Faculty Senate News
Dan Rogers, Faculty Senate Chair
According to the results of the 1998-99 Faculty Senate survey of the USA faculty, the average faculty member has served at USA for 11.6 years. That's certainly long enough to know that a lot can happen here during the summer. To keep fully abreast of all issues important to the academic mission of the University even when many 9-month faculty members are away, the Senate schedules two summer meetings (June and July). The Senate's Executive Committee also meets twice with the USA Administration, about a week before each Senate meeting.
The Executive Committee's meetings with the Administration provide both the Senate leadership and the Administration an opportunity for open and frank dialogue. I think our faculty should be proud that they serve at a university where such a regular and free exchange is possible. On the Senate side, the meetings are attended by its officers (Chair, Dan Rogers; Vice-Chair, Sally Murray; and Secretary, Bob Bracken) and the chairs of its standing committees (Richmond Brown, Policy & Faculty Handbook; Paul Dagenais, Planning & Development; Mary Townsley, Salary & Fringe Benefits; Richard Wesenberg, Evaluation). The University Administration is represented by President Gordon Moulton, Vice President for Academic Affairs Pat Covey, Vice-President for Financial Affairs Wayne Davis, and Academic Assistant to the President Robert Shearer.
From these meetings, I have become fully convinced that both Faculty Senators and Administration are working diligently for the good of the University. Inevitably, however, the sheer amount of time that faculty and administrators spend daily on widely diverging kinds of activities creates disparate perspectives. I believe it is crucial that both Senate and Administration bring those perspectives forcefully to the table, that we respect the gains to be had from listening to (not just hearing) everyone there, and that we keep struggling to be sure that our outlooks have been given due weight. No one benefits when information or strong viewpoints are bottled up.
News from the June Executive Committee-Administration Meeting
At this summer's first meeting between Executive Committee and Administration, the Executive Committee asked for an update on the state of the legal proceedings involving the USA Foundation. We were informed that a tentative trial date had been set for March 2001, and that such preliminary matters as depositions were underway. Since the Senate unanimously passed a resolution last summer supporting greater University oversight of the Foundation, the Senate has a keen interest in following the legal proceedings and reporting major developments to the faculty.
At June's meeting with the Administration, we also continued an exchange of views begun in the 1999-2000 academic year concerning the role of USA's faculty in campus governance. Line-by-line, Mr. Moulton went through the summary of last year's Senate report on campus governance with the Executive Committee. He later sent the Senate a memo reiterating the role of the Senate in selecting faculty members for University-wide committees and pledging his support for increasing the role of the Senate chair at meetings of the Board of Trustees and its subcommittees. Other items from the report on campus governance remain under discussion, and we will keep you posted. You may also read further on the Governance Update Page.
News from the June Senate Meeting
At its June 21 meeting, the Faculty Senate approved the formation of two ad hoc committees. A Recruitment & Retention Committee, chaired by Professor Joseph Mozur (A&S/Foreign Languages) will read through the already extensive work done by University-wide committees on recruitment and retention. The Senate committee will then advise the Senate on how the Senate and the faculty as a whole might aid USA's efforts to attract and keep students. Joe has a keen personal insight into such questions, since his oldest child begins as a freshman at USA this fall.
The second ad hoc committee, on the University budget, will be chaired by John Strange (Education/Behavioral Studies & Educational Technology). John is a Senate veteran, former Senate officer, and no stranger to the USA Administration. His committee's charge is to educate the Senate and the faculty on the process by which the University drafts its budget, and to report on recent and projected major changes in revenues and expenditures.
President Moulton attended the June Senate meeting and announced that the Administration would be issuing a vacation policy for faculty in the Library, College of Allied Health Professions, College of Medicine, and College of Nursing. This policy is the result of years of toil led by two former senators, Skip Foster and Susan LeDoux, both former chairs of the Senate's Salary & Fringe Benefits Committee. The resolution they guided through the Senate (in consultation with the Administration and the colleges involved) will rationalize and standardize faculty vacation policy in divisions where the 12-month contract is the norm. You may read the Senate's resolution on-line, but as of this date, the official University policy has yet to appear:
Other Initiatives and News
The Senate continues to upgrade its web page. I hope to help make the Senate's web space an easily accessible gateway to the faculty's institutional memory. I am convinced that without a strong collective memory, the faculty will be less sure of itself than it must be if it is to remain a strong guardian of the University's academic interests.
The Senate's home page can be found at
With the aid of our vice-chair, Sally Murray, and faculty senator Kathy Wheeler (Library), the first steps have already been taken. We have redesigned the home page, with a column to keep you up-to-date on "Hot Issues" currently under discussion by the Senate. We have also been collecting and formatting Senate minutes for the Web. Eventually, each month's minutes will have a table of contents to enable easy access to the records of discussions and debates of Senates past.
The Senate's web page also contains news of our activities and links to helpful sites such as the on-line version of the Faculty Handbook. One current issue of wide interest is the final approval of modifications to the Faculty Service and Development Awards. You are urged to look at the proposed changes under "Hot Issues" on the Senate web page and let the Senate know if you have suggestions or reservations.
We are working closely this year with Academic Computing to develop a secure, reliable, fast, and easy means of polling the faculty via the Web and conducting Senate elections on-line. We hope to have this system in place during the 2000-2001 academic year.
The Senate will continue to monitor all developments regarding the possibility of starting NCAA football at USA. We know that nothing has the potential to divert more funds from already starved academic coffers than a hasty drive to start an expensive sport without ironclad guarantees of new revenues to support it. I urge all faculty members to read the work of the Senate's ad hoc committee on football, chaired by Richmond Brown, and to let your division's senators know your views.
Vice-President Covey informed the Senate in June that USA's deans had all agreed to begin regular meetings with the faculty senators from their colleges. The Senate and the Administration had been exploring possibilities for involving non-administrative faculty more frequently in policy development at the college/school level, and we welcome this step toward greater faculty involvement. I have frequently heard administrators bemoan many faculty members' seemingly innate suspicion of administrators. I believe there are complicated reasons for such tendencies, none of them unique to USA. But such college-level meetings will go a long way toward alleviating any suspicions by broadening everybody's perspectives.
Finally, the Senate Executive Committee is discussing the possibility of a retreat at Brookley in September with USA's central academic administrators and deans. It is my hope that this retreat will serve to re-focus the Senate squarely on its prime mission: the long-term academic welfare of the University. We want to represent the faculty well and faithfully in all sorts of issues, but I believe if the Senate does not devote a substantial part of its energy to refining our common understanding of what we're all here to do with our teaching, research, and service, it loses much of the potential its founders vested in it.
Each faculty senator has an e-mail address, and you are invited to discuss your views and concerns with any or all of us. See the Senate roster for e-mail addresses.
If you are unsure where to direct your mail, I will be happy to help you. Just reply directly to this message, or write me at
Until next month....
University of South Alabama -
Faculty Senate - Mobile, AL 36688-0002