Faculty Senate faces challenging decisions


Chairperson Tracy Hawkins addresses the Faculty Senate Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Samantha Butzen, Journalist

Professors and campus leaders gathered over WebEx for their monthly Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 13  to pass a green energy resolution, a smoking ban, and to address other pressing topics in Academic Affairs. 

Senators welcomed new members to the meeting and easily passed a green energy resolution aimed to ensure last year’s resolution moves forward with action taken to make the university more sustainable. Topics became more debatable with topics such as budget cuts and COVID-19 precautions brought to the table.

The mask mandate requiring all students and faculty to wear a mask while inside a building or out on campus contradicts the allowances made for smokers on campus. In order to inhale a cigarette or vape, one would have to both take off the mask and touch one’s mouth, which both are highly discouraged in this time of a pandemic. The discussion of the proposed smoking ban on both campuses caused a debate for how best to implement it, while accommodating smokers. The university already does not allow smoking in campus buildings, and outside smoking must be 25 feet from buildings. 

“Maybe it would be best to allow one to smoke within their own vehicle or in the parking lot when 25 feet away from another person,” said James Hartwick. “Not every student has a car or can park close to their lecture hall.” 

Others followed suit in pointing out that the university staff must accept that some students and employees are smokers. It may not be beneficial for students to show up to class with more stress than normal in this time of uncertainty and change, among other reasons. 

“Some students may even use tobacco for religious reasons and values. Especially those with Native American ancestors. We cannot take that right away either,” said Christopher Veldk. 

The smoking ban for the 2020-2021 year was approved with 20 votes yes, 10 votes no, and 2 indifferent. The resolution now moves to Administrative Affairs for consideration. The Whitewater Student Government is investigating campus smoking as well this year. 

Extremely low attendance for in-person classes was addressed as a topic of discussion. Extremely low attendance was defined as less than 25% of expected students. Faculty members have been surprised by the low attendance numbers since students had indicated they wanted in-person classes this year despite the pandemic. 

Overall decreased enrollment this year persists, as in recent past years. The university is about 500 undergraduates short of expected students, but graduate student numbers are up. Interim Provost Greg Cook told the Faculty Senate that the unfortunate reality is that cuts are coming.

 “The University must align costs and employment structure in order to fit the tuition revenue it is currently receiving,” said Cook. “This university cannot continue forward the way it has the last few years.”

The university has many difficult decisions to make, but the Faculty Senate seems determined to handle them and ensure the current losses don’t permanently degrade the future of UW-Whitewater. 

“We’ll find a way,” Chairperson Tracy Hawkins said.

Tune into the next Faculty Senate meeting on Facebook Live at the UWW Faculty Senate page Tuesday, Nov. 10 from 2-5 p.m.