Members of the Faculty Senate held an open discussion on diversity and campus climate issues with student leaders of campus groups and other interested parties at AU. Among the ideas put forward by visitors: educate faculty about diversity issues, faculty should get to know a student of color to better understand their experiences, find ways to better address the mental health and stress problems that arise for students who confront racial discrimination (including reducing the cost and wait times for appointments), allow trigger warnings to help students improve mental well-being, hire more mental health counsellors of color, and hire more professors of color who can be role models for students of color.
Faculty and administrative visitors including Assistant VP of Campus Life Fanta Aw, as well as Senate Chair Todd Eisenstadt, Provost Scott Bass, DAA Mary Clark, Senate Past Chair Larry Engel, spoke about initiatives that are being developed to help with some of these problems, including activities at the upcoming faculty and staff retreat, RiSE (Reinventing the Student Experience), Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Working Group, and Expectations and Guidelines for Faculty Conduct at AU.
Provost Scott Bass commented in his report on the racial climate on campus. Challenges remain. More needs to be done to welcome students meaningfully, including through the curriculum. RiSE is at the heart of this effort. Forming authentic relationships is also very important, as are communication patterns. He stated that he will insist that narrative comments in ITS be made public to university administrators, as a way to monitor racist comments and actions by faculty.
The annual reports for the Standing Senate Committees for AY2015-16 were presented by the committee chairs or their representatives. Provost Bass emphasized that staggered appointments to these committees may be helpful for continuity.
Todd Eisenstadt introduced three budget resolutions:
1.) Given that the annual faculty and staff merit increase (as a percentage of increase in base pay) has averaged only 0.75 percent per year over the last two years, whereas the cost of living during that two-year period is projected at twice that amount, and given that the average annual increases during the prior decade was much higher per year, the Faculty Senate resolves to ask that the University Budget Committee and Board of Trustees to offer a faculty and staff merit increase, in base salaries, during each of the two years of the budget. A motion to vote was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved 20-0-0.
2.) To maintain and improve levels of academic programming and service, the Faculty Senate recognizes the likely need for a tuition increase as part of the FY2017-19 American University budget. A motion was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved with a 16-0-4 vote.
3.) American University’s doctoral stipends are low, compared to our peer institutions and competitors, and have not increased in several years. Given the need to successfully recruit doctoral students to maintain the university’s hard fought status as a research university, the Faculty Senate advocates giving priority consideration to this matter in planning for the AY2017-19 American University budget.
A motion was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved with a 16-0-2 vote.
September 14, 2016 Meeting Summary
Presidential Search Committee members Professors Kiho Kim, Sharon Weiner, and Sarah Menke-Fish reported that the search is underway. They are impressed with the candidate pool. They were limited in what they could share, and senators reiterated that the resolution passed in the spring emphasized the need to have a president with academic experience.
Senate Chair Todd Eisenstadt welcomed new and returning senators; nominees for the Faculty Senate Executive Committee Bryan Fantie and Emily Lindsay were elected.
Provost Scott Bass reported that three new deans, for Kogod, WCL and SOE, are in place, as well as a new Vice President for Undergraduate Studies Jessica Waters. A report about the RiSE initiative was submitted to the Mellon Foundation and will be distributed shortly. The AU Core will undergo review by the Senate this term. Undergraduate enrollments are on target, as are graduate enrollments when online courses are taken into account. The University is successful with keeping at-risk students enrolled into the second year (90.1% retention), although this number could be improved. AU’s ranking in US News and World Report dropped from 72 to 74, which is not significant.
DAA Mary Clark reviewed the objectives and structure of the university retreat, the theme of which is One AU: Culture and Community. Issues of diversity and inclusion as well as matters of student experience will be addressed. Both faculty and staff have been invited and the roster is at full capacity.
The Senate approved proposed changes to the Academic Grade Grievance Policy brought forward by Jessica Waters.
Chair of the Committee of Academic Budgets and Benefits Olivia Ivey asked that budget requests be submitted as soon as possible. Town halls organized by the University Budget Committee will be held down the line. Todd Eisenstadt emphasized than the Senate is charged with representing the faculty through this process while bearing in mind the overall budget. Senators were urged to remember the one-time payment of last year and advocate that merit raises to base salaries be restored. A desire for data on faculty salaries was expressed. Olivia Ivey reminded the Senate that student representatives serve on the Committee of Academic Budget and Benefits and the UBC; students have a voice in the University’s financial decisions. Scott Bass asked to know the position of Senate as the UBC is constituted.
Senate Vice Chair Andrea Pearson presented the following resolution:
The Faculty Senate appreciates that the university has begun to address term-faculty salaries, particularly the process underway to raise the lowest term-faculty salaries. While we recognize there is still more to be done, we applaud the fact that AU is now in the 80th percentile—the top tier—for the AAUP salary rankings for instructors. We are concerned, however, that compensation both for the lowest-paid and for long-serving term faculty still remains inadequate, given the extraordinary cost of living in the DC area and the possibility that some term faculty are unlikely or unable to take advantage of certain benefits included in total compensation, such as the matching retirement contributions. In addition, there remains significant inequity between term and tenure-line salaries. Therefore, we call on the Academic Budget and Benefits Committee, the University Budget Committee, the university administration, and the Board of Trustees to continue to support increases for the lowest-paid term faculty and to begin to attend to the low wages of long-serving career term faculty.
Larry Engel, Past Chair of the Senate, moved to accept, and note in the minutes, that a vote in favor of the resolution indicates the sense of the Senate on this matter. The motion was seconded and the resolution was approved unanimously.