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Field Observation: Faculty Senate Meeting Lauren Bell Georgia Southern University

FIELD OBSERVATION Overview of Faculty Senate Meeting For the purpose of this assignment and to gain a deeper understanding of the governance of institutions of higher education, I observed the April 18th Faculty Senate meeting at Georgia Southern University. According to the bylaws of the Georgia Southern Faculty Senate, the senate is made up of at least two representatives from each college and the Library and the meetings are presided over by the President of the University (Article II). While this was the case, there were also several administrators and guest speakers at the meeting. The nearly two hour meeting involved discussion on a wide range of topics, and faculty engaged in sharing their opinions on many of these topics. President Keel began the meeting by reporting on the decisions recently announced by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. It was declared that tuition would again increase; with Georgia Southern students in particular receiving a 2.5% increase in tuition this fall. The Board of Regents approved an additional $10 sustainability fee and a $10 million project to build a new health center at GSU. While the project funding still requires approval from the state government before it can officially be allotted to the institution, the administration felt confident it would pass given the alumni connections in the state. It was also announced that the Board of Regents has developed a new funding system that would award Georgias institutions funding based on productivity. This new funding method will be implemented in 2015, but the specific criteria of this funding model were not discussed at the faculty senate meeting. A large block of meeting time was spent discussing the new capital campaign. Salinda Arthur, Vice President of Advancement, explained in great detail the specific components of the campaign. While there was a team of development officers and board members devoted to the

FIELD OBSERVATION campaign full time, Ms. Arthur also explained the role of faculty in the project. Deans of colleges would be expected to take a large part in the fundraising effort. They will be given fundraising goals and will be expected to devote more time to reaching out to alumni of their particular college to encourage gifts and donations. The faculty would be expected to help deans in any way to accomplish these goals, especially in identifying alumni as prospective donors. The faculty expressed concerns that these expectations take away time and attention that deans and faculty felt should be spent on their primary roles in the colleges. They felt this would only further exhaust faculty as they are being given more expectations while receiving lower salaries and less resources. The Quality Enhancement Plan committee announced that they would be hosting several town hall meetings with faculty, staff, and students to better understand the needs and wishes of the institution before creating the QEP for SACS accreditation. They have also created a website for people to submit suggestions to the committee. While the Quality Enhancement Plan must address Student Learning Outcomes, the committee felt it would be most effective to receive input from all sectors of the university to develop the plan. Aside from official business, the faculty senate meeting is also a forum for faculty to express concerns and address issues with administrative policies and decisions. One topic that solicited many opinions was the recent change in the dining hall structure that would now require faculty and any student that did not have a meal plan to purchase an entire meal rather than having a la carte options. This would be much more costly and ultimately would keep faculty and staff from using the dining halls services. Many felt that faculty needs has been ignored in the recreation of Lakeside and Landrum dining halls and that there would no longer be a common area for faculty to socialize on campus. The representatives from dining services and

FIELD OBSERVATION the administration present felt that the new dining hall structures were the best option for students that live on campus and that the other dining options could be utilized by faculty and staff. Another topic that elicited strong response from faculty is the plan for a shooting and archery facility on campus. The faculty brought up safety issues as well as the apparent collaboration with pro-gun political groups. The administration responded that this would not lead to a policy allowing guns on campus and that the main purpose of this facility would be for archery training and the newly forming womens air rifle team. The faculty also brought up the need to increase reading and writing proficiency, but it was decided that the discussion would be tabled for the next meeting. Critical Analysis According to the textbook, the faculty senate is the primary vehicle through which members of the professorate exerciseshared governance and provide[s] a forum for faculty and administrators to deliberate a range of issues associated with academic administration (Melear,2013, p.51). The component of the meeting that most illustrated this definition of a faculty senate was the discussion surrounding Quality Enhancement Plan. The committee overseeing this project clearly encourages shared governance and provided many forums for which differing ideas and opinions could be shared. Shared governance did not seem as evident in some of the other issues addressed, as some policies were being announced rather than discussed. For example, much time was devoted to explaining the new fundraising campaign that would incorporate the efforts of faculty and deans. However, it seems as though the faculty and deans were not consulted in developing these plans. The governance of this project was limited to one sector of administration while many sectors of the university are going to be affected by the decisions made.


Before observing the meeting, I assumed that faculty were only interested in the academic concerns of the institution. However, academics were not really the focus of much of the meeting. While it seemed as though the group had lost sight of its intent, after reviewing the bylaws of GSUs faculty senate, I more clearly understand the purpose of addressing nonacademic concerns in this setting. The bylaws state that the faculty senate is also concerned in the general welfare of the faculty, and other matter which maintain and promote the best interest of the faculty and the university (Article I, Section II). In taking this perspective, I more clearly understand why the faculty were so passionate about dining service options and the presence of a weapons facility on campus. In the case of dining services, the lack of faculty consideration in planning these policies sent a message to faculty members. While the administrators and dining services staff may not view faculty in a negative way, the decisions did show a lack of interest in the facultys needs. Furthermore, the presence of a weapons facility could potentially alter the policies of the institution in the future. Currently, the policy is that weapons are not allowed on campus. This is a policy heavily supported by faculty. This weapons facility could shift the attitudes of stake-holders and lead to a more relaxed policy. This could endanger the safety of faculty, along with students and staff. Furthermore, the collaboration, or even perceived support of, pro-gun groups and Georgia Southern could be a highly politicized event and many faculty would not want to be seen as in accordance with such collaboration. While I certainly understand the reasoning for discussing these nonacademic subjects, I was disappointed that more academically related subjects were not discussed at length. From attending this meeting, it is obvious what a large role finances play in decision making. This was conveyed by the extensive policies created by the University System of

FIELD OBSERVATION Georgia as well as the presentation from the Vice President of Advancement. In both of these cases, faculty are going to be taking on larger responsibilities. While the fundraising campaign outlined specific roles which faculty are to fulfill, the productivity funding would put increased pressure on faculty to ensure student success. I think the faculty are justified in their concerns that they are already exhausted with increasing duties and decreasing resources. The entire system of education is facing budget cuts, but it seems that the consequences facing faculty are resulting in a decreased focus on educating students. I am also concerned that the university may be sacrificing the integrity of the institution in the name of financial growth. In the case of the weapons facility, the justification was that it would bring money through training Olympians and community members, as well as additional grants and donations. While funding is necessary, I dont think endangering the safety of university members or becoming involved in the political implications of these partnerships is worth it. Overall, this observation gave me a greater sense of empathy with faculty. I did not realize how the policies and goals of the university were negatively impacting faculty. It is obvious that the lack of available resources is straining all aspects of the higher education system and the pressure is being felt by all involved. While the faculty senate provided a forum for administrators to discuss and resolve issues, in many ways this was not accomplished. With this observation in mind, I hope that I can incorporate faculty input into the decisions I make as an administrator in the future. Furthermore, it seems as though universities are feeling the most pressure from outside stakeholders rather than the internal stakeholders. Students, faculty, and administrators are taking on the responsibility of the demands of the public and government officials. I would think they would be a bit more understanding and realistic with expectations, and possibly more giving in allocations, if they were more educated in the works and

FIELD OBSERVATION perspectives of the inside stakeholders. While I respect that the public and government have a vested interest in the quality of education that public schools produce, I do not think that these interests should come before the expertise of faculty and administrators.


References Melear, K. (2013). The role of internal governance, committees, and advisory groups. In Schloss,P. & Cragg, K. (Eds.), Organization and administration in higher education(50-65). New York, NY & London: Routledge.

Georgia Southern University. (2000). Bylaws of the Faculty Senate. Retrieved from,0,800.