April 13-19, 2001
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Faculty Senate focuses on grad student funding, ensuring intellectual diversity
Patricia Werhane
Tom Cogill
Patricia H. Werhane is currently chair of the Faculty Senate.

Faculty Senate focuses on grad student funding, ensuring intellectual diversity

By Rebecca Arrington

"Intellectual diversity” has been the theme of the Faculty Senate this year, led by senate chair Patricia H. Werhane. Within this broad theme, much has been accomplished, from forums on the University’s Virginia 2020 initiatives, to work on the online course catalog, surveys and examining graduate student support, one of the senate’s most pressing issues.

Although different schools at the University have their own agendas and priorities, faculty in all disciplines are “very concerned” about the inadequacy of graduate student funding, said Werhane, who sees the senate’s role in this and other matters as “proactive, working with the Board of Visitors and the administration to make improvements. … If we’re to be a [top-notch] research university, we have to have good research grads. Faculty are more concerned about [this issue] than their own salaries,” said Werhane, the Ruffin Professor of Business Ethics at Darden.

She formed an ad-hoc committee, chaired by Aaron Mills of the Environmental Sciences department, to examine levels of financial assistance for graduate students, compared to other schools. “We’re benchmarking where U.Va. is in relation to its peers,” Werhane said. A report will be issued by the end of the semester.

The senate also held forums on each of the University’s four Virginia 2020 initiatives, based on the commissions’ final reports. After reviewing and discussing these reports, the senate issued its own report. “Two things emerged from these forums,” she said. “We noted that diversity wasn’t mentioned in any of the four initiatives, and we wanted to be sure that what U.Va.’s already strong in, it stays strong in,” she said.

Another senate accomplishment under Werhane is the new keyword search feature in the online course catalog, to be available this fall. Faculty advisers say it will be a “god-send,” she said. It will greatly “expand the horizons of our students” by revealing new interdisciplinary connections. “For example, if a student searched for ‘evolution,’ he or she could turn up not only biology courses but other courses containing this term,” she explained.

“The senate also sent letters to the various search committees [now at work to fill key posts at U.Va.] to make sure they’re looking at a diverse group of candidates” to ensure intellectual diversity, Werhane noted.

Some of the efforts begun during her tenure as chair will continue in coming academic years.

In an effort to foster more interdisciplinary exchange between faculty from different departments and schools, the senate will plan a new discussion series, working with the Institute for Practical Ethics, Darden’s Olsson Center for Applied Ethics and the Forum for Contemporary Thought. It will bring together U.Va. scholars in areas such as human biology, sociobiology, biotechnology, medicine and engineering. By sharing knowledge with each other and with the public, new connections can be made, cross-disciplinary ventures may be forged and new courses developed, Werhane said.

The senate will also continue its “endless pursuit of a faculty dining facility,” Werhane said. A survey was completed April 1, and results will go to Vice President for Development Robert Sweeney later this month. Private funding will be needed to achieve this goal, she said, noting that peer institutions, such as Duke, Georgetown and Harvard provide such facilities and supplement the cost. “Currently there’s nowhere on central Grounds for faculty, alumni and guests, including students and prospective employees, to hold luncheon and dinner meetings,” she said.

“We’re also considering forming a committee to study pan-university approaches to academic journals, both online and in print. The exorbitant cost is roughly equal for both,” Werhane said.

The senate is also interested in forming an ad-hoc committee to explore the feasibility of benefits for unmarried partners of faculty and staff members, Werhane said.

The senate’s last meeting of the semester will be April 19 at 3 p.m. in the Garden Room.


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