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Chair's Report regarding Senate Activities for the 2002-2003 Year
This year began rather suddenly for this Senate and this Senate Chair when the State Budget shortfalls were announced in the Spring. The Budget Review Committee had several meetings throughout the summer. The Senate Executive Committee had to fill vacant seats in the Compensation Committee and also appoint faculty members from outside the Senate to substitute for the members of the Compensation Committee who were out of town or otherwise unavailable so that the Senate could enjoy its full representation in the Budget Review process. The outcome of the deliberations of the Budget Review Committee was that the President asked the Senate to confirm that a financial emergency existed, and the Senate concurred. This has had a considerable impact on the University, with consolidations at the department and college levels as well as administrative restructuring. Unfortunately the State Budget is in even worse shape now, and the new Senate will have to deal with further upheavals.
At the end of the 2001-2002 year, the Senate accepted the report of the Faculty Senate Review Committee, and the Governance Committee this year responded to that report by drafting a resolution that implemented the recommendations. The consolidation of departments allowed for a decrease in the size of the Senate with a minimum of disruption, term limits were imposed on Committee Chairs, and certain requirements about communication were enacted. Your Chair has tried to implement these to the best of his ability despite the fact that the administrative changes called for in the Senate reform have not taken place. Nevertheless, the website is reasonably current, with minutes posted shortly after their approval, and bills and resolutions after their approval by the Senate. From time to time, items of current interest, including bills under consideration, were also posted on the website. Your Chair receives many inquiries about Senate activities, Administrative actions, interpretation of Senate documents, and various grievances which have not reached the state of becoming formal grievances. In addition to responding to these individually, whenever there was a pattern to these, a small item of explanation was added to the website, or an announcement was made by email, in the hope that it would forestall misunderstandings or hard feelings. Much remains to be done in improving communications, however. The most pressing item is the inclusion of a searchable database of Senate documents. A streamlined procedure for posting documents and at the same time including them in the database needs to be set up.
The Senate website also has links to the Provost's website for the Faculty Handbook. The version posted was several years out of date, and the Documents Committee has been working with the Provost's staff to update the Faculty Handbook. The changes should be appearing in the website very soon.
The Academic Affairs Committee worked on two versions of the Five-Year Calendar and on revisions to the Academic Honesty Policy. Both Bills were passed by the Senate. In both instances the Committee was very careful to listen to a variety of constituencies, and this is to be commended, particularly in the light of the Senate reforms.
The University prides itself on coping with diversity issues. There are two areas where the University needs to improve its efforts. One is in the touchy subject of a University mascot. Progress is being made on this issue, but it is very slow. In addition, while the University has made strides in dealing with the role of racial minorities on campus, nothing has been done with respect to religious minorities. Your Chair would like to see a policy enacted that recognizes the need of religious minorities to observe their religious holidays and customs, and that establishes a procedure for informing the faculty of how these holidays and customs can be respected. In scheduling Senate meetings, your Chair was very careful to not schedule meetings on religious holidays. In this he was reasonably successful. However one meeting was added after he completed the set and it turned out to be on Ash Wednesday. It is his hope that he will be forgiven for this misstep. Along the same lines, the observance of Good Friday, even under the guise of a "designated holiday", seems anachronistic in a diverse University. It was gratifying to learn that the President is considering substituting Presidents Day as the designated holiday. While this years' Academic Affairs Committee had a rather formidable agenda to deal with, perhaps the next Committee will find the opportunity to deal with these issues.
The Professional Affairs Committee has done an admirable job on the issue of promotion and tenure. After considerable effort in a bill that would have consolidated these two processes, the Committee was instructed by the Senate to keep the processes separate. They have now before the Senate draft bills which should be ready for Senate consideration very soon.
The Membership Committee will have to cope with the changes that have occurred in the Senate because of Senate Reform, and this will have a significant effect on the appointment of Legislative Committees.
The role of the Compensation Committee in the budget process has already been mentioned. The Compensation Committee also addressed the issue of salary compression. The Committee, and particularly its Chair, has taken an active role in pursuing issues pertaining to health insurance. Linda Heitman has interacted not only with University officials but also with State officials and has spent a tremendous amount of time on this subject. The entire University community should be grateful to her for her efforts.
After the Board of Regents approved the Merit Pay Guidelines Bill an ad-hoc committee was formed, pursuant to the provisions in section I. D of the Bill, to recommend salary adjustments for faculty members promoted in the last four years. The committee consisted of the Chair and Chair Elect of the Senate, Senator Heitman, and former Chair Eddleman, representing the Faculty, and the Provost, Pauline Fox, and Mona Hughey, representing the Administration. The committee was headed by Paul Lloyd and made its recommendations on this matter.
A Senate ad-hoc Committee was also appointed recently by the Chair to look at the issue of Criminal Background checks for new faculty hires. This committee consists of Senators Jackson, Althaus, and Naugler and is expected to make its recommendations early in the next Senate year..
Among your Chair's less visible activities in the past year include his attendance and participation in the deliberations of the various Legislative Committees. Since many of these meetings involved concurrent sessions, the task required some discretion on which meetings to attend. Your Chair attended meetings of the Governance Committee when it was considering Senate Reform, of the Academic Affairs for both the Calendar and Academic Honesty issues, the Compensation Committee for the salary adjustment issue and some of the health insurance discussions, and one or two meetings of the Documents Committee. The only committee he did not attend meetings for was the Membership Committee, and that was because he was never notified of its meetings. This is a situation that needs to be rectified. The new Senate should ensure that every Committee Chair notifies all the Committee members as well as ex-officio members of the time and place for its meetings. The Chair, along with the members of the Executive Committee had regular monthly meetings with the Provost to discuss Faculty concerns and upcoming Senate Business. The Chair also attended meetings of the Administrative Council, including an all-day retreat, and was present at most Board of Regents meetings.
Although these appointments were not necessarily directly due to his being Chair, the Chair was selected by the President to represent the Faculty in the Integrated Marketing Committee, and by the Governor to be one of twelve members of the Academic Resource Team, which will represent the interests of the academic community and provide support to the Governor's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The Commission, and the Team recently had their first meeting in Jefferson City.
Finally, the Chair would like acknowledge the work of Paula Cunningham, the Senate Secretary, who was a source of information about past Senate activities and was kind enough to remind the Chair of tasks that needed to be performed. He would also like to thank the President and Provost for their support, and finally Chair-Elect Lloyd for his backing. He would like to extend sincere wishes to Paul Lloyd for a successful and productive year under his leadership.