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Group passes proposal against Willingham firing

Teresa Fralish | Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Echoing the debate occurring on campus and throughout the nation, Faculty Senate chose to voice displeasure Monday with the University’s decision to fire former head football coach Tyrone Willingham.The resolution, which eventually passed 26-4, was initially sponsored by music professor Paula Higgins and redrafted by the senate into its final form.Senate members ultimately opted for a somewhat weaker version of initial drafts.According to the resolution, “the Faculty Senate expresses its concern over the decision to terminate the contract of football coach Tyrone Willingham. The Senate is particularly troubled by the signal that his firing sends regarding the role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the life of this University. The Senate extends its appreciation to Coach Willingham for his commitment to exemplary academic standards and for the professional integrity he brought to the football program and the University.” Though some faculty members questioned whether the senate should comment on the topic, Higgins said several of the issues related to the firing did involve faculty.”In making such a statement we empower ourselves. … This is not some isolated athletic decision – it impacts the entire University,” she said. At the meeting’s conclusion, the senate was still determining who would receive a copy of the resolution. The senate also addressed the two teaching assessment proposals put forth by associate provost Dennis Jacobs at the November meeting. The Student Affairs Committee voted to form two working groups to address each of those initiatives, a measure later supported by the full senate. The first committee will tackle the proposal to create a new mechanism, separate from teacher course evaluations, for students to assess classes and professors and provide that information to other students. Group members will include students and faculty, and potentially representatives from OIT and the provost’s office. “Students are really asking for a partnership,” said Student Affairs Committee chair Jay Brandenberger.Student government representatives Jeremy Staley and Vijay Ramanan also presented their perspective on the topic to the committee. According to senate bylaws, Brandenberger will appoint the faculty committee members. The other working group will focus on Jacobs’ second proposal, which aims to broaden the University’s assessment of teaching from the TCEs alone in tenure and promotion. The committee would likely be composed of representatives from the faculty, the Academic Council and the Provost’s Advisory Committee. Both the Student Affairs Committee and the full Senate said PAC approval for the working group would be needed before it could move forward. “We have to know from the provost’s office that this is the way teaching is going to be evaluated,” said professor Ben Giamo. In other Senate news:u The Academic and Administrative Affairs Committees discussed the topic of the creation and dissolution of academic programs. In their report to the full Senate, the committees said the faculty should seek a greater voice on University decisions in this area.