More than a title: UI Faculty Senate decisions affect entire campus community
Despite its title, the University of Idaho Faculty Senate represents more than just faculty interests as it governs the university.
“It’s really much more of a university senate, in that all of the different campus constituencies have voices and votes,” said Kenton Bird, UI Faculty Senate chair.
The UI Faculty Senate is comprised of 21 faculty senators, two undergraduate students, one graduate student and two staff representatives. UI Provost Doug Baker actively participates in meetings as well, and Bird said the provost’s report serves as one of the main forms of communication between the administration and faculty.
“Sometimes it’s fairly routine announcements, sometimes it’s a preview of something major that’s coming up that the faculty needs to be aware of,” Bird said. “I found that when I first got on the senate, I was learning a lot about how the university functions through that report.”
Bird said the senate’s work can be divided into three areas.
The first is the work done by more than 30 senate committees that deal with various aspects of UI including governance, student affairs, policies and student life.
Bird said this year there are a couple of new committees the Faculty Senate is excited about.
“One is called Ubuntu, which is a Swahili word that means community,” he said. “This is the group that is working on both diversity issues, but also campus culture and climate — sort of what it means to be part of the University of Idaho community and how we can better understand each other and get along.”
Other committees include the university curriculum, general education, student financial aid, the admissions committee and more.
The majority of the senate’s work in the fall is done at the committee level, Bird said.
“All of these committees are churning away probably starting next week on issues that they’re interested in and then if they want to recommend a change in policy then they’ll come to the senate,” he said.
The second work area of the senate entails inviting university administrators to report on their activities and answer members’ questions.
“This serves a couple of functions,” Bird said. “One is it enables the faculty through their senators to hold the administration accountable … the other piece is the information function — to tell us what’s going on … so we can then report back to the faculty.”
Next week, the Faculty Senate will hear from Dan Ewart, the new director of Information Technology Services (ITS).
“He’s going to talk to us about some of the changes coming in computing technology and networking, and he’s got a lot of ideas about video conferencing — something that is increasingly important for distance education,” Bird said.
In future weeks, Bird said the senate hopes to hear from UI Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Steve Neiheisel about enrollment numbers, UI Athletic Director Rob Spear about conference affiliation and UI Admissions Director Cezar Mesquita.
The third major area the senate deals with is policy review and approval.
For example, Bird said Donald Burnett, dean of the College of Law, will present next week about the proposed second year law program in Boise.
Bird said later in the semester, the senate will deal with policy issues regarding new, expanded or discontinued programs to the university.
“So if I wanted to offer a master’s in corporate communication in Boise, I couldn’t do that on my own,” he said. “We’d have to go through the curriculum committee through the Senate and show that we have enough money and also that there’s enough demand for the program.”
The senate will also see reports from the university curriculum committee later in the semester.
“Usually those come to the Senate just as a report, but sometimes they’re controversial, like the decision to change the core discovery courses,” Bird said.
All Faculty Senate actions must be ratified by the university faculty as a whole.
“It’s almost like two houses in the legislature,” Bird said.
The first Faculty Senate meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Brink Hall faculty lounge. All meetings are open to the public.
For more information about the Faculty Senate, its members, agendas, committees, policies, meeting minutes and more visit http://www.webs.uidaho.edu/facultycouncil.
Britt Kiser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org