Senate questions function

Joe Lord

From the phoenix of the old Faculty Senate, a new body arose meant to have a greater say in how Western worked. But three years after revamping the university’s senate, some members are saying the current system isn’t working as promised.

The Faculty Senate and Academic Council merged in fall 2000 to streamline review and approval of academic matters, Provost Barbara Burch said.

Beforehand, the senate focused on faculty issues and the council focused on curriculum.

“It looks just like the old Faculty Senate,” said Faculty Regent Robert Dietle, the senate chairman until last semester. “Supposedly, this new structure was supposed to bring in these people, but it has not done so.”

As part of the merger, administrators are allowed to sit as senate members. Dietle said most administrators on the senate, such as college deans, don’t attend the meetings.

“The faculty are there just like they’ve always been, but the only high level administrator who shows up is the provost,” he said. “It’s very rare for me to look out and see any deans or vice presidents there.”

Potter College Dean David Lee said he doesn’t attend the meetings because he serves on the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center Board of Directors, who meet at the same time.

“That’s fair criticism,” he said.

In the past, Lee said he has sent an assistant dean to the meetings in his place. But that dean, John Hardin, was moved to the provost’s office in October.

“I have a conflict with every meeting,”said Lee, who plans to have someone attend those meetings in his place next semester.

Senate Chairman Doug Smith said the deans’ absence makes it more difficult to reach a quorum.

Burch agreed that deans and other administrators often miss the meetings.

“Frequently, there are lots of things that conflict in the deans’ schedule,” she said. “Perhaps a little reminder to deans to come would be in order.”

But Burch said the merger was also meant to spur interest in university governance among faculty.

That’s not happened either, Burch said.

“It’s very hard to have a strong voice of the faculty if faculty do not get involved,” she said.

Burch said there’s another area that could use tweaking. Colleges and departments should have taken a stronger hand in lesser curriculum matters and allow the senate to tackle the major issues.

“I think the only thing it does differently is that it gets more involved in curriculum matters, and I think there are times when that really slows the process down,” she said.

Burch said the senate could decide at any point to review how it is functioning, but declined to endorse such an action.

“I think it’s up to the senate itself to determine whether it’s satisfied with how it functions,” Burch said.

President Gary Ransdell said he was “a little bit surprised” that some administrators were not regularly participating in senate meetings.

Ransdell said he would be open to discussions of further reforming the senate.

“If it changed once, it can change again,” he said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]