The Faculty Senate has called a special session for Thursday to discuss its response to comments by Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who said TCU faculty are trying to get rid of free speech and teach socialism.
Williams, who is on TCU’s Board of Trustees, and some faculty members have been at odds since the unrest at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In the aftermath, Williams voted to object to the certification of the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania.
In response, some faculty called for his removal from the board of trustees.
The initial agenda for the Feb. 4 Faculty Senate meeting included the consideration of a motion to ask the board for his removal.
The motion was later withdrawn after the Faculty Senate learned the board plans to consider whether elected officials should serve as trustees at its April meeting.
Before the motion was withdrawn, Williams appeared on WBAP in Dallas and made critical comments about TCU faculty. He said that they are teaching a “socialistic agenda” and “trying to dumb down the future of our kids.”
He described the faculty as “liberal” and said that free speech is under attack.
Chancellor Victor Boschini, who was in attendance at the Faculty Senate meeting, said that Williams’s comments represented the “uncomfortable” part of free speech.
“But, I do agree with free speech and this is the uncomfortable bad part of free speech in my opinion,” he said. “Do I even agree with what he did to begin all this? No, and you know the whole election thing and all of that is, I am the most apolitical person in the world. I know I didn’t agree with that either. But again it’s free speech in my opinion.”
Some faculty members disagreed with the framing of the issue as a free speech one, saying that it was a red herring. Boschini disagreed.
Multiple faculty members at the meeting wanted to condemn Williams’s comments. The Faculty Senate debated whether it should endorse a statement written by faculty members who are launching a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
That statement said Williams was “using the TCU faculty as a punching bag to rile up his base and fundraise for his political campaigns,” and urged the Board of Trustees to disavow his statements.
The motion to endorse the statement failed with only 33% of senate members voting to approve. After its failure, the Faculty Senate decided to call next week’s special session.
Statement condemning Capitol attacks is endorsed
The Faculty Senate did endorse a statement condemning the attacks on the U.S. Capitol that occurred on Jan. 6.
The statement was endorsed with 79% approval and said in part:
“As teacher scholars committed to the mission of the University, the faculty at Texas Christian University have the responsibility to ensure that we educate our students to become ‘ethical leaders and responsible citizens.’ The actions of those involved in this attack demonstrate neither of these values.”
Faculty Senate Chair Sean Atkinson said the motivation behind the statement was to show how a group of leaders in a community can stand up against things that are perceived as wrong.
In other business
Provost Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg addressed faculty to outline upcoming vacancies and plans to try to maintain the university’s student-faculty ratio.
Dahlberg outlined four types of vacant positions that are being eliminated: new positions for the upcoming fiscal year that weren’t filled; positions that became vacant this year; positions that were vacated in December as a part of the voluntary staff retirement incentive plan; and positions that will be vacated over the next three years by retiring faculty who choose to participate in the phased teaching mode plan.
The provost said eliminations will reduce the faculty size by around 6%, but cautioned that the figure may fluctuate.
Dahlberg also touched on what she called the “spring analysis,” which will enable TCU to project where future growth will occur and plan for allocating new faculty positions.
If enrollment remains the same, then the university will be able to maintain its current 14:1 student-faculty ratio. As it grows, Dahlberg said new positions will be allocated to maintain the ratio.