Heated Senate Meeting Wraps Up The Semester

Haresh Oudhnarine, Editor in Chief

Preview of the Senate meeting’s agenda.

Tensions were high at the final University Senate meeting of the semester on May 3. A vote of no confidence came close to consideration for President Sue Henderson. Many faculty members were frustrated with the lack of progress during the meeting.

The meeting began with amendments to the agenda. Joel Katz, a professor of Media Arts, presented the amendment of a vote of no confidence for President Henderson. He said that the motion was put together by an “ad hoc committee” whose service to the university totaled 175 years.

This amendment stemmed from the question of whether Henderson should continue her position as president based on the viewpoint of many faculty members.

Katz explained that the basis of the motion was in four parts. He said, “One is about the financial management of the university. One part is about the rpk GROUP study. One part is about shared governance. And the fourth part is about attunement to the student body, the community, and the university’s mission statement.”

A vote was made by the senators to include the vote of no confidence on the meeting’s agenda after President Henderson’s “End-of-Year Update” which included updates on enrollment projections, COVID-19 funding, West Campus, and administrative services.

The main basis of the motion, as explained by Katz, is the financial net decline of $169.2 million that the university has endured under the leadership of President Henderson over the past seven years.

The rpk GROUP has recently been hired by NJCU for $355,000 to review the university’s academic “efficiencies” as well as administrative services.

The motion proposed John Melendez, a professor for Educational Leadership as interim president if the vote goes through. Melendez has been at the university for roughly 30 years.

During the discussion of the motion, Wanda Rutledge, a professor from the School of Business, expressed her opposition to the proposal of a vote of no confidence for President Henderson. Prefaced with her disclosure of not being a voting senator, she asked, “What do you wish to achieve with this resolution?”

Rutledge continued, “You are saying that you want to replace the president and you have already named a successor, and your greatest concerns are with finances of which it was very clear from the last 45 minutes not everybody understands the way the finances are presented.” She emphasized that many of the real estate ventures and expansion projects that the university has been pursuing were in the goal of renovation, expansion, and innovation of the university; as well as to keep the school competitive.

Ultimately, the resolution to have a vote of no confidence for President Henderson was postponed until the September Senate meeting.

Max Herman, a professor of Sociology and a university senator, made the move to have the resolution postponed and said, “We do have a reorganizational meeting. It was irresponsible for the president to present a town hall and use an hour of our reorganizational meeting, and we don’t have time to fully discuss this or parse it out today.”

The meeting also caused some frustration amongst professors who were unable to speak while many in attendance were speaking for prolonged durations.

Meriem Bendaoud, a professor of Biology, spoke on her frustration with the way the meeting was going. She said, “I am totally in disbelief right now. I really do not understand what’s happening. People fighting each other, is this the time to do this?”

Bendaoud also said, “The only thing you’re looking for is what is bad, what is wrong, what can I pick on.”

Speaking on her observations of the meeting, she said, “In this room, there are 142 people right now, 150 before, how many people have talked several times? That’s five percent of this room. Are we listening to everyone? We should respect each other, we should listen to each other.”

Ricky Cruz, Student Government Association president even responded to the commotion, he said, “While I agree with allowing people speak. Students have a motion on the agenda and you all arguing within yourself does not let us get to the motions made by students for students. Are we here for students or yourselves?”

The meeting continued with the reorganization portion of the agenda where professors were nominated for positions in the Senate. There was also a discussion on the textbook fees that students are charged alongside their tuition as well as a discussion on having the withdrawal deadline be permanently extended by two weeks for both the fall and spring semesters.