Emslie, Baylis will host more academic forums

Taylor Harrison

A follow-up academic forum on Friday held in response to a March 25 presentation by Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Gordon Baylis, vice president for Research, featured discussion in an informal environment.

The conclusion: It’s going to take more faculty forums for WKU’s academic future to take shape.

“I just thought it was a great idea — a great opportunity to come over and ask the questions,” psychology professor Sharon Mutter said.

The forum ended with a plan to have one each semester toward the end of the semester, most likely on Friday afternoons.

Questions asked on Friday varied from research grants and funding to retention rates and tuition.

Baylis and Emslie stood at the front of the auditorium, taking questions from the large crowd that was assembled. Faculty members were invited to step up to the microphones set up on both sides of the room.

Addressing the question of intentions for the future of the library, Emslie said he has met with the library staff, and that the library of 2010 — or even 2015 — is not the same as it was five years ago.

Emslie said there are three aspects to a library: academics, information distribution and the museum aspect.

He also said he will prepare recommendations for what the library should look like a year from now.

One faculty member asked if recent incentives offered for research in Potter College will apply for professors in Ogden College as well.

Baylis answered yes, saying there shouldn’t be barriers between different colleges.

“College boundaries are conveniences,” he said. “They should not be anything more than that.”

When discussing the workload on faculty members, Baylis said teachers shouldn’t have an increased workload when they get funding for a project. The idea is they would be getting funding for work they are already doing.

Emslie said that offering faculty 40 percent funding for research could decrease the quality of teaching in the classroom, which is not the desired effect.

Baylis said the only way for them to get more money for funding would be to find new resources to provide it.

Another topic brought up during the forum was retention rates.

The university is losing students at a rate of 25-30 percent from their freshman to sophomore years. Emslie said that rate is “typical, but not where I want to be.”

Part of the plan to increase retention rates is to identify “at-risk” students who are not likely to return for their second year. Officials have about 100 variables to identify those types of students.    

However, Baylis also said “there will be those who succeed whatever we do and those who will fail whatever we do.”

During the meeting, Baylis said dialogue and an open discussion work well.

Mutter acknowledged a changing academic landscape at WKU.

“This is a really exciting time for the university,” she said. “As faculty, we sort of have a responsibility to come and ask questions and see the direction and maybe have an input into that direction.”