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Utica University faculty senate vote to censure Board of Trustees

New Utica University banners hang outside of Sherwood Boehlert Hall as President Laura Casamento announces the college’s new status as a “university” at Utica College on Thursday, February 17, 2022 in Utica, NY. The NY State Board of Regents approved and endorsed the college’s petition to elevate to University status effective immediately. (PHOTO BY NANCY L. FORD)

The faculty senate at Utica University has voted to censure its Board of Trustees after a recommendation to eliminate several majors including chemistry, nutrition, international studies, philosophy and Spanish.

A written statement from the Utica University Board of Trustees said no decisions have been made yet regarding changes to academic majors. It reads, "the Board struggles to comprehend a vote to censure the Board around decisions that have neither been made nor, for that matter, even taken up."

Leonore Fleming, a philosophy professor at Utica University and the president of the Utica University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors or AAUP, said she sees the recommendations as much more final.

"We haven't had a voice," Fleming said. "Recommendations have to go through a long process and as our collective bargaining agreement or contract states, we have pre-decisional making power here. That's what the faculty do and we have shared governance."

A key issue that led to the AAUP vote, Fleming said, is a lack of transparency from the board to the faculty. She said they were promised information and data about how the board came to its resolution, but said they haven't received any — saying they feel shut out of the process.

"You hear your faculty, your students, your staff, your alumni reaching out to you concerned," Fleming said. "We felt a duty to unite and do something to try to save the institution. That's why we then voted for a formal censure of the Board of Trustees."

Fleming said the proposed recommendation has several implications, saying eliminating the chemistry major would cause the university to lose its American Chemical Society accreditation, harming the university's biochemistry major. She said she's also worried about the loss of faculty and students, both current and prospective, if majors are eliminated.

The Utica Board of Trustees said they respect the views of the faculty and encourage them to respond to the recommendations with information to help the board in its decision-making. But the board said the censure will not influence their decision saying, "We are not rescinding the resolution or rejecting the recommendations prior to our meeting on February 17."

To read the Formal Censure of the Utica University Board of Trustees, click here.

To read Utica University's Board of Trustees' response to the censure, click here.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.