In the opening lines of this initial blog post, I hope to give you a sense of the purpose for this blog. First, it is not simply a newsletter, although I hope parts of it can serve to do what the best newsletters do, inform and provide a chronology of “what went down”: for historical record. Second, although it will contain my opinions, I will seek to make it clear that these opinions are simply that, my opinions; and are in no way certified by anyone else at UTM, least of all those in administration with whom we the faculty share governance. The blog format is designed to permit an ongoing conversation, such that if anyone, administrator, faculty, staff or student, were so inclined; she could offer her opinion to countervail or augment mine. And third, and most importantly, this blog is designed to create a tone for the one year when I am the FS President, offering an example and source of both the substance and, I hope, style for what I hope will be a year of important conversations. Please be assured, my only goal is to do what I believe the President of FS should do, which is to be a steward of not only the faculty handbook, the meetings that take place, but also the conversations that prevail during this brief one-year period.
On a matter pertaining to the Faculty Senate (FS), one thing I hear is that FS does not do important work. How could the UTM faculty senate be improved? In the next few days, I am going to post a link to a survey that I would love for you to complete, especially on the open-ended part, where you share your thoughts on how the UTM Faculty Senate might be improved in both its efficiency and effectiveness.
Do we address real issues or is what the FS at UTM does pretty much busy work in our opinion? Do our committees work in the best possible manner? Do we get enough input from faculty as to their concerns and if not, how might that be improved? Do faculty get enough feedback from their senators and if not, how might that be improved? Might this blog be an effective way to keep conversations going or not, and if so; do you have suggestions on how best to maximize its effectiveness?
A few months ago I told a colleague I believed members of the FS at UTM could be broken into three groups: (1) laborers, (2) lawyers and (3) leaders. The first group is the largest, the second the next largest and the third, the smallest.
The way I would define each group is as follows:
(1) laborers – those who do the work given to them and seek to do that and nothing more
(2) lawyers – those who concern themselves with precedent, the faculty handbook, making sure Roberts Rules of order are always carefully abided by and that everything rocks along smoothly year after year as it always has,
(3) leaders – those who believe the FS should be more flexible, seeking to automate or routinize work best done in a perfunctory or routine fashion to free up time for meaningful conversations and attention to large, important matters.
Some of those larger issues (in my opinion) are these:
(1) excellence in scholarship should be judged not just on number of publications, but on the meaningfulness of the work produced
(2) time spent on committee work should be reduced as much as possible to make time for colleagues to read in their field, collaborate, team teach or work with students on UG research, again addressing significant problems in our service area,
(3) ultimately our curriculum should be problem-based rather than discipline based, and creative ways found to foster real collaboration across traditional lines of thought; with any financial or bureaucratic obstacles worked through rather than used as an excuse to not do what I believe to be the “right thing”
(4) since our disciplines each have preferred ways of collecting data, analyzing it, and disseminating information from the analysis; we should embrace those differences and use the historians methods, the librarians, the physicists, the psychologists, the sociologists and the methods of those in the arts or humanities; to identify and address problems, teaching our students to do so as well.
If university professors are seen as too ivory towerish, insular and even irrelevant, it may not necessarily be because those criticizing us do not really know what we do and have a form of envy. It could be because we have in fact drifted along too long without seeing the need to put our house in order with respect to what we are truly doing to make the world a better place and not just a place for better thinking.
Link to the article mentioned above: