UNL Faculty Senate to vote on removing group’s president

October 3, 2018

Following months of eroding trust between members of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Faculty Senate and its elected leader, faculty representatives will seek the removal of their president Tuesday.

If a majority of the Faculty Senate votes to remove President Jeffrey Rudy, a professor of practice of athletic training, it would be a first at UNL in the group’s 44-year history.

A proposed motion claims Rudy made “unilateral decisions without proper consultation” of the Executive Committee, a 13-member group that acts on behalf of the full Faculty Senate in between meetings.

It also says Rudy failed to inform the Executive Committee about “decisions that are detrimental to” the full senate, while also making “accusatory and defamatory judgments” about other faculty members.

Rudy said Monday evening he has considered resigning, but will remain in office to allow the Faculty Senate to make a decision about how it wants to be governed.

“This is politics, it’s people who think they are representing their constituency,” he said. “I’m representing another part of the constituency.”

‘Trust was broken’

Minutes from two September meetings illustrate the deteriorating relationship between Rudy and other faculty, including Rudy’s refusal to reveal who he selected for a committee working to remove UNL from a list of universities determined to have violated principles of academic freedom.

The minutes also show Rudy accusing committee members of leaking information to the press — accusations he could not substantiate, according to the documents, and which he later said were made in anger at seeing a committee memo appear in a news report before it was made public — and using the Faculty Senate president’s position to voice his personal opinions rather than act impartially on behalf of the body.

Kevin Hanrahan, an associate professor of music and president-elect of the Faculty Senate chosen to speak on behalf of the Executive Committee, said the members provided Rudy with a list of the procedures to remove him as president last week, as well as the justifications the faculty will consider.

“The Executive Committee believes UNL is a place where there is an open and free exchange of diverse ideas and viewpoints,” said Hanrahan, who has acted as an intermediary between the committee and Rudy and will chair Tuesday’s proceedings, not voting on the motion unless there is a tie.

“To maintain that, we must have trust,” he added on behalf of the committee. “That trust was broken.”

Members’ namesnot revealed

Members of the Executive Committee confronted Rudy on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18 regarding several issues they said were eroding trust between him and the Faculty Senate, according to detailed summaries of those meetings.

On Sept. 11, a committee member asked Rudy’s reasons for withholding the names of members of a committee he formed to review the UNL policies and procedures that landed it on the “Censure List” maintained by the American Association of University Professors.

The AAUP began its investigation after administrators dismissed Courtney Lawton from her position as a graduate student lecturer in the English Department after she was filmed protesting a recruiting event for Turning Point USA, a conservative student group.

In a report published in May, the AAUP faulted UNL administrators for bowing to mounting political pressure from conservative state senators and others who called for Lawton’s firing, violating principles of academic freedom and due process.

In conjunction with a working group formed by the administration that will seek to remove UNL from the Censure List, the Faculty Senate also moved to form its own committee this summer.

After receiving individual recommendations from the Executive Committee, however, Rudy constituted a committee without its approval — a break with Faculty Senate procedure — keeping the identities of his ad hoc committee anonymous.

That also prevented the Executive Committee from voting on the charge given to the ad hoc committee, leaving its purpose in doubt, members said.

Keeping the ad hoc committee confidential was to prevent members’ identities from being leaked to the press by what he described as a “mole” within the Executive Committee and thereby preserving its ability to be critical of UNL without being influenced by administrators or the AAUP, Rudy said, according to the Sept. 11 meeting minutes.

‘Failed to be impartial’

Rudy also “failed to be impartial in his position as Faculty Senate president by disrupting and impugning” the recipients of an award given to faculty members who uphold “the freedom to seek and communicate the truth.”

During a Sept. 4 presentation of the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award, given this year to Marco Abel and Julia Schleck for their defense of UNL’s English Department from political attacks made in the wake of Lawton’s protest of Turning Point USA, Rudy made comments that “negatively reflected on the Senate President and the Executive Committee,” according to the minutes from Sept. 11.

According to Rudy, he told the Faculty Senate he “could not in good conscience give the freedom award to those who defend bullying.”

He said while he believed Abel and Schleck “did wonderful things” to defend the English Department, “they did nothing to defend the freedom of Kaitlyn Mullen” — the UNL student holding the tabling event for Turning Point USA — only selectively applying academic freedom and freedom of speech in the process.

The committee felt Rudy’s statement went beyond his responsibilities as president to facilitate meetings, protect the rights of members, and to remain impartial and fair, one member said during the meeting according to the minutes, reading from “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

Monday, Hanrahan said Rudy is free to say what he wants as an individual, but that changes when he’s standing in front of the senate admonishing the body for a decision it reached using standard practices.

“Dr. Rudy called into question his ability to adequately represent the faculty,” he said.

Rudy said he believes he has the right to free speech, as well as the right “not to participate in things I have an ethical and moral objection to.”

But he said he regretted his comments after the meeting and apologized to the English Department and Faculty Senate.

“In hindsight, I should have just sat down and recused myself,” he said.

Tuesday’s vote to remove Rudy as president is scheduled to take place immediately after the meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Nebraska Union.

Neither Rudy nor Hanrahan said they have any indication of how the Faculty Senate membership might vote, but Rudy said his future on the body might be limited either way, as it would be difficult to work with the members who sought to expel him.

“This is a situation where even if I win, I may lose,” he said.

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