Faculty Senate OKs position statement on Charter
By Marcia Childress
The Faculty Senate’s position statement is the result of deliberations by the Senate-appointed ad hoc Faculty Committee on the Commonwealth Chartered Universities Initiative. As faculty, we felt it our responsibility to give careful attention to the idea of Charter and its implications for U.Va. as a leading public institution of higher education. English professor and senator Alison Booth and history professor Herbert “Tico” Braun served as the committee’s co-convenors. Committee members, half of them from the Senate and half not, represented a range of views on the charter issue.
The committee’s unanimous statement was adopted by the Faculty Senate Executive Council, acting on behalf of the Senate, on Jan. 11.
Recognizing that the Charter legislation has yet to be drafted and that the General Assembly may well grant the University greater autonomy, the faculty looks beyond the charter proposal itself to the process by which U.Va. will assume more control of its own affairs. Our statement, presented here, voices the faculty’s commitment to the university’s academic mission while calling attention to four areas of concern to be addressed as the University renegotiates its relationship with the commonwealth and realigns its internal operations.
Statement of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate
on the Commonwealth Chartered Universities Proposal
The Charter Initiative marks a turning point for the University of Virginia. We value and support the administration’s efforts to create a new model for a premier public university. As faculty we have a responsibility to help guide the future of this academic institution. Dialogue between the faculty and administration during the legislative review in early 2005 and beyond should help us anticipate some of the consequences of the proposed legislative redefinition of the University’s status and powers. To that end, we focus on four primary areas of concern calling for our joint deliberation and action.
Commitment to Public Higher Education
We understand that the proposed charter status would grant the University of Virginia greater autonomy in setting tuition and in managing personnel, procurement and capital projects. As members of the faculty, we agree that “higher education’s academic mission is a public good” that benefits “all Virginians” (Virginia Senate Finance Committee report). Sharing the administration’s commitment to academic excellence and public service, we also recognize that the needs of public higher education are not identical to those of the private sector. The financial advantages of charter status must serve U.Va.’s continuing progress as a premier institution of public higher education.
Economic Diversity and Quality of the Student Body
We are pleased to note that higher in-state and out-of-state tuition will be accompanied by a recommitment to financial aid, to initiatives that support K-12 education and to mentoring and recruiting rural, minority and first-generation college students. Tuition rates and financial aid should be such that U.Va. can still attract talented undergraduates who might otherwise go to top private institutions or who might not apply to U.Va. because of the “sticker shock” effect. Just as important, a first-class research institution requires nationally competitive graduate funding that offsets tuition increases.
Employment Conditions and Quality of the Staff
The faculty and the academic community would likely benefit from the loosening of state personnel regulations. However, we are concerned lest there be two tiers of staff, those already employed and those hired post-charter. We are also concerned lest the terms of employment for some staff fall below those of state classified employees. These outcomes could diminish our ability to recruit and to retain the best people, whose support is vital to the University’s programs and services.
The potential reconstitution of the relations among the University of Virginia, other educational institutions and the commonwealth calls for the reexamination of University governance and of internal channels of communication. The faculty looks forward to open communication and active participation in matters that affect the public academic mission of the University, whether through the Faculty Senate and General Faculty Council, representation on the Board of Visitors, or other means. January 11, 2005