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From left to right: Karen Baehler (Vice Chair), Elizabeth Worden (Chair), and Andrea Pearson (Past chair)

Summary of Faculty Senate Meeting, December 5 , 2018

Following approval of the November minutes, Interim Provost Mary Clark reported that American University posted a 98 percent student retention rate this year from fall 2018 to spring 2019, based on registrations as of December 4. This is the highest fall-to-spring retention rate ever recorded at AU: the equivalent last December 4 (2017) was 93.6 percent. Retention was higher this year for several groups that have been a focus of retention efforts, including African-American, LatinX and students in living-learning communities. Vice President Fanta Aw and Provost Clark will be visiting all academic units in the spring semester to explain AU’s strategic focus on retention as a positive, asset-building strategy related to the important goal of community building, and to discuss faculty’s role.

Athletic Director Billy Walker presented his annual report to the Senate and thanked faculty for helping AU athletes receive a first-class education. The Fall 2017 overall GPA for AU student-athletes was 3.39, which matches the highest level since 1992. More than 84 percent of student-athletes had GPAs over 3.0 last year, and the four-year graduation rate for student-athletes in the incoming class of fall 2014 was 74.7 percent, a bit higher than that for all students (73.9 percent).

Professor John Douglass, chair of the Senate’s Budget and Benefits Committee, reported that AU’s finances are in relatively good shape. Due in part to softer graduate enrolments over the past four years, however, AU faces a structural deficit of $31 million. All units on campus have been asked to identify new sources of revenue and describe how they would cut 2 percent from their budgets each year for the next two years if needed. Based on the budget proposals (due December 21), the Office of Finance will develop a balanced budget model to be voted on by trustees on March 1, 2019.

During the budget discussion, Interim Provost Clark noted that the board of trustees in November approved the new five-year strategic plan for AU and agreed to fund half of its projected costs of $23 million from reserves, with the other half to be determined.

The Senate revisited and passed two proposals that had been tabled at the November meeting: (1) a proposal from the Committee on Faculty Actions (CFA) to add two at-large term faculty members at the rank of term associate professor or above, and (2) a resolution supporting a tuition increase combined with a higher discount rate and indexing of financial aid. The resolution reads as follows;

Given that AU’s tuition price is already 25th lowest out of 25 peer institutions, but the actual cost paid by students is 9th highest, the university should raise the tuition price in order to produce more revenue, enabling it to raise the discount rate to provide more financial aid to students and to provide necessary revenue for its academic mission. We also suggest that financial aid be indexed to tuition raises so that students receiving aid do not face an increase in tuition costs with possible impact on retention

For the good of the order, Professor Jim Quirk (SPA senator) noted that the Academic Integrity Committee has begun meeting, is planning a forum for faculty feedback, and will present their report in the spring. Vice-chair Karen Baehler reported that the Beyond SETs Task Force was ready to deliver their recommendations to the Senate chair within a few days.