For a little over a year, the Liberal Arts Council has been crafting and attempting to implement a resolution supporting the addition of sensitive content disclosures to professors’ syllabi. The disclosures would not be required and would warn students of when or during which topics sexual assault discussions would take place. Students would still be responsible for coursework assigned on that date, and attendance policies would not be adjusted to accommodate the student.
Though Senate of College Councils and Student Government passed the resolution in fall 2018, authors of the resolution said they have experienced complications with receiving approval from the Faculty Council.
“Chloe (Kersh) and I met with the (Educational Policy Committee) in December and had a very emotionally draining conversation, and then we emailed and heard nothing back,” said Ian McEntee, resolution co-author and council policy coordinator.
At the end of January, humanities and sociology senior McEntee said the Educational Policy Committee notified them the resolution would not be heard by the whole Faculty Council. SG and Senate decided to post about their concerns with the Faculty Council’s decision on Facebook on March 8.
“We have now received word that the Faculty Council committee in charge of approving this piece to be heard by the Faculty Council will not hear the resolution because they do not feel comfortable with the recommended proposition and are unwilling to prioritize this resolution on their ‘really full agenda,’” the Facebook post said.
The post asked students to email the council and encourage them to hear the resolution. Resolution co-author Chloe Kersh said students have been supportive of the resolution.
However, Charlotte Canning, council chair and theatre and dance professor, said she felt the Facebook post did not accurately reflect ongoing conversations in the Educational Policy Committee’s process.
“(The) proposal was treated like all proposals, in fact maybe got a little extra attention because it was coming to us from Student Government and that’s such a crucial partnership,” Canning said. “We wanted to make sure we were focused on it and giving it all due diligence.”
Canning said the committee voted against proposing the resolution to the entire council because there were concerns over academic freedom.
“Academic freedom means that a professor is in charge of the content of the course and how that content is presented,” Canning said. “There are good reasons for resisting how to be told to present content.”
Canning said committee chair Christine Julien reached out to McEntee in December or January with an offer to meet and didn’t hear back. However, in emails sent to The Daily Texan , Julien reached out to McEntee on February 6 and he replied a week later.
“We figured things were fine, and ... we were very blindsided (by the Facebook post) because we had not heard back, so we had no way of knowing that there was upset and concern,” Canning said. “And when I was asked to meet with Colton Becker ... and Ian and some other students, I was happy to do so, but there seemed to be a really important misunderstanding between us about what constituted a fair and appropriate process.”
McEntee said the statement was not aimed at Canning, who has been open to discussion with him and his co-authors. McEntee said he and the other authors are still meeting with Faculty Council members and are considering taking the resolution to the Faculty Council floor, which members like McEntee are allowed to do.
“We’re trying to give professors the tools that they need and tools that they want ... to prioritize a student’s mental health,” McEntee said. “And so regardless of the end result, I think having the resolution on the floor itself, professors can identify with that.”
Canning said she has encouraged McEntee to consider other ways of discussing sexual assault content in class but supports his right to bring the resolution forward.
“I think it’s great that the students are bringing these things up,” Canning said. “I think right now we’re disagreeing perhaps about the best vehicle for ... the conversation, for our implementation, that kind of thing.”