FACULTY SENATE CHAIR’S REPORT
Faculty Senate Meeting
May 2, 2007
This has been a productive year for the Senate, with many issues emerging and evolving quickly during this time. The many unexpected developments and of course the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech might overshadow the ongoing work of the Senate and our committees. Nonetheless I want to thank all Senators and other faculty who were involved in a tremendous amount of work on behalf of our colleagues across Grounds and in support of several important student opportunities like the Harrison Research Awards program and the Faculty Senate’s Dissertation Year Fellowship program. You will hear brief presentations from our committee chairs, and written reports have been circulated for your reference. We will send these to you in digital form, and I would encourage you to circulate these to your colleagues in the various departments and schools that you represent.
I am pleased with the progress we have made in asserting the faculty’s constructive voice in key decisions and planning processes for the University. There is more work to be done in this regard, but I believe that we have demonstrated very clearly that the Senate can and does play a unique role on behalf of faculty across the University. At the beginning of the year, we set out to organize ourselves more effectively, drawing strength from an inclusive effort under Houston Wood’s direction as chair a year and a half ago. This was an effort to define what we saw as key issues. You will recall that Planning and Development and the Faculty Recruitment, Retention, and Welfare Committees were identified as central goals for this year and beyond. With the latter committee, Jennifer Harvey has done amazing work along with her colleagues in beginning to understand faculty priorities among the many issues that can contribute to a more responsive institutional setting and a more competitive environment. Faculty, the administration and the Board of Visitors all share a strong interest in attracting and retaining the best, brightest and most diverse faculty for the future of this institution.
The emphasis on Planning and Development, going back several years now in the Senate, has proven to be prophetic. As a result of the work of Senators and other faculty involved with Planning & Development, we were extremely well positioned to assert an institution-wide faculty view about our vision and priorities for the capital campaign and to begin integrating faculty priorities into the work of the Commission on the Future of the University.
Members of the senate were involved in the selection of the new provost – including myself, Ed Kitch, Erika James, and two former Senate Chairs - David Gies and Rob Grainger. All of us were members on the faculty advisory committee. This is an example of the way in which members of the senate can work with the administration to address important decisions. The advisory committee had a limited role - to advise the President on views about the candidates. We were specifically asked not to rank the candidates or to reach any group conclusion about them. Nonetheless we are pleased that President Casteen has made a decision and chosen Tim Garson as the new Provost. We wish him well with his new responsibilities, and we look forward to close collaboration in the years to come.
We have certainly benefited from an excellent relationship with Gene Block during his term as Provost, and we look forward to a similarly strong working relationship with Tim Garson. Both of these gentlemen are inclusive leaders who understand that initiatives and new opportunities benefit from transparent deliberation among faculty early and often as ideas evolve. We are clearly in a period of dramatic change, and faculty need to help define the substance of that change, to explore its full potential, and to tease out the full consequences of change, both intended and unintended.
The Senate has also witnessed extensive interaction with John Casteen over the past year, primarily through the Executive Council. For example, when there were concerns about Ed Ayers’ departure and how the search process would proceed, John met with the five Arts & Sciences members of the Executive Council as well as with many faculty groups within the College. He listened to our counsel, and from what I understand that search committee has proceeded very well under the leadership of Jim Childress. John will describe the provost search process in which a faculty committee served in a confidential advisory capacity, with strong faculty representation across diverse disciplines of the University. And the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, having evolved initially out of discussions among a small group of faculty, the administration and the donor, has now entered a phase of broad faculty and decanal involvement that is largely the result of recommendations we made about a process of more extensive consideration. Gene Block will talk about the Steering and Implementation Committee for this new school. This group will follow a process of inclusive consultation, exploring how the new school and its programs should evolve.
One added element that I should mention before I conclude my remarks involves the issue of faculty representation on the Board of Visitors. The Faculty Senate continues to believe that the presence of a non-voting faculty member on the BOV would have a positive and enriching impact on the deliberations within the governing body of this institution. With the leadership transition that we have seen this year, and with the changes at the very top of the University over the next several years, it has become even more clear to us that faculty perspectives need to be involved in key considerations about the future of our institution. We continue to prove our value as the central driving force behind the UVA’s national and international recognition and relevance through our own individual work as scholars, researchers, clinicians, and teachers – and through our collective identity as well. I am encouraged by the interest shown by our Rector and President, and I am pleased to report that Ricardo Padron and I will be meeting with them in two weeks to advance the discussion on how we might move forward with a faculty seat at the BOV table.
Resolution adopted unanimously by the Faculty Senate:
Whereas Gene D. Block will leave the University of Virginia this summer to assume the position of Chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles;
and Whereas Gene D. Block joined the faculty of the University of Virginia as an Assistant Professor of Biology in 1978 and has served the University since as Professor, Alumni Council Thomas Jefferson Professor of Biology, Vice President for Research and Public Service, and Vice President and Provost;
The Faculty Senate of the University of Virginia hereby expresses deep thanks to Gene Block. As a colleague, leader, scholar, and friend, Gene has given the Senate and the University wise counsel and has shown patience, persistence, and good cheer in the face of challenges and opportunities alike. The Senate and the faculty of the University offer him best wishes for success with the new responsibilities that await him in California.
Adopted by the Faculty Senate of Virginia - May 2, 2007