By: Wesley Walter Managing Editor
The University of Montevallo Faculty Senate held their second meeting of the 2023-24 school year on Sept. 8. Among topics of discussion were potential ways of honoring late UM philosophy professor Dr. Stefan Forrester.
Measures discussed included establishing a Faculty Senate service award named in Forrester’s honor to be given to outstanding Faculty Senate members. Forrester, up until his death, was heavily involved in Faculty Senate. The senate agreed to outline specifics of the award at future meetings.
Political science professor Dr. Andrea Eckelman also said some SGA members are interested in naming a room in Humanities Hall after Forrester— likely, his favorite classroom, room 308.
Eckelman also discussed on behalf of the Academic Policies Committee changes to be made to a survey sent out to students last semester regarding graduating senior finals policies.
Unlike at most universities, UM students receive their diplomas on stage at graduation instead of by mail afterwards. This means that graduating seniors must have their final grades in earlier than other students to allow professors to finalize grades before graduation day.
This policy has generated concern among students and faculty. Many feel that having to complete finals early puts unneeded stress on graduating seniors.
A survey was sent to seniors, juniors and graduate students last semester regarding their opinions on receiving their diplomas by mail, removing the need to complete finals before other students.
However, this survey garnered concern from the senate regarding its lack of senate involvement, poor response rate, unclear language and potentially leading questions.
During the meeting, a revised version of the survey was given to the senate for review.
Eckelman announced that she had been meeting with SGA regarding the survey. Eckelman said that SGA President, Colton Rodano, had discussed the possibility of sending the survey from his email to improve the response rate.
Social worker professor Dr. Meredith Tetloff expressed support for sending the survey through the SGA President’s email, saying that it would emphasize that the survey was a student-led initiative.
Eckelman also discussed with the senate the possibility of invoking a committee of the whole. Committee of the whole as defined by Robert’s Rules of Order, the manual of parliamentary procedure used by Faculty Senate, is an option which if invoked means all outside visitors to the senate would have to leave the meeting until the senate allows them to return.
This procedure can be invoked at any time during meetings however the senate discussed the possibility of making it a common practice for the Faculty Senate agenda to have a designated time for committee of the whole. No policy making committee of the whole a common practice was made during the meeting.
“We’ve had lots of other visitors that come for the whole meeting, and we do occasionally need to discuss sensitive business” said Eckelman, “but what we also don’t want to do is close our meetings.”
If committee of the whole is invoked, minutes from the meeting during that time must still be made public.
During her President’s Report Faculty Senate President, Dr. Catherine Walsh, shared several updates from the UM Executive Cabinet meeting held on Sept. 1, her meeting with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Courtney Bentley and her meeting with UM President Dr. John Stewart.
Among updates from the Executive Cabinet meeting, Walsh announced that searches are underway for deans for the College of Fine Arts and the Nursing Program.
Walsh announced that, as of the Executive Cabinet meeting, UM Dual Enrollment for the 2023-24 school year was at 840 students. Walsh also said that as of the end of move in day, 2,944 students were enrolled at UM.
An ad hoc committee for the evaluation of teaching review was discussed and voted on during the meeting.
The goal of this committee will be learning more about current teaching review practices at UM, including course and peer evaluations and working to adjust those practices for greater accuracy and fairness.
“What we envisioned is a model that is flexible and not prescriptive but that can be adapted across departments,” said Walsh.
This committee will include five to six members. Members will include at least one member of the Faculty Senate Executive and Governance Committee, at least one faculty member from each college and one faculty member from the library. Members will be appointed by the provost upon recommendation from Faculty Senate.
The senate voted unanimously to approve the creation of the committee. Tetloff volunteered to chair the committee prior to the meeting, and is expected to be named chair once the committee is populated.
Walsh said that during their 2023-24 session, UM Staff Senate would be looking at revising their staff salary policy and merit pay system, as well as implementing more collaboration between Staff and Faculty Senates.
Walsh also announced that she and Staff Senate are in the beginning phases of finding new ways to promote social interaction between faculty and staff.
The senate briefly discussed the difficulties of getting announcements in advance regarding when members of UM’s Outdoor Scholars program will be out of class. As the Outdoor Scholars and Bass Fishing Team are not members of the NCAA, they do not have consistent updates sent to teachers regarding future absences like NCAA teams do.
Walsh announced on behalf of the Executive and Governance committee, which she is chair of, that they will be reviewing the Faculty Constitution and Bylaws during their 2023-24 session.
Similarly, Personnel and Handbook Committee chair Dr. Brendan Beal announced that the committee would be continuing revisions to the Faculty Handbook began by Dr. Ray Ozley during his time on the committee.
Faculty Senate is set to meet again on Oct. 13 in Reynolds Hall’s Merrill Room.
Wesley Walter is managing editor for The Alabamian. He is a junior English major and mass communications minor. Wesley boasts a 750 credit score, boyish good looks and soulful eyes that contain a deep indescribable sadness. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, visiting gas stations and thinking about getting into surfing.