On Feb. 22, College Senate Chair and education professor Dennis Showers sent an e-mail to faculty proposing at least two general meetings during the semester to improve governance and communication among faculty.
Showers said the meetings will mark one "step in the ongoing process of finding a forum for faculty-faculty discussions."
In a spring 2010 poll of faculty members, 76 percent of respondents voted in favor of "forming a committee to propose a faculty governance body." Since that time, Showers has held discussions with individuals, informal groups, focus groups, the executive committee of College Senate and other parties about the prospect of creating a forum in which faculty may meet and discuss pertinent governance issues.
The meetings announced in Showers' e-mail, both of which will take place in March, are being called in accordance with Article XI, Section 3 of the Faculty Constitution: "Special meetings of the College Senate or of the Faculty, when such a meeting is consistent with the purposes of the Faculty or of the Senate or is petitioned by 10 percent of the Senate or of the total Faculty, shall be called by the Chair of the College Senate with the majority vote of the Executive Committee."
The gatherings will not be meetings of a formal governance body separate of the College Senate. In order to create a separate, formal body of governance, the Faculty Constitution would have to be amended. An amendment would require a majority vote of a quorum of the faculty.
Showers said that a major concern he shares with those involved in the discussions is that the roles and responsibilities of the existing College Senate be preserved. "Other campus representatives – mostly [State University of New York] – I talked to, where there is a faculty body and another governance body, felt the faculty body was the ‘serious' group and the other body was at the margins," wrote Showers in his e-mail to the faculty. "I am seeking a way to advance the desire to have a forum for faculty without disempowering the College Senate."
Showers proposed a solution of making sure that any formal or informal faculty body does not usurp responsibilities of the College Senate or create committees that overlap with committees of the College Senate.
According to Showers, numerous factors will be considered in making a decision about whether to create a formal faculty governance body separate from the College Senate or to simply call general meetings of the faculty from time to time. The preliminary meetings are designed to measure whether there is sufficient need or desire to move forward with the process at all.
Showers said that while a formal faculty body would have a clear mission and focus with centers of responsibility, general meetings would be less structured and allow for more flexibility. "If there's not an issue that the faculty's hot about discussing, we wouldn't have to have a meeting [if the faculty decides to have general, informal meetings]," Showers said.
Showers also noted that Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Long has expressed interest in establishing a mechanism through which she could meet with the faculty as she did in her previous institution at Willamette University. Right now, such a system does not exist.
"This is part of an effort to make governance as a whole more effective," said Showers. Along with other members of the faculty, Showers is working to improve communication throughout the campus. "Anybody who wants to know what a committee is doing, who is on it and when they are meeting should be able to easily find that information," he said.