Professor offends President: One professor’s mission for democracy, transparency on campus

Professor Doug Dix | File Photo | Courtesy of

As the 2012 elections approach, the issue of democracy is becoming present on campus as professor Doug Dix pushes for a movement that would change the mindset of voting.

“I want a democratic vote to advise the Board of Regents,” Dix, a professor in the Department of Health Sciences, said. “Why do we not get a vote? We might be informed, but there’s no vote.”

Dix’s plan includes setting up a system of voting for students and faculty that would send that information on specific issues to the Board of Regents. He also proposes an All University Constitution Committee to create a constitution for the university.

In a letter sent to President Walter Harrison and the Faculty Senate, Dix states that “democracy, an essential element of [the work for the good of the whole] is barely evident on our campus or in our Constitution State. The poor don’t vote in municipal elections anymore than students and faculty vote on University affairs.”

“We are an oligarchy, ruled by a few,” Dix said. “We spend our most important years here. This is our future. We aren’t going to make bad decisions.”

Dix also quotes a survey done in the spring of 2011 of the undergraduate students about whether or not they would want a better democracy on campus.

The survey, which was performed by the Students for Democracy group, said that 94 percent of the 400 undergraduate students surveyed said yes, they wanted a better democracy. However, the total population of the University is approximately 7,000 students which means that only 5.7 percent of all students were surveyed.

“The Board of Regents could go with votes or not,” Dix said. “I don’t want to threaten anyone or topple the structure, just want to advise.”

However, Harrison and President of the Student Government Association, Ben Accardo, said this is not the way to go about it.

Harrison called the letter “incendiary and insulting.”

“He fundamentally misunderstands,” Harrison said. “He misunderstands how the Board of Regents works.”

As the system is now, according to Harrison, the Board of Regents has three students and three faculty members sitting on it to advise the board.  Those include Michael Gotlib, ’12 graduate student, Om Ramrakhiani, ’12, and Emily Audibert, ’13.

“I’m personally insulted,” Harrison said. “I believe we have a very good mechanism to represent the views of students and faculty.”

As of now, the Board of Regents makes decisions regarding academics, most of which are not the issues students most care about, Harrison stated.

“I think [Dix] is misguided on some misunderstanding. I meet regularly with SGA and the Faculty Senate to provide voice and direction on issues concerning students,” Harrison said.

“I don’t really understand what he’s recommending,” he said.

“He has some good ideas, however he is not going about the best process,” Accardo said. “It’s unclear what he’s trying to accomplish.”

Dix’s letter is currently with the Faculty Senate and some kind of recgonition or form of approval for the movement to take the next step on campus.