University Senate discusses Bevin’s comments, faculty handbook

Rebekah Alvey

The University Senate discussed comments Gov. Matt Bevin made last week about liberal arts education during its Sept. 21 meeting.

Faculty regent Barbara Burch said she attended the education conference Bevin spoke at and drew different conclusions about the comments which received criticism for encouraging cuts to liberal arts programs. She said from Bevin’s comments she took away that he is focusing on building a strong workforce and economy in the state.

At the core of that focus is engineering and manufacturing technology, Burch said. After doing research, Burch said she found that Kentucky is the largest provider of aerospace materials in the country.

Provost David Lee said after hearing the comments made about “interpretive dance,” which he said is not a major offered in the state to his knowledge, he recalled information he found a few years ago about dance majors at WKU.

Lee said he found many dance majors had also minored in entrepreneurial studies with the intention of starting their own dance studios. Like other majors, Lee said by starting these local businesses dance majors can contribute to the quality of life in their community, create jobs and generate revenue.

“Maybe we aren’t doing much with interpretive dance,” Lee said. “But we’re doing a lot with dance and dance is doing a lot of things with communities all across this commonwealth.”

Burch said Bevin placed emphasis on campuses being more attentive towards helping students understand the choices they make in their degree programs and how it will lead them to a job.

Ultimately, Burch said she felt this responsibility rests on the faculty, how they set forth curriculum, how they advise students and structure campus

“So you don’t have to make a choice that only points you in one direction,” Burch said. “That still lets you have choices but still know you’re going to get a job.”

Burch reminded the senate that most students have a primary goal to get a better paying job when they go to college. She said it is the job of faculty to still instill a well-rounded liberal arts education in the context of a student’s career path.

“If you think faculty voice doesn’t matter, you’re wrong,” Burch said.

The senate also approved a change in the Faculty Handbook regarding language used for tenure guidelines. According to the report, the word “tenure track” will be changed to “tenure eligible.”

Faculty will also be reviewed for tenure under the standards set in place upon hire, according to the report. Kate Hudepohl, professor of Folk Studies and Anthropology, spoke on behalf of the Faculty Handbook committee and said the change was made because of a faculty complaint from last year that the guidelines for tenure were a “moving target.”

Hudepohl said the change is more fair to faculty and holds them to a set standard. She also said the changes were originally approved last year by the senate, however, the appropriate changes were not made throughout the handbook.

Before the changes were approved, Gordon Baylis, a professor of Psychological Sciences, argued it was a “substantive change,” and recommended an addition to the faculty handbook regarding tenure rather than the proposed changes.

Lee responded to the debate and said he hoped the senate would approve the changes because if not, there would be discrepancies.

The changes were approved unanimously by the senate.

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