UMM Constitution Revision Committee

Meeting # 8: October 9, 2006


Present: M.E. Bezanson (Chair), B. Ahern, B. Jasper, M. Korth, T. McRoberts (Secretary), S. Olson-Loy, G. Rudney, K. Strissel, G. Thorson and R. Webb


New member not able to be at this meeting: Gary Donovan


Introduction—the chair welcomed members of the committee.


The chair will ask the Chancellors office for support, particularly with minute taking.


The chair then asked us to step back and to think globally about the constitution.

We have gone through the constitution once, have identified many issues and she wanted to know where we go next in this process.


One member suggested that the new members review the minutes of the past year so that they can get up-to-date on what we have done. In this member’s mind there are a number of key issues that are emerging in our discussions, including the role of the committees and the Executive Committee.


One new member asked what the key issues are. The chair commented that in discussing the structure of the constitution we need to decide if we like what we have or want some other models.


That new member wondered if we like the representation reflected in the current constitution or would we rather go to what was once proposed in the 70’s a (smaller, elected) Council rather than an Assembly.


The chair reported that the new Chancellor wants the work of this committee to go forward and to develop a workable constitution.


A member asked whether or not the role of Chancellor in the constitution is given extraordinary power. Another member really didn’t think so. Rather, he likened it to the role of the University President which is really that of a mediator between the faculty and the Regent’s (as expressed in Gray’s history of the University of Minnesota). Another member observed that the constitution doesn’t really define the Chancellor’s role or authority.


The chair wondered whether we want to write or rewrite the constitution together, or do we want to build consensus before writing. Her position was that we need something for people to respond to. Another member of the committee suggested that we need to agree upon certain principles, guidelines or critical issues that need to be discussed beforehand and that we would present those at a forum for discussion—all before attempting to write the document.


The chair expressed concern about the work of the constitution and how it would get done. Another member of the committee favored the approach of identifying key issues that would be addressed in public forums before we would actually begin the task of writing the constitution.


A member of the committee suggested that we needed to identify key or fundamental issues such as: 1) the role (authority) of the Chancellor in campus governance; 2) who should be included in the Assembly; 3) the role of the Executive Committee; and 4) the role of the Assembly and its committees.


We returned to a discussion of the constitutional authority of the administration—which emerges as a “hot button” issue. One member of the committee observed that in recent years there has been the emergence of a new administrative group called various things (once identified as the Chancellors Leadership Team), which is not identified in the constitution. This group replaced Division Chairs in the day-to-day governance structure. There appears to be agreement that there is a need to define the role of the Chancellor and the administrative structure throughout the constitution.


A member of the committee urged us to identify key issues in the constitution and also themes that seem to emerge and then go quickly to a campus discussion.


Two other issues that were thrown into the mix of key issues were the jurisdiction of committees, and of course, the institutional budget and authority over that.


There seems to be agreement that the power and authority of the Assembly needs to be restored.


There followed a discussion about additional meetings, and forums. With regard to forums, the questions are: How would the forums be structured? What key issues would be addressed? When would they be held?


There seemed to be agreement that there needed to be a framework which would have the key issues identified and in some manner fleshed out before a forum. The committee needs to review and agree upon the framework/issues prior to the forums.


One member observed if we were going to identify key issues, we must also make it “real” for those attending a forum. How do we make the constitution a “real issue” for the campus community? The chair wondered again if it would be possible for us to have the task (of writing the constitution) done by the end of the academic year.


There followed discussion about whether or not the topic of the “hot button” issues were all identified. The answer is “no.” Members will address additional issues at the next meeting.


There continued to be discussion about the timeline for getting our work done. A member observed that an entirely new constitution is problematic at best, and that it would probably be best to try to fix or repair the existing document.


The chair felt that we had an obligation to get this task done and to soon show some evidence of our efforts. We agreed that as a starting point there needs to be a list of topics that would be fleshed out for the forums and perhaps even be put on a website.


A member of the committee favored having a draft document available by spring break, 2007.


The task for the next meeting—occurring on Monday, October 23 (after fall break) at 3:30 pm, will be to further define the key topics or issues that need to be presented to the campus community in the forums. We also need to determine a possible day/date for the forums and the structure of those forums.