University Senate offers updates on Confucius Institute, compensation issues

The senate’s October meeting updated attendees on the ongoing discussion between senate members and the Board of Regents Finance Committee and a memo from President Gary Ransdell about the Confucius Institute.

Chairwoman of the senate Kate Hudepohl, Vice Chairwoman Julie Shadoan and Chairman of Staff Council Josh Marble met with Gillard Johnson, chairman of the Board of Regents Finance Committee, on Aug. 28.

At this meeting, Hudepohl and others were made aware of the board’s interest in discussing faculty and staff compensation.

Hudepohl said she has compiled faculty responses regarding compensation concerns and sent those comments to Johnson and the committee. 

“I very much appreciate the Board of Regents’ ongoing interest in this issue, and I’m glad that we’re having a conversation,” she said. 

After sending the data, she said Johnson subsequently emailed her to let her know he was planning to attend the WKU Budget Council meeting on Oct. 22. 

During her report, Hudepohl said she received a letter from Ransdell further addressing matters regarding the Confucius Institute that had surfaced in senate and Student Government Association meetings. 

In the letter, Ransdell talks these and other subjects: the maintenance costs of the forthcoming Confucius Institute building, the use of the building and how the Board of Regents responded to the senate resolution asking them to re-examine the contract. 

The letter, dated Oct. 1, said Ransdell met with the Confucius Institute staff last week and learned new information after the staff communicated with Hanban’s staff in Beijing.  

“Madame Xu Lin [director general of Hanban] has expressed pleasure in how this matter has been discussed and handled on our campus,” Ransdell said in the letter to Hudepohl. “The primary reason for our meeting will be to discuss ways in which we can expand our Confucius Institute — particularly the number of teachers teaching Chinese language in area schools.” 

Ransdell also said Xu Lin assured WKU’s Confucius Institute staff that Hanban will cover all the building’s maintenance and operating costs, including utilities, after it opens.  

Faculty Regent Barbara Burch said the changes showed how the faculty’s voice was heard. 

“Your voice was heard,” Burch said. “I am convinced [that] had it not been a response from the faculty, I don’t think those changes would’ve happened.” 

Hudepohl also included Ransdell’s response to a resolution passed by SGA last spring to adopt a nonsectarian prayer policy that aligned with the Public Prayer Policy the senate approved in March.  Ransdell’s response was sent on May 29. In the response, Ransdell said the Administrative Council took action to accommodate the essence of the request. 

During his report, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Lee said the search committee for a dean of the Potter College is making progress, and an advertisement will be sent out soon. Lee said there aren’t any exact deadlines yet, but he expects nominations and applications to be in by Dec. 1. 

SGA President Jay Todd Richey said SGA is looking into the funds the Student Legal Services Clinic receives. 

“It’s in a strange state of limbo,” Richey said. “The students are unaware of the services offered, and it’s not under any office besides, I believe, the President’s Office.”

Richey said he plans to discuss this issue further with Shadoan and President Ransdell. 

Richey also mentioned there is a possibility Robert King, the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, could come to WKU to speak about higher education funding. 

During a September meeting, the Academic Quality Committee discussed whether or not it should reconsider the topic of instructor and course evaluations, or SITEs. 

The senate approved a motion for the Senate Executive Committee to discuss SITEs at the committee’s next meeting and a possible request for the Academic Quality Committee to review SITEs for revision      

The next senate meeting is Nov. 19.