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Group gathers at first meeting

Maddie Hanna | Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Faculty Senate chairperson Seth Brown wasted no words in telling members the primary goal for the group’s first meeting of the year – agenda setting.

“I’m going to set the mood, if you will,” said Brown, who began with “the charge” to the Faculty Senate included in the University’s Academic Articles.

This charge, Brown said, gives the Senate great liberties in the issues it chooses to pursue.

“In many ways, this is an extremely broad mandate,” Brown said. “Areas where faculty involvement is appropriate could mean all areas of the University. I encourage you to think broadly and creatively.”

Brown instructed the Senate’s four subcommittees – Academic Affairs, Administrative, Benefits and Student Affairs – to “raise new issues and decide which are most pressing.”

Although he acknowledged the benefits to being independent from the administration, Brown said greater integration with University government processes would give Faculty Senate more “resonance.”

“There are structural opportunities to change,” he said.

Brown encouraged members to consider the possibility of expanding the Senate’s influence in addition to their individual committee agendas.

Gail Bederman, who filled in for Student Affairs committee chair Philippe Collon, said the committee would focus on three issues: student teacher course evaluations (TCEs), student academic freedom and student discourtesy at Irish basketball games.

The TCE issue was originally brought to Faculty Senate’s attention by student government. After last year’s discussion about making TCE results public to students ended inconclusively in Faculty Senate, Bederman said the question shifted to an external committee headed by associate provost Dennis Jacobs.

But Student Affairs committee members did not know what progress the external committee had made. Committee member Barry Keating said the Mendoza College of Business conducted a separate analysis with results that differed greatly from those of Institutional Research.

“If that’s really the case, do we really want to give the numbers to the administration for what they use it for? To the students, for what they use it for?” Keating asked. “Because I don’t think we know what the numbers mean.”

Bederman vocalized the committee’s confusion resulting from the conflict.

“It sounds like we’re not entirely clear on this,” she said. “We need more informtion.”

Student academic freedom was the other hot-button issue presented by the Student Affairs committee. Bederman questioned whether Notre Dame students even have academic freedom as defined by the American Association of University Professors.

“People who come from public universities know what kind of freedom they have,” Bederman said. “You come here, it’s not clear what freedom students have.”

Bederman cited last year’s controversial Vagina Monologues and Queer Film Festival, two productions that provoked questions about academic freedom at Notre Dame.

“FTT [Film, Television and Theatre], they’re getting a lot of flak,” Bederman said. “Serious flak.”

But other committee members were hesitant to stir the ire of the administration.

“The bees might swarm,” committee member Bob Howland said.

The other item the Student Affairs committee decided to explore was the issue of student vulgarity at Notre Dame basketball games. Committee member Kelly Jordan said he did not feel comfortable taking his daughter to games anymore.

“When the opposing players are introduced, at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S., the unanimous response is ‘sucks,'” Jordan said. “What would Jesus think of the Leprechaun Legion?”

In other Faculty Senate news:

u Bederman and fellow St-udent Affairs committee member Ramzi Bualuan were elected to the two delegate positions on the Campus Life Council for the 2005-06 academic year.

u Student Affairs committee member Kevin Misiewicz was elected to the Traffic Appeals committee for the 2005-06 academic year.