University Senate: Sutton calls for better study abroad insurance

Mike Stunson

Rick Sutton, Director of International Programs, addressed liability insurance for faculty on study abroad trips at Thursday’s University Senate meeting.

Sutton, who has held his position since July, said the current liability policy — one he’s “not entirely happy with” — was renewed in December without his approval. In the future, Sutton said he hopes the plan is more comprehensive than what’s in place now.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been involved in these debates about study abroad and liability for 25 years,” Sutton said. “Any type of engagement is going to involve some sort of increased risk.”

The current policy covers faculty who lead study abroad sessions for students, but not for those who travel for research.

Faculty Regent Patricia Minter was on the subcommittee that first brought up this issue in 2005. Minter, who went on a study abroad trip with the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad, said WKU was pushing study abroad but not giving adequate protection for faculty on the trips.

She agreed with Sutton in suggesting the study abroad office should not have to pay for insurance.

“As faculty regent, I can’t argue with that,” Minter said. “There are plenty of other people who could pick up the tab.”

Also at Thursday’s meeting:

-The only new business was a bill to approve the University Distinguished Professorship program.

According to the policy and procedure document, the program is “designed to recognize faculty members who have served the University with distinction and have complied an outstanding record of achievement in teaching, research and service.”

University Distinguished Professors will receive a total annual award package of $5,000 for five years, according to the policy.

-Minter spoke to the senate briefly about a “pretty slim” Board of Regents agenda for Friday’s meeting before pointing out that the agenda was the first to include justifications for raises or more than $5,000.

“This was the first step in creating a more open culture on this campus,” Minter said.

Minter then encouraged the faculty to continue putting academics first in

“When some of you say that faculty doesn’t matter, believe me, I get that,” she said. “But … I ask you to one more time, give input when asked to either accept, reject or reshape anything come before us.”