Faculty Senate plans for Board meeting

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A main concern of the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27 was the upcoming meeting of the Board of Trustees on Saturday, Dec. 15.

“At this point, our mission is to get in the door that Saturday and plead our case to the Board members so we know the Board members have heard us,” Mark Kneufer, president of the Faculty Senate, said.

Since the vote of no confidence against Lawrence Biondi, S.J., president of Saint Louis University on Oct. 30, the Executive Committee has reached out to the Board of Trustees, meeting once with several members confidentially and inviting them to attend the Senate meeting on Nov. 13. According to the Executive Committee, it is likely that another confidential meeting will be held before the actual Board meeting.

Since the last meeting, the Faculty Senate have begun a University Assessment Task Force to be charged with gathering information to compile reports for the Executive Committee to use when meeting with the Board. In addition, a forum is being held to assist chairs and department heads in finding ways to fulfill their obligations in light of the current situation at the University.

Senate also went over the work done so far by the Faculty Manual Task Force (FMTF), a group of faculty members working to evaluate and revise the policies within the manual. When the draft policies proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Manoj Patankar, were released, the Faculty Manual Task Force authored a letter to the Vice President detailing the manual revisions needed to make the proposals viable.

Since the policies have been withdrawn, the Faculty Manual Task Force has been specifically looking at  been specifically looking at section III.H.4 of the manual that deals with the definition of shared governance.

Proposed adjustments to this section include a clear shift from top-down governance, more empowerment of and input from faculty units and changes in the process of making academic decisions that more readily include participation from the groups most affected by such decisions.

Chair of the FMTF, Miriam Joseph, noted that the task force has been looking at the shared governance model of Santa Clara University, an institution that received an award from the American Association of University Professors specifically for their style of shared governance.

“[Santa Clara] is just one example of a possible approach. Just a thought.” Joseph said. “We have a lot of homework to do to see what is out there and see how we will adapt in our situation.”

Any changes to the Faculty Manual must be approved by the Faculty Senate before they become official.

Senators will make decisions based on feedback from their respective schools and departments.

Another concern addressed at the meeting was what the next step would be following the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting. The next official meeting of the Faculty Senate will not be until January 29,2013. Since that meeting is the annual budget meeting and would not leave much time for discussion of other business, a motion was presented to hold an additional meeting on Dec. 18to discuss the next step.

“If we want to pass any motion following the Board meeting before our meeting in February, a December 18 meeting would be a good time to do it,” Steven Harris, a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

Ted Vitali C.P., a member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, agreed that the decisions of the Board would likely dictate the need for timely action.

“I’m not a proponent of meetings, but I don’t want to wait.” Vitali said. “Depending on the decision, we may need to form additional committees.”

Many senators voiced concern about how informed the Board would be going into their meeting about the current situation.

The interactions so far have been mostly between the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, but given the gravity of the issue, it is likely any actions taken by the Board of Trustees will be decided upon by the entirety of the Board.

“We need to communicate to the Board that real and lasting damage could be done to the University depending on their decision, especially with budget planning coming up for next year.” Gregory Beabout, a faculty representative, said.

The Executive Committee encouraged the senate to continue collecting evidence from all aspects of the University in order to ensure that the positions presented in the Board meeting will be a reflection of SLU faculty concerns.

“When the whole Faculty Senate voted no confidence, that was representative of the whole faculty of the whole of Saint Louis University,” Executive Committee member Douglas Williams said.