Board of Regents Chair meets with University Senate

Emily DeLetter

Board of Regents Chair Phillip Bale visited the University Senate Thursday to answer questions and clear misconceptions from faculty senators.

Bale has served on the Board of Regents for the last five year and became chair in August 2017, after taking the position from former Chair Frederick Higdon. Bale said he was meeting with the Senate “primarily to listen.”

“I think sometimes there may be some misconceptions about what boards are,” he said. “I’ve been on lots of boards and I’m still trying to figure out what boards do, but certainly in higher education today…it’s the story of human struggle and complexity.”

Bale told the Senate they have to have a sense of teamwork in order to address the complex problems WKU is currently facing. 

Faculty present were able to have a question and answer session with Bale, where he was asked to comment on WKU’s budget model and the merit raise process. Comments regarding faculty’s overall satisfaction with the Board of Regents were also mentioned, which 30 percent of respondents reported in the 2017-2018 Faculty Work/LifeSurvey they “strongly disagreed” that the Board of Regents were making academics a top priority.

Journalism professor Mac McKerral, who previously served as University Senate chair, said this was the first time he could remember a Board of Regents chair coming and speaking to faculty at a Senate meeting.

“One of the concerns that I’ve had through the years that the Board would have had provided a little more scrutiny to some of the things that were happening particularly with regard to spending,” McKerral said. “I’m hopeful the Board looks at Senate business to see resolutions we’ve passed about things that affect finance on campus.”

Carl Dick, an associate professor in the biology department asked if Bale could summarize some of the strengths and challenges he saw in the new budget model. 

Bale said Regent Gillard Johnson is on the budget committee and had a much better grasp of the budget than he. 

“This [budget] process needs some time, some maturity and a whole lot of teamwork to figure it out,” Bale said. “When you look at the demographics today of few students born…and you throw in Kentucky’s pension fund, which is absolutely wreaking havoc on everything, and you throw in the fact that the public does not appreciate as they once did what a higher education degree means…we’re in a battle. These are tough, tough times but Western is in a better position than most in no small way because we have a great faculty.”

After speaking with Bale, the Senate heard an information item from Colonnade Committee Chair Mary Wolinski, who said the committee was working on finalizing aproposal to add a fourth category to the Colonnade Courses. This optional category, if finalized and passed, could give students who study abroad in certain programs the option to transfer one of their study abroad courses as a Connections course.

Wolinski said the Colonnade Committee was planning on presenting a more final proposal to the Senate Executive Committee by January or February 2019.

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.