From the Editor: “Keep Those Ideas Coming!”
Provost Lisa Makes the Case for Senate Committees
—David Waldstreicher, Faculty Herald Editor
University committee work is always a hard sell, even in the best of times. And under a merit pay system that is organized, rightly, by department and college, and which privileges scholarship over service, Senate committee work is not exactly “incentivized” at Temple.
This is why Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico’s case for the importance of the Faculty Senate and its committees deserves special attention.
The Provost has made it clear that she believes service is “meritable”: deans and department merit committees need to get the word. More importantly, at the Nov. 18th Representative Senate meeting, the Provost made the best possible case for the current and future – not past—effectiveness of University Senate through its committees.
Four new initiatives from the Provost’s office, she noted, came directly out of recommendations made by Senate committees:
1. The Provost chose to take the recommendations of the Honors Oversight Committee to expand the current Honors program and set up a system of faculty fellows. (Ruth Ost, director of the Honors Program, will describe these plans in our next issue.)
2. The Community-Based Learning initiative, headed by Eli Goldblatt, which is already well under way – and discussed in Eli’s article in this issue of the Faculty Herald.
3. The creation in July 2009 of the Academic Center for Research on Diversity (ACCORD) came out of recommendations from the Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color.
4. The development of the CARE team – an administrative, faculty and professional working group which, according to its website, “receives referrals pertaining to students of concern, collects additional information, and then identifies and enacts appropriate strategies for addressing the situation.” See Betsy Leebron-Tutelman's description in this issue.
The message is clear. The Senate is a workshop for ideas; it helps focus issues that lead to programmatic change. When the Provost ended her presentation by saying “Keep those ideas coming!” – in the best and most literal sense, the most truly intellectual appeal I’ve heard an administrator make – she wasn’t talking about an electronic suggestion box or even advancing our research. She was talking about the good (and to be blunt, funded) ideas coming out of Senate committees.
Currently the Senate is considering a change to its by-laws in order to prevent quorum calls like those that prevented the Senate from passing a resolution last year. Whatever the results of the hard work of the Senate to devise a satisfactory solution, the faculty might consider an analogy. In the U.S. Congress, much of the power resides less in legislation than in the committees that not only frame resolutions but also frame agendas and advise the executive branch.
Senate committees are not just for senators. The 104 current representative senators could not fill all the committee slots even if they wished to do so. Serving on a Senate committee is at present the most effective way to get involved beyond one’s college – and perhaps, also, the best way for faculty, individually and collectively, to influence the future of the university.