Address to the Board of Control on October 6, 2011
Chair Richardson and members of the board; distinguished audience:
On behalf of the University Senate, I would like to thank you, Chair Richardson, for the generous gift that you and your husband made to Michigan Tech's Board of Control Endowment Fund.
Today I would just like to bring you up to date with some of the accomplishments of the senate last year and some of the material we have already started to work on.
This slide depicts the new outlook for the senate’s webpage and the idea here is that every year we will feature the accomplishments of the winner of the research award. As you can see the page is organized so that the listing of members and legislative rules are on the left hand side of the page, the middle still contains the useful search engine tool and on the right hand side we feature current business and pending proposals.
This slide shows one aspect of the Senate website in that we are storing these BOC addresses. This may allow for some continuity in these presentations. In the first talk last year, I listed three main functions of the Senate and these are shown on this slide and, if you cannot read this slide, it is reproduced on the Senate website. There are essentially three main functions of the Senate. First is for faculty to assess programs and degree regulations. Second is aspects related to Benefits and Compensation. Third is an aspect of governance which arises out of the reputation of the faculty and staff that constitute the Senate. Examples of this aspect of reputation are in the speeches, seen on this slide, that we have had in the Senate. The first speech was by the winner of this year’s research award, Chandrashekhar Joshi from Forestry, who is working on the goal of producing fuel from cellulose. We also featured talks by the winners of our teaching awards. We had Brian Barkdoll, a civil engineer, who represented the tenured faculty and, more recently, Michael Meyer who is a senior staff lecturer from Physics. We believe that these presentations serve to highlight both to the members of the Senate and, as the meetings are televised, to society at large the contributions, inherent values and purpose of Michigan Tech. Provost Seel himself affirmed in an address to the Senate on 29 September 2010 that and I quote “the central goal of the university is teaching and research”.
The Senate ratified many proposals during the last year and these are shown on these slides. Some 52 proposals are illustrated here and I mention this number since it is precisely one larger than the previous record of 51 accomplished back in 2004. While this represents a tremendous quantity of work, suffice it to say that the Senate is not trying to break this record this year. Some of these proposals, such as those dealing with unit governance and the evaluation and hiring of Chairs, have far-reaching implications for the well-being of our institution.
As these next two slides illustrate, this year we have excellent participation in the Senate by all segments of the university. In fact, since this was prepared two weeks ago, the only people missing are two alternate members. We were also pleased at the participation of the undergraduate and graduate students last year.
This membership has been divided up into various committees and chairs of these committees, illustrated in red, have also been voted or agreed upon. The Senate Executive has already met three times this semester to discuss various issues and some of these committees have established fixed times to meet each week to discuss the charges that they were assigned.
These charges are illustrated on these next two slides and have been derived based on our Board of Control approved constitution and by–laws which establish precisely what the different Senate committees are supposed to examine. As an illustration of how involved this process is, let us examine one charge given to one committee, namely, for the Professional Staff Committee to investigate how to elect Staff Senators and Alternates. This slide illustrates how some Professional Staff units are composed of people from many different departments. Since it is difficult for people within a department to get to know one another, I would think it is almost impossible for people within these different units to know about one another. Further, this listing includes people who are working here in a research postdoctoral capacity. I believe Vice President Reed would agree that there is a more pressing issue for these types of individuals to devote their energies to, namely, increasing research productivity. In addition, we also have professional staff on soft money who apparently have to work additional hours for any time they spend on Senate duties. The Senate’s Professional Staff Committee will consider removing post-docs and soft money people from the Senate as they deliberate and examine the present listing of the various Staff Unit constituencies. This will have the advantage of opening more positions for the remaining Professional Staff to be represented in the Senate since they are, at present, constitutionally limited to 12 representatives.
This year we have already started out working on several proposals including one, namely Proposal 1-12 “Accelerated Masters’ Programs.” We believe this is in the best interest of our undergraduate students since it will allow them to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a research Master’s degree in 5 years. It will clearly foster undergraduate research. Interestingly, Governor Snyder recently declared, in a documentary hosted by Dan Rather, that it is in the interest of the State of Michigan to have more people graduating in the STEM fields since there is overwhelming evidence that these are the job creators today and will be in the future. This is actually a good measure of the value of a university to a state, i.e., how many of our graduates stay and work in this state. This proposal will also allow for greater enrollment in our graduate programs and thus may play a constructive role in the Universities’ stated objective of increasing graduate enrollment. Proposals 2-12 to 5-12 represent work accomplished by our graduate school, meaning Dean Huntoon and Deb Charlesworth, and these proposals were examined by the Senate’s Instructional Policy Committee.
With the goal of obtaining a better Senate, the administration was asked to provide answers to the question shown on this slide. Simply put, if the Senate and membership of the Senate can evaluate the President of the university and members of the executive team, we should also be subjected to evaluations. Indeed we distributed this question to the membership at large and all responses received have been detailed on the Senate Blog which is available on the Senate website. The initial purpose of this blog, which was placed on the Senate website back in January 2010, was for people to discuss ways to improve the senate through communication. The page contains only 5 entries to date all placed by me with the first one being a test of the system and another deleted, meaning three messages in total. It must rank as one of the least participated blogs on the internet. Unfortunately we have not received any responses from the administration to the question on this slide. We have outlined four reasons as to why this circumstance may pertain. These reasons are fundamentally identical to the reasons why occasionally participation in the presidential evaluation is low.
Thanks for listening.