Proceedings of FAS Senate meeting on November 19, 2020

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate Meeting
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Notes from Connecticut Hall:  
Policing—Budget—Retirement Incentives—Observations from Department Chairs

Gaveling the meeting to order at 3:30, Chair Jacobson opened with a brief “Statement on Policing at Yale – A Call for Education.”  On Friday, November 13, Yale administration officials met for the first time with Black Students for Disarmament at Yale, who have called for the university to defund and disarm its private police force. President Salovey has said that everything, short of total abolition, “is on the table” for debate. The Chair called for Yale faculty to educate themselves on this complex issue in preparation for coming discussions.

Chair Jacobson noted that the recent FAS letter circulated to ladder faculty about budget and spending during Covid had garnered 334 signatures. He went on to laud the response from Dean Gendler’s office: 

The Faculty is grateful for the transparency and clarity of the Dean’s letter which is an important update on the status of the FAS since the announcement of a salary and hiring freeze last spring. We’re happy to learn that there isn’t as much daylight as one might have thought between the administration’s position and that of the faculty. 

The University found itself in a fog of uncertainty in the spring, not only about the scope of the pandemic, but about the first shutdown in Yale’s history. It is understandable that prudence then suggested a slowing of many decisions. But the fog lifted this fall. And, it has cleared even more in the last two weeks with the announcement of a vaccine with 95% effectiveness. So, while other universities are acting at their usual sluggish pace, we have the luxury of moving decisively in hiring both at the junior and senior level. 

Yale has a unique opportunity to be bold and we look forward to working closely with the administration in coming days and months to enhance the excellence of Yale’s faculty. We applaud the administration’s ongoing efforts.

Senator Hélène Landemore reported on an interesting initiative among European academics in the post-pandemic world of higher education–Transform U.  Interested faculty should reach out to Matthew Jacobson or Hélène Landemore for more information.

Senator William Nordhaus presented a draft report from the Inter-School Working Group on the Retirement Incentive Program. The FASS voted unanimously to approve it, recommending that a university committee be appointed to further study the issue and propose revisions to the plan.

On behalf of Science and Engineering Committee, Senator Bercovici presented a  STEM Postdoc Initiative. Faculty interested in further information should reach out directly to David Bercovici or to Paul Van Tassel, Chair of the Science and Engineering Committee.

In the remainder of the meeting, three department chairs–Verity Harte (Philosophy), Karsten Heeger (Physics), and Tony Smith (Economics)—addressed the issue of “Taking the Temperature of the University.”  Summaries of their remarks on faculty, staff, and student morale; facts on the ground around faculty hiring; and the state and challenges of hybrid instruction under Covid can be found here