Summary of Faculty Senate Meeting, November 6, 2019
The meeting was called to order by the Chair, Professor Karen Baehler. In her report she welcomed Professor Brian Yates (CAS), the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Information Services, who was sitting in for the committee chair, Professor Stef Woods (CAS), in her absence. The Chair then announced that Professor Emerita Barbara Reimann has agreed to serve on the Senate Committee on Academic Budget & Benefits. She noted that the work reviewing the faculty manual for interdisciplinary issues has been given to a strategic plan implementation working group which she is chairing. They will report back to the Senate. The Senate leadership is also working on a plan to help share university policies with faculty in a more easily accessible way. She made a plea for faculty and departments, especially in the professional schools, to propose ethical reasoning habits of mind courses for the AU Core Curriculum. She further noted that we are starting the program assessment phase of the Core implementation process, and asked faculty to keep abreast of it and be involved in it. The Core Council is still working on the AU Core/AU Abroad issue and may have a proposal coming forward soon.
The Senate unanimously approved the pro forma changes to the Faculty Senate Bylaws, which were changes to job titles and adding the School of Education representatives to Senate committees.
Provost Dan Myers reported that the four administrative position searches are proceeding. Four finalists for the Vice Provost and Chief Online Officer will be interviewing on campus starting next week. The other three searches (for the Vice-Provost for Research, the Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Dean of the School of Communication) are all at the same stage. The search committees have been formed and are working with the search firm to establish for each a position prospectus.
He reported that the leadership retreat on student thriving had happened, and that he was quite pleased with the results. He noted that his last month's projection of our first-year retention rate was accurate at 86.8%, which is our lowest in decades.
The Provost also mentioned changes in the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) standards as a result of federal antitrust concerns. The bans on early decision application incentives, pursuit of students after the May 1 deposit deadline, and pursuit of transfer students, have all been ended. His office is currently formulating AU’s response to this. In answer to several questions, he said that we were planning on a defensive strategy, not an offensive one. He also noted that NACAC standards only apply to undergraduate admissions. The Chair then suggested that we place this on the agenda for a future Senate meeting.
Professor Alison Thomas, chair of the Academic Integrity Code Working Group, came to the Senate in the second part of her two-part presentation on the work of her group. She asked the Senate for a resolution of support for their proposal to establish a campus-wide Office of Academic Integrity. She stated that the group did not want to expend further effort on the next steps until they had the Senate's support for this keystone element. There was a discussion of the proposal, and a sense that many senators still had questions and concerns about loss of disciplinary-based panels, further centralization of university functions, and associated costs. A motion to table the discussion until a later meeting was offered and passed. The Chair thanked Professor Thomas and her group for their tireless efforts, and said that the Senate Executive Committee would work with her and her group to bring this forward again.
Professor Patrick Jackson, head of the University Honors Program, then gave the Senate a description of the proposed revamping of the Honors Program, expanding it to include more students, and offering them more options. The Senate discussed with him the implications of the changes. He said that one of the goals of the restructuring was to help encourage a less risk-averse approach to intellectual inquiry (less focus on grades) on the part of students and discourage a sense of entitlement by the participants. He noted that they are also adding an on-ramp into the program for students who decide after they have already started their studies at AU that the challenges of the Honors program might be right for them.
The Senate then voted to approve two proposals concerning faculty awards. The first of these is a proposal to establish a Senate committee of 12-14 people to manage the awards process and select the recipients, consisting of the Faculty Senate Vice Chair, the previous award winners, selected members of the Senate Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and other sitting senators. The Senate leadership will begin the process of establishing the committee and bringing appropriate changes to the Senate Bylaws back to the Senate for approval. The second proposal, brought forward by Professors Jane Palmer (SPA, Director, Community-Based Research Scholars program), Marcy Campos (CAS, Director of the Center for Community Engagement & Service), and Gemma Puglisi (SOC, Assistant Professor), was for a new faculty award for outstanding community engagement. This new award will be included in the next awards cycle.
Professor Lillian Baeza-Mendoza (CAS, Chair of the Faculty Committee on Diversity and Inclusion) and Professor Nikhat Ghouse (University Library) then informed the Senate about the upcoming campus dialogues about concerns relevant to equity, diversity, and inclusion at AU during the Spring 2020 semester. These dialogues are open to all teaching faculty, and senators are encouraged to both attend and to publicize them amongst our colleagues.