Faculty Senate recap
The first virtual assemblage saw President Davidson updating on operational impact of the pandemic, Faculty Handbook proposals and student-first support.
April 15, 2020
With 118 attendees in a Microsoft Teams room, the April 8 Faculty Senate meeting felt a little different – but procedurally, it was a welcome return to business as usual, with a renewed sense of gratitude and commitment to students.
“Thank you,” said Faculty Senate President Katia Campbell (communication studies). “Everyone has really risen to the challenges of dealing with remote teaching – I think we can acknowledge the great work we’re all doing.”
Janine Davidson, Ph.D., president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, echoed this appreciation to the group, noting how the notes of thanks she was receiving were unexpected and a credit to the University’s instructors.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been thrilled and amazed how our faculty members have responded to this crisis,” she said. “Everyone’s really stepped up to support our students; it’s truly a proud moment.”
Davidson then provided an overview of some of the projected scenarios, impact and decision-making processes the University faces amid the crisis; she drew on information from the recent President’s Cabinet meeting, which outlined specifically how enrollment patterns affect financial stability.
“(In challenging economic times,) people usually take refuge in higher education – but a lot of folks are spooked right now, and we’re not expecting that in summer and fall,” she said. “What we want to focus on right now is how we can help, wrapping our arms around students and reminding them now is not the time to give up on their goals.”
Davidson also put out the call for an all-hands submission of ideas and analysis to help MSU Denver deal with the impact of COVID-19.
“Now’s the time to take your seat at the table on how to save money and where to invest,” she said. “And our faculty members are our experts in that – when you look across (the University) as an enterprise, what does the future hold? What are the innovative ideas happening? Where do we double down?”
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Bill Henry then led the Senate through a discussion of proposed changes to the Faculty Handbook.
“A lot of the processes currently in place go to the president and provost level for the final decision,” he said. “As President Davidson has said, we want to distribute this out as much as possible; our general approach was to reduce the number of steps and make the decision points lower down the organizational ladder.”
Proposed changes included a look at how portfolios move through the RTP/PTR processes, changing from automatic advancement of all submissions to only those approved; moving the authority for tenure-track reappointments from the president to the college/school-dean level; reassigning promotion-to-full-professor recommendations to the provost instead of the president; and delegation of PTR processes to dean-level positions with an appeal mechanism built in.
This led to robust floor discussion on the benefits and challenges of adopting an “only affirmative” approach to advancing candidates, with Henry noting that about half of institutions of higher education have that model and assuring senators that faculty need only to request that the portfolio advance to the next level for it to do so.
Campbell concluded the meeting with a call to maintain community connection.
“Please, let’s take care of ourselves and others,” she said. “As much as we can, reach out and engage; remember, it’s physical distancing – not social.”
Other items of business included:
- Jessica Weiss (art history) led a second read of the Academic Freedom policy that had been bumped back to the Academic Policy Committee in December and updated to primarily mirror language from discussions on the Intellectual Property policy. The subsequent vote was approved.
- Additionally, Weiss provided a second read of the APC’s work on articulation-agreement policy; major updates included a provost-level designation, clarifying chain of command, incorporating language for a sunset date, and a mechanism for reviewing curricular changes. The subsequent vote passed overwhelmingly.
- Weiss also provided a first read on a transfer memorandum-of-understanding policy, which stated that transfer credits must have full regional accreditation unless an MOU is in place.
- Faculty Senate elections for the 2020-21 academic year will be coming up; though current executive-committee seat holders (president, vice president, secretary) will be running again, all eligible individuals are open to run by contacting Maggie Thulson. The Faculty Trustee position is also open.
- Senate committee reports will be presented April 22 – look for the email with more detailed information.
- Pass-Fail and Withdraw information sessions for all faculty and staff will be held Friday at 11:30 a.m.
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