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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,   May 1, 2019

In her final chair’s report, Senate Chair Elizabeth Worden introduced next year’s incoming senators and thanked those who are rotating off the Senate this year. She also recognized new members elected to Senate committees, some of whom were in attendance. By-laws changes were approved for three Senate committees: Information Services, Honors Advisory, and the AU Core. Two sitting senators – Emily Lindsay and Jordan Tama – were elected by the full Senate to be at-large representatives to the Executive Committee in AY2019-20. Chair Worden reported that the Office of Institutional Review and Assessment’s thorough analysis of the new SET questions will continue into the summer, with a full report to the Senate planned in the Fall.

The chair’s report concluded with a discussion of the Senate’s goals for the upcoming year, which include: (1) completing two ongoing projects - the SETs revision and a review of the Academic Integrity Code; (2) continuing to support and oversee implementation of the Core Curriculum; (3) revisiting the curriculum review process for both undergraduate and graduate courses and programs, including Curriculog, to improve efficiency and effectiveness; (4) identifying opportunities to facilitate interdisciplinary activity via changes to the Faculty Manual; (5) updating and consolidating the Senate’s Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom statements; and (6) including faculty in the selection process for the annual University Faculty Awards. Members of the faculty who are interested in participating in any of these initiatives should please contact facultysenate@american.edu.

Provost Dan Myers reported that enrolment numbers were running ahead of the goal for next year’s incoming freshmen class, which bodes well for meeting the university’s revenue goals. He congratulated Vice Provost Sharon Alston on this important achievement. The visits to all units to discuss student retention have been completed, and the task force on retention is in the process of analyzing feedback and generating recommendations. The first issue of the newsletter, Overture, has been released. The provost explained that this new, joint initiative of the provost’s office and the Senate is designed to let faculty know about initiatives in advance rather than reporting on past events or activities. The next issue of Overture will discuss a recent decision to split the university’s graduate studies and research functions into two separate administrative units. A search for interim leaders in each of the two new units is now underway. The provost also updated senators on two other senior administrative searches: vice president of communication (finalists were being interviewed as of May 1) and a newly created position for a digital learning officer (search firm is being identified).

The Senate approved changes to graduate academic regulations associated with the four-term academic calendar used in many online programs; ratified three nominees to serve as Senate representatives to Board of Trustees committees (Leigh Riddick - Finance and Investment Committee, Lenny Steinhorn - Communication Committee, and Don Williamson - Audit Committee); and passed a resolution in support of increased efforts to direct students who are facing basic needs challenges toward appropriate University support resources (see text of resolution below). The Senate thanks graduating senior, Nickolaus Mack, for his tireless efforts to increase support for the growing number of students experiencing food and housing insecurity.

Senators reviewed and discussed the annual reports submitted in writing by each of the Senate’s standing committees. The AU Core Committee Chair Cynthia Bair van Dam, AU Core Office Director Brad Knight, and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jessica Waters updated senators on phased implementation of the Core Curriculum to date, activity in the Core Committee and subcommittees, and ongoing adjustments to the program as experience is gained. Adjustments include efforts to streamline the proposal approval process, ensure more meaningful feedback on course proposals, and build inter-disciplinary teaching capacity through workshops and faculty learning communities.

The meeting ended with the “changing of the gavel ceremony” and appreciation for the dedicated service and notable accomplishments of this year’s chair, Elizabeth Worden.

American University Faculty Senate Resolution Affirming Basic Needs Security Support Efforts

WHEREAS The University is a space for nurturing the minds and souls of aspiring and achieved scholars, it must also provide for consistent access to a healthy, nutritious diet and safe, affordable housing; and

WHEREAS A basic needs security statement informs administrators and faculty alike of the growing threat food and housing insecurity poses to the continued success of American University’s academic environment; and

WHEREAS The classroom serves as the sole reliable space to reach students in need especially those working to afford the cost of education; and

WHEREAS Research indicates that academic performance is adversely affected by food and housing insecurity; and

WHEREAS The epidemic of food and housing insecurity disproportionately affects statistically at-risk marginalized/underrepresented groups; and

WHEREAS The federal government has made an endowed pledge to equal access to higher education and affirmative action policy; and

WHEREAS The University has adopted these structures of equal access for its own access to federal funding; and

WHEREAS the Government Accountability Office has publicly announced that federal investment is at risk due to the epidemic of food insecurity on college campuses; and

WHEREAS Current data indicates that forty-four percent of AU students at some point did not have enough food for themselves and fifty-nine percent knew of another student who did not have enough food for themselves; and

WHEREAS Our commitment to the student community must extend its philanthropic arm so far as to secure the basic needs of students, including food and housing.

BE IT SO RESOLVED That the Faculty Senate strongly supports all efforts, including the option to include a Basic Needs Security Clause from the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning in syllabi, and to direct students facing basic needs challenges to appropriate University support resources.