair of the Nominations and Elections committee in the AS. He participated in tabulating ballots.

Approximately 440 ballots with special envelopes were placed in departmental mailboxes for regular PCC faculty. Of those, 88 valid ballots were returned, while a few were rejected and not counted.

“A couple were just invalid ballots where they filled it out wrong, or they didn’t put their name on the envelope,” Cuatt said of the rejected ballots.

The low voter response is not unexpected.

“For the people that are in the senate, you think everyone else knows what we’re doing here and cares about it deeply. But most people don’t even know where the senate is, or when it meets, or what it does,” Cuatt said. “Not a lot of awareness.”

At least one ballot was withdrawn before being submitted.

“I got the vote the week before I got this job. So I was ready to vote, I sealed my thing [envelope]. And then I was like, ‘no, I can’t vote,’” said new Interim Dean of English Tooktook Thongthiraj. 

The month-long voting period officially began Sept. 9 when AS President Matthew Henes sent the faculty an email with voting instructions. 

Henes cited the AS membership bylaw definition from 2016 to explain which faculty members were eligible. 

“3.1A: Regular Faculty are: full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty and temporary full-time faculty who are not classified as supervisory or as management, have an assignment equivalent to 75 percent, or who have entered into a written agreement with the District for a reduced workload that may be less than 75%. Only regular faculty shall have the right to vote,” Henes wrote.

The above definition of regular faculty was replaced with simplified language in the newly passed amendment. According to the 2019 bylaws now in effect: 

“3.1A: Regular Faculty are: full-time faculty.”

The new definition expanded the pool of eligible faculty voters to include those on reassigned time. This system adjusts teaching workloads in the classroom to allow faculty to work on and receive compensation for other tasks and college initiatives outside the classroom.

Neither the revised bylaws nor previous versions mention a status for voting by faculty members on sabbatical, a working period of time away from the college.

Melissa Michelson, a tenured associate professor of languages and ESL, was granted a sabbatical with Board of Trustees approval effective Fall 2019. Under a written agreement with PCC for a reduced assignment, she is paid 75 percent of her salary, and remains covered by the terms of the PCC Faculty Association (PCCFA) contract.

Michelson learned near the end of the voting period that a ballot had not been placed in her campus mailbox.

“I’d like to exercise my right to vote,” Michelson said after contacting the AS executive committee. 

She did not receive a ballot before voting closed on Oct. 10. Henes announced the results at the Oct. 21 senate board meeting.

Bylaws can be amended whenever a majority of the AS votes to, or upon a signed petition of 30 regular faculty members. Approval by two-thirds of regular faculty who voted is required to adopt amendments, Cuatt added. 

The 2019 bylaws vote marked the eleventh time they have been amended since they were adopted in 1967.

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