New faculty regent prepares to tackle budget, strategic planning

Rebekah Alvey

A new faculty regent was elected last week following two inconclusive elections.

After spending over 25 years at WKU, Claus Ernst, a mathematics professor, was named the new faculty regent on Friday afternoon after the University Senate Executive Committee certified the election results.

Liz Sturgeon, vice chair of the university senate and a nursing professor, said before the initial election, four candidates sent information about themselves and what their goals would be as faculty regent to all the faculty, and then participated in an in-person and online forum.

The first faculty regent election took place on Oct. 13, but was non-certifiable because none of the four candidates received over 51 percent of the votes. The second election took place on Oct. 20 and consisted of the two candidates with the most votes, Ernst and journalism professor Mac McKerral, from the previous election. The results of the second election were thrown out due to “ineligible voting” by part-time faculty members.

Ernst said the election is governed by a Kentucky statute which states that the faculty regent must be a faculty member with a professor status or higher. Ernst said the statute also states voters must be a full-time instructor.

After the second election, Sturgeon said the committee met and decided to not certify the results due to ineligible personnel or part-time faculty voting, in violation of Kentucky Revised Statute 164.321.

Ernst said current faculty regent Barbara Burch will remain in the position and attend the December graduation until he can be inducted at the next Board of Regents meeting on Jan. 27.

Ernst said he will be replacing Burch now through the strategic planning process because it will be a more long-term commitment. He said as faculty regent, he will be a part of a committee and at the end of the planning process, be able to vote with the Board of Regents.

When it comes time to vote on the strategic plan, Ernst said he understands his vote cannot completely sway a board of 11 people, but he said he hopes he can have some influence in the decision-making process. Throughout his time as faculty regent, Ernst said his role is to watch over the interests of academics and to represent the faculty voice.

Sturgeon said the importance of a faculty regent is to express the opinions of the faculty to the Board of Regents.

“Here at WKU, the Faculty Regent participates in Senate Executive Committee meetings and senate meetings in an advisory capacity, to hear and understand the needs of the faculty, and to inform faculty of the work that the Board of Regents is doing,” Sturgeon said.

One of the main challenges Ernst said he hopes to tackle is WKU’s financial issues. He spent the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years as head of the University Senate Budget and Finance Committee, which he said gives him a lot of insight into the current financial situation.

While approaching the issue, Ernst said he thinks it is important to have knowledge on the situation in his position and is necessary to completely understand in order to make a decision.

“Very few faculty members would know more than me about the budget,” Ernst said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].