Faculty should take senate seriously

At times this semester, the Herald’s editorial board has railed against Western’s apathetic student body for largely ignoring Student Government Association forums and elections and remaining virtually silent when budget cuts to higher education were being considered in Frankfort.

In the interest of fairness, it’s time to give the faculty a well-deserved slap on the wrist.

Western’s faculty has a tendency to blow off university senate meetings, thereby wasting the most efficient way for faculty to deal with problems and to make recommendations to the Board of Regents.

The most notable function of the senate is the creation and retooling of curricula and general education requirements and addressing other academic issues.

That’s reason enough for the senate to be taken seriously. Such decisions determine what classes professors will have to teach and what classes students will have to take.

Not only that, but there are likely plenty of concerns within the faculty community that are never adequately addressed, simply because the senate is operating on life support.

Western supposedly harbors a desire for students to get involved, voice their opinions and elicit change. But what example is set by a faculty which has demonstrated a distinct lack of interest in using its primary method for the discussion of university issues?

We realize that faculty members often juggle suffocatingly busy schedules. So the first step in improving senate attendance would be the distribution of regular reminders, perhaps a month, a week and then two days in advance of a meeting. The senate can choose the preferred form for these reminders – campus mail, e-mail or voice mail – and may no longer plead forgetfulness when meetings are missed.

Obviously, it is sometimes impossible to avoid conflicts, and its not reasonable to expect every faculty appointee to attend each monthly meeting. In cases where a senate member is unable to participate, he or she should be required to find a colleague who is able to fill in.

Even if the appointed delegates can’t make it to a meeting, it’s time for the faculty to have enough respect for the senate’s authority that an empty seat would be the exception, not the rule.

The faculty members who consider the senate to be an unnecessary nuisance should think again. Of Western’s decision-making organizations, a fully-functioning senate would be as powerful as any except the Board of Regents.

We’re calling on the faculty to breathe a little life into its weakened senate, an entity that influences decisions affecting many of Western’s employees and students.

Even if the faculty doesn’t seem to care how well the senate functions, there are a lot of people on campus who do.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.