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Group recommends student advisors

Joseph McMahon | Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Faculty Senate recommended Wednesday adding student representatives with votes on the committees that review the dean of the School of Architecture and the dean of the Law School.

The Senate made the suggestions to the Academic Council, which is currently in the middle of its review of the University’s Academic Articles, something that occurs every 10 years.

Both amendments passed with mild opposition from faculty members. All the other colleges have student members on their dean review committees.

“We need to have consistent principles across all of the colleges,” said Tom Noble, a representative from the history department. “We do not want to create disunity.”

But Julian Velasco, a member of the Law School faculty, strongly disagreed.

“Adding students to the committee will seriously limit the ability of faculty members to speak candidly,” he said. “Whereas we could come right out before and simply call someone a ‘jerk,’ now we might have to say something not nearly as strong, such as, ‘He’s not so nice.'”

The Law School faculty voted against adding a student representative 26-5.

Connor O’Brien, a third-year law student and president of Notre Dame’s Student Bar Association, persuaded the Senate to add a student representative. The Law School resolution passed 16-10.

“Students have their own best interest in mind in choosing competent and effective leadership,” O’Brien said. “As graduate students, we most certainly have the maturity to handle it.”

Some faculty members took a different tact.

“There is serious dysfunction in the administration of the law school,” said Judy Fox, a Law School professor said, “We certainly welcome any outside opinion.”

After some debate, the Senate voted 27-4 in favor of an amendment to allow the provost of the Law School to appoint two faculty members to the review committee – one from the Law School, and one from the University’s general faculty.

John Stamper, the only Senate representative from the School of Architecture, was opposed to the addition of a student member to the Architecture review committee but conceded ground on the issue.

“We would not want to be the only school without a student representative,” he said.

The amendment passed by a vote of 17-3, with Stamper one of the three nays.

In other Senate news:

The Senate also examined a few minor changes to the University faculty and staff health program.

Denise Murphy, director of compensation and benefits for the department of human resources, outlined a few minor changes to the current health plan, including a new online program where faculty members can analyze their body fat percentage, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Among concerns expressed by faculty members were the fears that their privacy would be compromised and their family members would not receive coverage. Murphy assured faculty members that these things would not happen with the changes.

Overall, the Senate attempted to address issues of communication between the Senate, faculty members, students and the administration.

“One of our goals is to improve overall communication,” said Colin Jessup, chair of the Senate. “We are trying to facilitate cooperation in order to help make the Senate a more effective body.”