Summary of Faculty Senate Meeting, September 4, 2019
The meeting began with the Chair's Report by new Chair, Professor Karen Baehler. Following approval of the minutes of the May meeting, we started off by everyone around the table introducing themselves. The Chair welcomed the new members as well as those returning from last year.
Provost Dan Myers began his report emphasizing the importance of our shared governance system at American University, his commitment to it, and the important role of the Faculty Senate. He then spoke about the implementation of the strategic plan, and the new structures being put in place for that implementation. Better communication from the Provost's office with the faculty is an important goal, and Overture, a new newsletter, will be coming out in the next week to help with that. In answer to a later question, he said that it would probably come out twice a semester, possibly more.
It being the start of the academic year, the main part of the Provost's report concerned enrollment and retention. The university is in good shape for the incoming freshman class, coming in a bit above budget numbers. Incoming graduate student numbers are mixed: some departments above projection, some below, but overall right about the budgeted level. Retention is more of a concern. Sophomore retention is at 87.4% of last year's freshman class. The fall leadership retreat, to which senators are invited, will focus on “thriving and retention” this year.
Provost Myers also mentioned that we are in the second year of the Inclusive Excellence Plan, and this fall will start the planning process for years three through five. One thing that will be added to the plan is a new plank on research.
He finished up by reporting on the leadership searches that are ongoing. Matthew Bennett has been hired as the new Vice President and Chief Communications Officer. The search for the new position of Vice Provost and Chief Online Officer is at the stage of deciding who to bring on campus for interviews. The other three search processes, the Vice-Provost for Research, the Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Dean of the School of Communication, are interviewing search firms and will take place this academic year.
Several senators had questions for the Provost. Asked about our transfer numbers, he replied that we met our target, but that transfer retention was also down. As to the numbers for “full-pay” students, they were “up-ish.” Asked about our summer numbers, he replied that we did substantially better than projected, both graduate and undergraduate, and that half of the summer enrollment was in online classes. The number of students listing us as their first choice has gone up. He wasn't sure what we are doing right that other schools who are not meeting their numbers are missing. It is becoming a more competitive market, and given both demographic and legal changes underway, will become more so. The average discount rate nationwide for schools like American was 55% last year. Ours is 29% across all years, and 28.7% for this year's incoming class.
We then moved to the next item on the agenda, a change in undergraduate regulation 7.2.1. Dean of Undergraduate Education Jessica Waters spoke to the change, which will allow students on a permit to study at another institution to enroll in classes at American during the summer or winter/spring breaks. The Senate approved the change.
Professor Steve Silvia spoke to the Senate about a project he is working on for the Provost's office on support for newly promoted associate professors to help them achieve full professor status in a timely manner. This is the first part of an effort to increase faculty development support across the entire careers of our faculty. There will be a university-wide working group to develop a set of recommendations
Sara Dumont, the Executive Director of the AU Abroad program, updated the Senate on its work. She then brought to the Senate a problem she sees with how the program integrates with the AU Core requirements, as opposed to how it worked with the old General Education requirements the Core replaced. With the classes required by the core in the latter part of a student's time at AU, coupled with the requirements of honors programs, there may be little time left for students to study abroad. She also expressed concern that the process for certifying classes taught by our partner institutions is too onerous for them. Jolie Roetter, the Director of Global Learning, and Casey Evans, the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs, both from KSB, then spoke about their pilot program to handle the issue. Dean Waters then spoke for the AU Core process. The Senate had a robust discussion on these matters.
Professor Patrick Jackson, the Faculty Director of the AU Honors program, brought to the Senate a proposal to change the graduating GPA requirement for the transcript notation of “AU Honors” from 3.67 to 3.50. The purpose is to encourage students in the program to explore and take chances. After a lively debate, the Senate approved the change by a close vote. Professor Jackson then brought to the Senate a proposal to change the Senate Bylaws to add the outgoing Honors Faculty Director to the Honors Advisory Committee as a voting member for the year after their term as Director finishes. This is to give the committee a continuum of knowledge and administrative experience from one year to the next. The Senate approved the change.
Finally, for the good of the order, Senate Chair notified the Senate that the Provost and the Dean of Faculty had proposed putting the faculty awards selection process under the Senate's purview. Senate leadership is looking at this and will bring it to you this year. She also mentioned that an ad hoc faculty committee on reviewing the Faculty Manual, looking for obstacles to inter-disciplinary teaching and research, will be forming soon. Those interested in participating should let her know. Anyone with ideas on how to solve the AU Abroad/AU Core implementation should share them. And last, the University Library reminded everyone of their Faculty Lunch the next day.