Faculty members compete for positions as Academic Senate elections begin

The Cosumnes River College Academic Senate has begun the process of electing officials for the 2015-2016 term, voting running from March 23-27, but unlike previous elections where many candidates ran unopposed there is competition for the top spots this year.

The senate positions of president and vice president are igniting competition while geography Professor Scott Crosier is running unopposed for secretary. Psychology Professor James Frazee and biology Professor Julie Oliver are the candidates for president, while economics Professor Edwin Fagin and anthropology Professor Shannon Mills are running for vice president.

Oliver, currently serving as vice president for the senate, said that her running for president is  continuation of her long service in the senate.

“I have been a member of the CRC Academic Senate for 13 years, first as a science, mathematics and engineering division senator and then as chair of the health and facilities committee,” Oliver said. “Most recently I have served on the academic senate executive team as the secretary and for the past two years as the senate vice president. I feel faculty leadership is important, and I enjoy serving the faculty at CRC in regard to academic and professional matters.”

Frazee said he had his own reasons for running for the president position.

“I’ve noticed that we’ve had a lack of faculty voice and faculty should be the ones who are guiding the academic decisions on campus and that faculty need to be represented whether it be the loudest group or the group that might not have their voice recognized,” Frazee said. “All people who are faculty members have contributions to the academic side of the house and what I saw happening was that there was a need in that area where we need to actually improve our inclusiveness of people who have different viewpoints and that wasn’t happening.”

Frazee said that “recently our academic expertise has not been the thing that’s deferred to in making decisions” and that “a small group of people have made unilateral decisions without democratic processes.”

Philosophy Professor Charles Van Patten, who has been critical of the senate, said that this election will bring democracy back to the Senate.

“I think it’s a very important election that will have a lot to do with whether or not the campus is democratic or not,” Van Patten said. “CRC was once democratic, but it isn’t democratic anymore and there’s some things that could be done to make CRC democratic again and one of them is to change the leadership of the academic senate.”

Van Patten said he is supporting Frazee and Fagin as candidates because he believes they can bring democracy back. He said he has nothing against Oliver and Mills but feels they “are part of the existing senate leadership” and “that senate leadership is part of the reason why democracy has faded.”

The divide within some of the faculty is something Oliver said she feels needs to be addressed no matter the outcome of the election. She said there needs to be an attempt to build bridges and bring faculty to an agreement to work together collegially and respectfully.

“Faculty with all opinions and viewpoints need to use the participatory process to have their voices heard,” Oliver said. “We have a structure in which issues may be brought to the Academic Senate or a participatory governance committee for discussion by the body. The body may then proceed with the necessary response to the issue. People with concerns about the functionality of the Academic Senate need to become involved with the process and work with colleagues to come to solutions.”

Current Academic Senate President Robert “B.J.” Snowden said that the perceived divide is more a difference of opinion than an actual divide.

“I think it’s less of a divide and more of a perspective,” Snowden said. “I think that everybody who is running for office has the best of the college in mind, I just think there are different philosophies on how that can happen. Again, I think everyone is definitely qualified, I think that this is going to be an interesting election and it’s not the first time there has been a contested election and it certainly won’t be the last.”

One thing that Snowden said he hopes to see happen, no matter the outcome of the election, is for the senate to forge a closer relationship with the students.

“I hope that we have a closer relationship with the students, and I think that if we found topics that we were both looking to make action or make traction on I think that would be something I would really want to stand behind and really see happen,” Snowden said. “For example, if the college wanted to take a harder look at campus safety, I think that’s something that the students and the faculty could really stand behind.”