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Commentary

Editor’s note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), houktw@muohio.edu

Speaking with One Voice
Richard T. Taylor, chemistry and biochemistry

In examining the letters published in the Oct. 30 issue of The Report, I once again noted a trend worth questioning. While many letters, in the best academic tradition, eloquently state a point of view, several others assert a corporate resolution, claiming either a majority or unanimous consensus within a department or similar unit. There have been earlier parallels during the strike. When it is deemed advisable to amplify one’s own voice by combining it with others, new issues of faculty rights arise. In particular:

1. Is there provision in the governance of that unit detailing how such resolutions will be presented, discussed and acted upon?

2. Do the units acknowledge any limitations in terms of the subjects appropriate for such resolutions?

3. Are faculty members who are untenured or not full professors required to state their views in public?

4. Even if the ballots are secret, will the votes of faculty members who are untenured or not full professors be obvious?

My point has nothing to do with the merits of the recent labor action. Tenured faculty members have contractual rights of free expression that have no parallel in other endeavors. We also have a power over junior faculty that, while not absolute, may nonetheless be corrupting. My own view (the only one I am authorized to give) is that faculty members act in their best tradition by exercising the rights of expression while being punctilious about the effect of their power.

Date Published: 11/06/2003
Volume: 23   Number: 14

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