New SEC Chair Gay Miller prepares for year ahead


Karolina Marczewski

Gay Miller, Senate Executive Committee chair discusses the future of the University at an SEC meeting Monday.

By Maggie Sullivan

New Senate Executive Committee Chair Gay Miller said her biggest focus this year is ensuring the committee is as collegial and productive as possible.

“I’ll continue to work to make sure, as best I can, our meetings result in productive work that helps move us forward,” Miller said.

Former SEC Chair Roy Campbell served as chair of the SEC during the dismissals of Steven Salaita and the threat of censure from the American Association of University Professors.

“There were lots of problems between the faculty and administration and between faculty and faculty,” he said. “One of the key things that I had to do was keep the process of shared governance going, irrespective of the discussions.”

Kim Graber, SEC vice-chair, believes Salaita’s employment, a major focus of Campbell’s time as chair, will remain a discussion in the SEC during the academic year.

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“We need to be able to address multiple issues, including existing concerns about the Salaita case, simultaneously,” she said.

Though Campbell said he might have been “too focused” on moving forward last year without addressing the problems at hand, he said it is vital the SEC chair keeps the committee on task, despite any current crisis. However, he said he should have insisted on more dialogue throughout the year.

“Sometimes that’s awfully daunting when there’s so many different views, so at odds with each other,” Campbell said.

Miller said she will do her best to involve all SEC members in important discussions and listen to every opinion.

“Shared governance also means that after open debate, people accept the collective wisdom of the body,” Miller said.

Miller began her service as SEC chair during turbulent times for the University administration. The recent release of over 1,100 emails between University administrators that were previously excluded from Freedom of Information Act requests has raised questions about transparency and honesty at the University.

“The chair of the SEC and I will try our best to be as transparent as possible,” Graber said. “The senate is a forum in which individuals can freely express their opinions and vigorously disagree, but I hope that we can do so respectfully and with the knowledge that we are all in this together.”

The released emails, showed Former Chancellor Phyllis Wise received advice from SEC members Nick Burbules, Joyce Tolliver and Graber, but their discussions were not disclosed to the SEC. There is no policy against keeping discussions with administrators private; however, some SEC members said at a committee meeting Monday they felt it created a breach of trust within the governing body.

Miller said there are specific policies on how to handle such issues, and she will plan reports to the SEC or Academic Senate to inform the groups as a whole.

Campbell said he has his own thoughts about how Miller should tackle these issues, but he said it is not his place to make those suggestions.

“Generally, I think there needs to be a period of reconciliation of trying to build trust between everyone, but I’ve also been saying that for a year,” Campbell said.

Graber said she thinks Miller should seek as much advice from others as possible.

“Pay attention to your gut instinct about what you believe is right and in the best interests of our campus,” Graber said.

Campbell said Miller has a good head on her shoulders and probably does not need his advice, however he said he believes it’s important to avoid getting caught up in politics.

“Outside interference can be quite a problem in how the faculty and administration operate,” he said. “But on the whole, everyone has the good will of the students, the University, and keeping the University going.”