University Senate votes to end term limits for senators

Kirk Atkinson, chair of WKU’s University Senate, speaks during a meeting on Jan. 17. The University Senate voted to change its name to the Faculty Senate on May 9.

Nicole Ziege

WKU’s University Senate voted to eliminate term limits for its senators, officially change the senate’s name to “Faculty Senate,” and support changes to WKU’s academic renewal policy on Thursday.

In a 29-8 vote, the senate approved eliminating term limit requirements for faculty senators, including the requirement that senators must step down for one year after serving for two consecutive terms.

Journalism professor Mac McKerral proposed the changes, arguing that not allowing senators to serve for more than two consecutive terms “drained institutional memory.” Though he said he was being “term-limited” out of his current senator position, McKerral said the change would not affect him leaving his position.

McKerral said keeping senators for more than two consecutive terms at a time allows the senators to provide their expertise on the senate.

“Term limits are not fair,” McKerral said. “They take away the option for voters to choose who they want to represent them. The formulas for term limits vary widely, which leads me to believe that there is no magic number of years for how long a person can serve.”

There was debate on the proposal. Jim Lindsey, information systems instructor, spoke in favor of keeping term limits.

“I think term limits are good,” Lindsey said. “We need new blood in here, as well as in any other legislative body.”

Dan Clark, University Senate vice chair, said he also supported the term limits because it “allowed new people to get involved in the senate.”

McKerral argued eliminating the term limit requirements did not keep “new blood” from entering the senate. He said if a faculty senator wants to run for senate, that faculty member can still run for the position, and that person’s department can vote on whether to vote them in or out.

The removal of term limits will go into effect next academic year.

McKerral also proposed changing the senate’s name to the Faculty Senate, which passed as well. He said the senate was originally named the Faculty Senate before about 2000, and the name was changed under former Provost Barbara Burch without a vote.

“We are routinely called the ‘faculty senate,’” McKerral said. “We ought to be called the Faculty Senate. We need to maintain our independence from other governing bodies on this campus.”

The name change will also be implemented at the start of the next academic year.

The senate also voted to revise the university’s academic renewal policy. In its revisions, the policy now states students could “void a semester of coursework or all previous coursework, if the work has not been used for a previous degree earned at WKU or at any other institution.”

To qualify for academic renewal under the senate’s suggested revisions, students would need to be admitted to WKU and enrolled, or previously enrolled, in courses at WKU. Qualified students would need have at least 60 earned credit hours, or they would need to have not attended any other college or university for at least two previous years, among other changes.

Heather Strode, associate professor of communications, presented the policy revisions to the senate, along with Rheanna Plemons, WKU’s interim registrar.

“We felt that there were a lot of gray areas in the policy, and we wanted to simplify it,” Strode said. She said concerns of “gray areas” in the policy were being brought to their attention from both advisers and students.

Plemons said there was nothing in the existing policy that said students had to be admitted before qualifying for academic renewal.

“Right now, we have issues with students who don’t think it’s final, like they can change their mind or they appeal for academic renewal because they want to get into the nursing program to boost their GPA and wipe their previous coursework,” Plemons said. “So, we’re trying to get a handle on that.”

The revisions to the policy were voted on and approved with a majority. The revisions still need to be approved by WKU’s administration to be put into effect.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.