Faculty Senate mulls program optimization, pandemic

Meeting Briefs


Tracy Hawkins

The UW-Whitwater Faculty Senate meets online Sept. 8.

Jake Klein, Journalist

Whitewater’s Faculty Senate convened online for the first meeting of the 2020-21 academic year Sept. 8 to address important topics affecting academic affairs and the university. Items on the agenda included acknowledgement and support of faculty for fall 2020, semester course evaluations, program optimization and guidelines for early tenure. 

The Senate discussed the strenuous circumstances facing instructors, and passed resolutions to support professors. Faculty face significant salary losses due to the 13 days of required furlough over the 2020-2021 academic year. Faculty are worried about being infected with COVID-19, as well as spreading it to their family members who may have compromised immune systems or need to work. Numerous faculty members were required or pressured to teach face-to-face this semester, even when they did not feel safe doing so. 

“The Faculty Senate formally acknowledges that faculty members are working under these extremely difficult circumstances, and calls on the UWW Administration to take direct and tangible action, above and beyond mere legal compliance, to support faculty members’ (and all employees’) personal and professional well-being, as this is a matter of institutional success.”

Specifically the Senate passed resolutions allowing professors to make their own choice about whether to include standardized student evaluations in their promotion materials called purple books. 

“It will be up to the faculty member whether or not to include the standardized student evaluation of courses from Fall 2020 in their purple book and thus for consideration of promotion and/or tenure.” 

Faculty can also request extensions to their tenure clocks due to impact from the pandemic. Senators noted that conferences have been cancelled and some research is not possible to conduct under the current circumstances. 

“Any faculty member who believes his or her work has been impeded significantly by the current pandemic should request an extension to his or her tenure clock under UWS 3.04(3).” 

A resolution about program optimization asked that lower level committees in the decision process submit reports for final approval from the Faculty Senate. The program optimization plan asks the university to assess programs based on performance over the course of the year for reallocation of resources from low performers to high performers. 

“The process would be openly vetted by faculty and agreed upon as a faculty-led effort to build a sustainable institutional future,” said Cook. “I invite faculty and others into program optimization as one of those systematic structures we can use for voices to be included.” 

The Faculty Senate also approved a resolution about evaluation metrics for decisions on granting early tenure. The resolution clarifies some confusion about the requirements of going up for tenure early in different programs across the university. 

The next Faculty Senate meeting takes place online Oct. 27.