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As we begin the 2013-14 academic year, I wanted to respond to questions that faculty members sometimes raise regarding (1) the purpose of the Faculty Senate, and (2) whether this body accomplishes anything of significance in improving the lives of faculty members and effectively advocating their interests.

In response to the first question, Article II, section I of the Constitution of the Faculty Senate states: 

The purpose of the Faculty Senate is to act as a deliberative assembly in matters of general concern to the University and to serve as an organized voice for the faculty of Texas Woman’s University.  This body shall consider with due regard the requests and needs of faculty and shall represent faculty of all components of the university.  To accomplish these purposes, the Faculty Senate shall serve as a forum for exploration of issues that pertain to the university and address those issues that influence faculty welfare and productivity.  The Faculty Senate shall initiate and participate in the formulation and implementation of policies relating to scholarly pursuits and to academic freedom and responsibilities.  Furthermore, the Faculty Senate shall participate in shared governance of the university with the administrative officers and the Chancellor/President of the University, under the authority of the Board of Regents of Texas Woman's University while adhering to the regulations of the State of Texas and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.   Such policies, to become official, shall require the approval of the Chancellor/President of the University, and the Board of Regents, when appropriate. However, the Faculty Senate does not serve as a complaint hearing or review agency in any grievance procedure or matter (emphasis added).

In response to the second question, the Senate has been active in fulfilling its constitutional duties.   In many cases it has played a constructive role in shaping policies to better serve faculty interests, and advocating for improved faculty benefits and working conditions.  Although the no-confidence vote of the Senate in 2009 was a difficult decision about which reasonable people can differ, it galvanized significant improvements in communication between the faculty and the administration, led to much greater consideration of the faculty’s voice in developing policy, and moved the University closer to the constitutional requirement of shared governance.  Today members of the Faculty Senate participate on the Academic Council and in strategic discussions such as those of the Visioning and Program Prioritization groups, as well as in bodies formed to develop the academic plan and to improve faculty and staff compensation, the student course evaluation process, and evaluation of chairs and other administrators.

Recent developments that have been initiated or advanced by the Faculty Senate include:

·         Adoption of a tobacco-free campus policy;

·         Expansion of faculty development grants and leaves;

·         Approval of a Faculty Excellence Week (which will be October 28th through November 1st, on all campuses);

·         Adoption of an Involuntary Withdrawal Policy to remove violent or disruptive students;

·         Improvement of the Emeritus Faculty Policy;

·         Institution of university community events such as the Staff Appreciation Luncheon and the Festival of Lights; and

·         Adoption of a strategy to improve faculty and staff compensation, which includes drafting a compensation philosophy, developing peer institution compensation benchmarks, and creating a process to redress compensation inequities within components or programs.

 Of course given the large and diverse nature of our faculty, the Senate attempts to reach general consensus on such issues, recognizing that its recommendations will not always be unanimous, and are never self-executing.  Sometimes the administration does not make decisions that reflect the faculty’s wishes, or does not implement improvements as expeditiously as we would like.  Some pending issues about which the Senate will be asked for input are especially contentious ones, such as changes to the core curriculum and annual performance review, or reallocation of limited resources within the university’s programs.  Notwithstanding these challenges, the members of the Senate are working diligently to promote the faculty’s interests, and with your participation and support it can continue to play an important and positive role in improving the University.

If you have questions or suggestions, please share them with me or with your Senator.  Senate meetings are open, so everyone is welcome to attend.

Best wishes for this academic year!

Jeff Robb, Speaker

page last updated 3/11/2014 9:26 AM