[A PDF version (76 K) of the original, formatted newsletter can be downloaded by clicking here.]
The Faculty Senate,
During my year as president-elect, a friend of mine was elected chair of his university's senate. His first act, he assured me, would be to move toward disbanding the group--a rather dramatic gesture, I think you might agree. Months later, he has yet to bury the thing after the requisite obsequies, and, instead, is working hard with his university's new president on issues of faculty rights and shared governance. Despite the seeming inconsistency of his acts, I understand his desire to make a radical gesture toward reforming if not the structure of his university's senate then the level of respect and power accorded that group.
One much-voiced perception of our Faculty Senate reveals a comparable disquietude over this Senate's lack of agency and what many see as its essentially reactive nature. It is true that the UTK Faculty Senate serves mostly in an advisory capacity, and it is also true that, in a few instances, its advice has not always been sufficiently deliberated or timely, while, in some other cases, its well-considered counsel has been disregarded. I will also admit that during my five years of involvement with the Senate, some few meetings have recalled to me Bunyan's Slough of Despond. But, I have also experienced the Senate at its best.
In the last year, for instance, the Senate, under the leadership of Mark Miller, was remarkable for the efficiency and dedication with which it addressed issues of utmost importance. The Senate was primarily reactive, but it was so powerfully in its meticulous review of the new tenure policy mandated by the Board of Trustees. At the same time, its many committees continued to address their own charges. The Senate attempted to establish in more telling detail the case for increased funding. It maintained control of the curriculum through its careful scrutiny of every proposal forwarded by the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils. It monitored the academic integrity of the athletic programs. It argued for enhanced faculty and staff benefits, greater resources for international education, critical attention to the classroom needs of students, and I could go on. It engaged, then, on multiple levels with the administration as it sought to play a central role--at times oppositional--in the shared governance of this university.
The agenda of this year's Senate is, as always, in part inherited from those of the Senates before it. We will need to review both the CTEP evaluations and the process by which administrators are evaluated. We need to begin building a constructive relationship with the new president of the system. We need to monitor the implementation of the new post-tenure policy. We must renew our efforts to make absolutely clear to the Tennessee legislative bodies the need for increased funding. We must formulate procedures for the granting of honorary degrees. And we must review once more the structure and procedures of the Senate, fine-tuning the framework and making use of what we have in the present moment, thus continuing a process of revitalization that has been ongoing since the first bylaws were presented for adoption in 1971.
This newsletter is an attempt to inform all faculty about and to invite participation in this year's Senate business. At lunch the other day, a colleague recalled that Dante reserved a place just inside the gates of hell for those who choose no sides, those who earn neither blame nor praise, for they do nothing. I most strongly urge all faculty members to voice their concerns, opinions, and suggestions to their senators and to the Senate committee chairs. Help in this way to make this Senate proactive rather than solely reactive, a collective body that will speak with force and conviction for the faculty.
Senate Web Site
In July the Faculty Senate Web site moved to its new address, http://web.utk.edu/~senate/default.html.
The purpose of the site is to provide convenient access to information about the Senate--its members, officers, committees, reports, and calendar--and about related organizations and documents.
The site now has contact information, the Bylaws of the Senate, links to Web sites of the Board of Trustees, the state legislature, AAUP, and other organizations, and links to documents such as the current draft of the Five-Year Plan for the UTK campus and the new UT policies concerning tenure and faculty evaluation. One important feature of the site is an Archives page with links to minutes of the Senate and the Senate's Executive Committee for the past decade, and to the committee reports and Senate resolutions from the 1998-99 academic year.
As the site is developed, it will include the minutes, committee reports, and newsletters for the current academic year, Senate and Executive Committee minutes since the formation of the current Senate in 1972-73, and a search engine which will locate content in any of the documents residing at the site. Once the search engine is in place, it should be possible to discover quickly what the Senate's position has been in the past 30 years on tenure and academic freedom, faculty participation in the selection of campus and system administrators, student evaluation of teaching, the relationship of academics and athletics, and other recurring issues.
A listserv for Senators and committee members will be used to announce meetings and promote conversation about Senate issues. All Senators and committee members should join by going to http://listserv.utk.edu/archives/senate.html and selecting the third option, "Join or leave the list." Enter your e-mail address and name and click the "Join the list" button.
You should receive within 24 hours a notice that you have been subscribed, and thereafter you will receive all messages posted to the list.
Coming in November
Governance, from the viewpoint of ...
The Faculty, by Mark Miller
Immediate Past President, Faculty Senate
The Administration, by Robert Levy
Associate Senior Vice President, UT
The Governing Board, by Roger Dickson
Member, UT Board of Trustees