Chancellor addresses faculty concerns

‘We need unity’

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight C. Watson visited the Warhawk Pantry on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, to tour the pantry and to help Sustainability Director Wesley Enterline transport care bags stored at the pantry to Clem Hall to be given as needed to students in quarantine. The bags were assembled with treats, food, cards, games and gifts by students in the University Honors Program. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)

UW-WHITEWATER PHOTO/CRAIG SCHREINER

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dwight C. Watson visited the Warhawk Pantry on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, to tour the pantry and to help Sustainability Director Wesley Enterline transport care bags stored at the pantry to Clem Hall to be given as needed to students in quarantine. The bags were assembled with treats, food, cards, games and gifts by students in the University Honors Program. (UW-Whitewater photo/Craig Schreiner)

Nichole Learman, Journalist

Chancellor Dwight Watson was put in the spotlight during last week’s Faculty Listening Session where his ability to meet expectations as a leader for UW-Whitewater was challenged. Despite concerns, a majority of faculty in attendance showed support for moving forward to work with the chancellor. 

“It was a very difficult year. I recognize the efforts and the sacrifices that you have faced over this time. You have revised your courses to present them in various modalities. I recognize this is not what you expected or necessarily desired,” said Watson. “You have intensified your interactions with students and colleagues. Again, not as planned. You have done this to provide the very best possible learning experiences and be the best possible colleagues.”

The Feb. 23 meeting began with Faculty Senate Chair Tracy Hawkins describing six desired characteristics of the chancellor which are: a record of relevant professional accomplishment; a deep commitment to uphold, defend and rely on Wisconsin’s traditional practice of shared governance; provide leadership by recruiting, supporting and developing faculty and staff; the ability to formulate, articulate, implement, and communicate a vision for the future of higher education in a comprehensive university; demonstrate commitment to supporting faculty; and have strengthening relationships with alumni and other external consistencies.

When reviewing these expectations, Hawkins expressed concerns about whether or not Watson is continuing to be the chancellor that the university wants and needs. 

“UW-Whitewater deserves a chancellor who can turn challenges into opportunities to thrive,” said Hawkins. 

She presented a list of concerns, which fell under four categories: safety, institutional vision, financial stability, and state and local support.

Watson replied by showing understanding and appreciation of everyone’s efforts, acknowledging this last year has not been perfect for the university and mistakes were made. 

Emeritus Chancellor Richard Telfer spoke briefly at the meeting to let faculty know that he is on campus this semester to listen and help the university through these difficulties.

One of those difficulties was brought up by Curriculum and Instruction associate professor Wade Tillet during a question and answer session. Tillet believes faculty have been invested in the institution, but feels like advice has not been welcomed and wants future faculty voices to be considered more valuable. 

“I also think our concern is not simply being at the table and having a voice, but having that voice shape policy,” said Philosophy & Religious Studies Chair Crista Lebens. 

The faculty went into a closed session for discussion and took a straw poll about next steps to take. Most were in support of creating a list of requests for moving forward or waiting to see what will play out in the months ahead, according to a Faculty Senate email sent out later in the week.  

The Faculty Senate will hold its next meeting Tuesday, Mar. 9. 

 

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