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In Focus: Positive attitudes help create slow, steady progress

Teresa Fralish | Friday, January 21, 2005

Halfway through its term, a positive approach and slow but steady progress have been the hallmarks of this year’s Faculty Senate.

Chaired by Seth Brown, the group focused on several issues last semester, including revisions to last year’s failed TCE publication proposal, changes to the assessment of teaching in tenure and promotion decisions, professor benefits, the revocation of Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan’s visa and the firing of former football coach Tyrone Willingham.

The group has yet to make substantive headway on some topics, notably the revamped TCE proposal and teaching assessment revisions, although progress appears likely in the spring.

The group shows a strong willingness to work with other campus groups, such as the provost’s office and student government, by meshing differing opinions together.

The Senate created a committee to consider how academic departments might incorporate reforms to the assessment of teaching in tenure and promotion that were proposed by assistant provost Dennis Jacobs.

On the TCE issue, the Senate has made solid progress toward appointing a working group of faculty, students and other relevant members of the University’s academic community to work out the details of a new mechanism for students to share their views on classes with other students. Academic Committee chair John Robinson has said a new plan could be in place by as early as next fall.

Perhaps more importantly, Faculty Senate members seem committed to remaining positive about the new student feedback initiative, a contentious issue for the faculty in its prior form.

The group quickly expressed their support for Ramadan and said the visa action seriously hurt academic freedom in United States.

On the Willingham issue, Faculty Senate praised the former coach’s concern for academic standards and criticized the firing, saying it sent troubling signals and could ultimately harm the University as a whole.