Faculty Senate focuses on diversity issues
By Matt Kelly
Photo by Dan Addison
| Faculty Senate Chairman Houston Wood
The Faculty Senate focused on diversity issues at its Sept. 27 meeting, from reports on recent racial incidents to mandatory training in the faculty search process to debating its own procedures for issuing public statements.
President John T. Casteen III discussed U.Va.’s response to racial and bias incidents earlier this semester, noting that the perpetrators are still unknown. People on Grounds showed support for the victims by wearing black ribbons.
Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block encouraged faculty members to take proactive steps in support of tolerance. “Faculty has to help students through this,” he said.
Casteen praised the Faculty Senate’s executive council for its Sept. 19 statement against intolerance, saying it “came at the right time.” This was followed by a debate among senators about procedures related to issuing the statement. Some senate members argued that a special meeting of the senate could have been convened to discuss the statement prior to its being issued by the executive council.
Senate member Alison Booth, an English professor, defended the council’s action, saying it was responding to “timely issues” and that the statement was issued “under the pressure of time.” Houston G. Wood, chairman of the senate and a professor of engineering, said the executive council has the authority to issue such a statement. Following the debate, the statement was ratified.
Gertrude J. Fraser, vice provost for faculty advancement, outlined training that was mandated in August for all members of University faculty search committees. “Faculty searches are not just an issue for departments,” she said. “Recruitment is an institutional effort.”
An online tutorial, currently under development, should help search committee members think about faculty diversity, retention and advancement. The online tutorial will be up by Nov. 21, she said.
In other business:
Casteen expressed concern about an increase in alcohol-related trips to the emergency room by students.
The senate discussed the annual retreat for faculty, student leaders, staff and Board of Visitors members. Casteen said that students want more involvement in planning the agenda, and that it should be held at an off-Grounds site, and without cell phones. Some had suggested that attendees have to apply so only those actually interested would attend. While it was an annual event for faculty and staff, he said it was usually a once-in-a-lifetime event for students.
Block said the University’s six-year academic plan would be presented to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia later in the week and once that had been done, it would be posted on the University’s Web site. The plan, which already had been approved by the senate and board, includes increasing research and enrollment, with more financial access and diversity, and new initiatives such as the five-year public policy accelerated master’s degree.
Block said the University also was continuing apace in expanding its available research space, with the recent groundbreaking for the Carter-Harrison Research Building. He said U.Va. also was near signing a deal with another nationally recognized senior scientist. The University plans to hire two National Academy-level scientists a year for five years to boost the school’s research profile.