Summary of Faculty Senate Meeting, February 5, 2020
The meeting was called to order by the Chair, Professor Karen Baehler (SPA). In her report she informed the Senate that the AU Core Council and AU Abroad Advisory Board have agreed to plans to allow students to fulfill some AU Core requirements while studying abroad.
In his report, Provost Dan Myers reported on the administrative searches currently ongoing. The new Vice Provost and Chief Online Officer will be announced on Thursday (and it was: on Thursday, February 6, President Burwell announced that Joseph Riquelme would start in that position on March 2). The other 3 searches are proceeding as well. We should have everyone in place by July 1. He then briefed the Senate on the University's plans for dealing with the coronavirus threat. AU students studying in China were evacuated last month. While we have not yet been directly affected on campus, contingency plans are being developed. The Provost then moved on to Spring enrollment and applications for the Fall. We are significantly ahead of budget on graduate face-to-face enrollment for the first time in several years. While some online grad programs did not do quite so well, we are overall ahead of budget. For the Fall, we have received, for the first time, more than 20,000 undergraduate applications. The university-level centers proposal process is ongoing, and the deadline is in early March. Finally, the Provost announced that he will be sponsoring a distinguished lecture series each year, with one lecture on teaching and one lecture on research. Details will be forthcoming.
Ed Fisher, the Assistant Vice President for Community & Government Relations, briefed the Senate on the process for the new campus plan, which we need to have in place by 2022 when the current plan expires. He spoke about the process of developing the new plan with stakeholders and our neighbors. The new plan will not have as much emphasis on capital projects, as we don't have much free space on which to build. He pointed out the few areas that were under consideration for academic and housing use development.
The Chair then moved on to the proposal to create a new Senate Standing Committee on Scholarship. This involved a resolution adopting the proposed bylaws of the committee and changes to the Faculty Senate Bylaws. After discussion of the proposed bylaws amongst the senators, two friendly amendments were accepted: (1) In the first sentence of the second paragraph which describes the composition of the committee, “who are actively engaged in scholarship” was changed to: “who are actively committed to scholarship”; and (2) in the last sentence of that paragraph, “Other university personnel may be invited to join committee meetings as appropriate” was changed to: “Other members of the university community may be invited to join committee meetings as appropriate.” The changes to the Senate Bylaws add language clarifying that the Senate has responsibility to make recommendations concerning scholarship, including research, creative activity, and professional activity. In addition, the changes authorize the University Faculty Awards committee created in December. The proposal passed.
Past Chair Professor Elizabeth Worden (SOE) brought back to the Senate the issue of the adoption of the condensed and revised SET questions. There was a robust discussion of the questions, in particular, the question about the academic rigor of the course. Many senators had issues with this question, and many proposed revisions were discussed. The time allotted for this item having been exceeded, it was tabled until the March meeting. Senators were invited to send their suggestions to the Office of Institutional Research before then.
Professor Patrick Jackson (SIS), Chair of the Honors Advisory Committee, came back to the Senate asking for our support for the revised AU Honors program. Professor Baehler proposed a resolution:
“The Faculty Senate endorses the revisions to the AU Honors Program developed and ratified unanimously by the Senate Honors Advisory Committee (HAC) in 2019 following a self-study and external review. The Senate supports implementation of the revised and restructured program subject to input from the curriculum review process, including any forthcoming recommendations from the Senate's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.”
There was a robust discussion, with some senators expressing reservations with the equity issues involved in having an honors program limited to a few students, as opposed to making the benefits available to all students. Other senators supported the proposal, some citing the need to retain high performing students, some seeing the program as an incubator for curricular changes that would then be adopted for the whole student body, and some noting that this was a great improvement over the existing program. Professor Jackson replied that he would love to see it expanded, but that they needed to see if there was demand for it first. The Senate approved the resolution.
Professors Stacey Marien (University Library) and Lauren Weis (CAS) brought forth their proposal from December 2015 for a faculty Ombuds position. This proposal seemed to get lost in the shuffle during the change of university administrations, and they decided to try it one more time. It passed the Senate unanimously in 2015. Provost Myers and Dean of Faculty Mary Clark both said they were in favor of the proposal. After discussing it, the Senate re-approved the proposal unanimously.
And finally, for the good of the order, Professor Baehler encouraged all faculty up for promotion or tenure next academic year to attend the Committee on Faculty Actions Open Meeting on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Butler Board Room.