A visit from Provost Nancy Targett to discuss the lecturer controversy, as well as the first week of nominations for the next Student Senate Speaker, led the agenda for the Feb. 18 UNH Student Senate meeting.
Targett, one of many UNH administrators who have been called out and criticized by members of the student body in recent weeks in response to pending layoffs of 16 lecturers from the College of Liberal Arts, paid a visit to the Senate meeting on Sunday to allow members to field out questions regarding the issue, as well as receive clarification on the circumstances that accumulated and resulted in the present series of events.
As she kicked off the discussion, she claimed that she was “excited about our students’ passion and their activism,” but that students should “make sure they have all the facts before they step out and say things.”
Inquiries ranged from questioning the provost’s absence from a protest rally regarding the layoffs held on Friday, Feb. 16 outside of her Thompson Hall office (with Targett claiming that her schedule for that day was “absolutely booked” that day), to explaining how new requirements for lecturers, such as having a terminal degree, would make various programs more attracted to potential students both in the Granite State and beyond its borders.
A more assertive set of critiques came from Community Development Council Chair Elena Ryan, who explained to Provost Targett that among other contentions, the latter had been “scapegoating” the lecturers’ union and doing only the “bare minimum” through “snail mail” in terms of keeping the affected professors in the loop about their potential unemployment status.
Targett responded that the administration had been negotiating with the union for some time and that they had requested to have direct communication with the affected lecturers, a move the union prohibited.
“We had to do everything through them,” explained the provost as she countered Ryan for labeling the situation as a “scapegoat,” stating that the difficulties faced by Targett and others in the UNH administration were “requirements” enforced by the lecturers’ union. In addition, Targett stressed that “as fast as they asked the questions, we responded; as fast as the union would ask us for things, we provided materials to them.”
Ryan, in response, said that it “honestly baffles me that so many people managed to be blindsided” by the administration’s management of the controversy.
“These are hard decisions, they’re not easy decisions and no one likes to make those decisions,” Targett maintained throughout the forum, despite calls of criticism from various members of the Senate. “And yet, in leadership positions you’re between a rock and a hard place, and you are called to make those decisions, and it’s no fun…to have people misrepresent and misquote you” despite working in what she called “the best interests of the institution.”
Following Targett’s visit, the Senate began seeking nominations for the body’s next Speaker, whose position has been left vacant since José Calvo’s resignation on Feb. 18. According to the Senate’s bylaws, read by Interim Senate Speaker Douglas Marino, the Speaker, whose term ends April 30 of the academic semester, is required to have been a “member of Student Senate for no less than 75% of at least two academic semesters,” and is prohibited from running, or endorsing candidates, for any other Student Senate office during their term.
As of Feb. 22, Interim Speaker Marino, Health and Wellness Council Chairperson Emily Cochran, Academic Affairs Council Chair Audrey Getman, Campus Structure Council Chair Ethan McClanahan and former SAFC member Shannon O’Hara are the current eligible nominees for the office of Senate Speaker.
As part of a long-time running joke within the Student Senate, Interim Parliamentarian Jake Adams humorously offered to nominate former Student Senate member Gabriel Hoffman as Speaker, who is ineligible due to now being a graduate student. Interim Speaker Marino turned down the proposal in good fun.
In other Senate proceedings, a resolution scheduled to be voted on that night, brought up by Academic Affairs Council Chair Getman, was pulled from the agenda for further revisions; External Affairs Chair Hayden Stinson gave an update on last week’s postponed Farmers’ Market resolution, in which Associate Vice President of Business Affairs David May was in the process of granting the Seacoast Growers’ Farmers’ Market access to the “Fishbowl” area on campus for their summer festival; and Fairchild Student Senator Alexander Brown was unanimously removed from his post with, as of Feb. 22, no immediate successor in place.