Faculty Senate discusses Big Red Backpack program, nominates senator to Title IX search committee


At the final Faculty Senate meeting of the semester on Dec. 12, 2019, several actions regarding funding for academics were passed. 

Damon Stone, News reporter

The WKU Faculty Senate met on Thursday, March 24 over Zoom to nominate a senator to the search committee for Title IX coordinator and to talk about the newly announced Big Red Backpack program.

Katarina Burch, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, received the nomination to the Search Committee for Executive Director for the Office of Institutional Equity/Title IX Coordinator. Burch has expertise in field work psychology, hiring, organizational surveys and talent development. Her research involves diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The position of Title IX coordinator is currently filled by General Counsel Andrea Anderson following the departure of Deborah Wilkins in November. The position was posted on WKU’s Glassdoor page on March 24.

The Search Committee for Internal Auditor received a volunteer in film coordinator and assistant professor Sara Thomason. Faculty regent Shane Spiller explained that the position is vital in that it reports to the Board of Regents. 

Provost Bud Fischer took the time to field questions from faculty about the Big Red Backpack program that will begin operation in the fall of 2022.

The program, announced on Monday, will attempt to lower course material costs for both students and faculty. According to the original announcement, students enrolled in the program will receive their course materials “by the first day of class” for a cost of $24 per credit hour. The announcement also stated that there are “no restrictions”  in the course materials faculty can select, and the material adoption deadline is set for April 15.

Margaret Crowder, an at-large senator, read off an email sent to her from a colleague containing questions and concerns about the program, such as cost saving measures and the ability for students to opt in or out.

“[Students] will be sent what the cost of the textbooks are, what their cost is to be in the program, and they will be asked to think about opting in or opting out,” Fischer said. “So they will get that every semester, so they will be able to opt in and opt out by semester by what classes they take, and what [are] the requirements of the classes. They should have that information to make the right choice for them and I hope they’re making the right choice.”

It was approved at the meeting that professors could use their own textbooks if there were no conflicts of interest. 

The WKU Compensation Initiative was presented by Mindy Hutchins, a compensation analyst on campus, showing its phase one program, designed to ultimately move compensation forward for WKU faculty. The objectives of the study were to determine the university’s current position and competitiveness in the relevant markets. 

Since the program was launched in February 2019, new market-defined pay bands or ranges accurately determine competitive compensation levels and decision making, along with the creation of the Pay Administration Guidelines. However, some things that won’t change from this program will be that no one will receive a salary cut, along with no reduction to faculty or staff as a result of this project. 

The goal for the program, according to Hutchins, is transparency, with the goal to ultimately boost professor salaries. 

The Budget and Finance Committee reported from all three units and SGA that they could signal the pending resolution and the fact they had a joint meeting to discuss, with the bottom line being that they were “really close” to drafting a resolution. 

The Colonnade committee made a motion that the results from the meeting from Feb. 1 be approved and posted, which was subsequently approved by the Senate. The Faculty Welfare committee did not have a report for the meeting, but were “all set to drop” their resolution. 

The Graduate Council made a motion to bundle the reports from January and February, and was subsequently passed. The Student Government Association had no report for the meeting. The senate will hold its executive committee meeting on April 4.

News reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected]