Members of the Faculty Senate held an open discussion on diversity and campus climate issues with student leaders of campus groups and other interested parties at AU. Among the ideas put forward by visitors: educate faculty about diversity issues, faculty should get to know a student of color to better understand their experiences, find ways to better address the mental health and stress problems that arise for students who confront racial discrimination (including reducing the cost and wait times for appointments), allow trigger warnings to help students improve mental well-being, hire more mental health counsellors of color, and hire more professors of color who can be role models for students of color.
Faculty and administrative visitors including Assistant VP of Campus Life Fanta Aw, as well as Senate Chair Todd Eisenstadt, Provost Scott Bass, DAA Mary Clark, Senate Past Chair Larry Engel, spoke about initiatives that are being developed to help with some of these problems, including activities at the upcoming faculty and staff retreat, RiSE (Reinventing the Student Experience), Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Working Group, and Expectations and Guidelines for Faculty Conduct at AU.
Provost Scott Bass commented in his report on the racial climate on campus. Challenges remain. More needs to be done to welcome students meaningfully, including through the curriculum. RiSE is at the heart of this effort. Forming authentic relationships is also very important, as are communication patterns. He stated that he will insist that narrative comments in ITS be made public to university administrators, as a way to monitor racist comments and actions by faculty.
The annual reports for the Standing Senate Committees for AY2015-16 were presented by the committee chairs or their representatives. Provost Bass emphasized that staggered appointments to these committees may be helpful for continuity.
Todd Eisenstadt introduced three budget resolutions:
1.) Given that the annual faculty and staff merit increase (as a percentage of increase in base pay) has averaged only 0.75 percent per year over the last two years, whereas the cost of living during that two-year period is projected at twice that amount, and given that the average annual increases during the prior decade was much higher per year, the Faculty Senate resolves to ask that the University Budget Committee and Board of Trustees to offer a faculty and staff merit increase, in base salaries, during each of the two years of the budget. A motion to vote was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved 20-0-0.
2.) To maintain and improve levels of academic programming and service, the Faculty Senate recognizes the likely need for a tuition increase as part of the FY2017-19 American University budget. A motion was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved with a 16-0-4 vote.
3.) American University’s doctoral stipends are low, compared to our peer institutions and competitors, and have not increased in several years. Given the need to successfully recruit doctoral students to maintain the university’s hard fought status as a research university, the Faculty Senate advocates giving priority consideration to this matter in planning for the AY2017-19 American University budget.
A motion was made and seconded, and the resolution was approved with a 16-0-2 vote.