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Senators approve use of electronic minutes

Amanda Michaels | Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Faculty Senate chair Seth Brown opened the group’s meeting Tuesday night with a request that it be a brisk one so “we can go home to watch the election results with either pleasure or pain” – and brisk it was, with little debate accompanying the items discussed.

The primary proposal of the night was for the electronic approval of Faculty Senate minutes. Brown explained that the rationale for the distribution and approval of meeting minutes by e-mail, rather than at the group’s next meeting, was to “accelerate the process by which the minutes are made available.”

The minutes – or the list of what was said by whom at each meeting – are normally typed up within five days, but currently cannot be made available for all non-Senate faculty members until they are approved by the group a month later, Brown said.

The proposal calls for the minutes to be forwarded to senators by e-mail, and unless any substantive changes are made, they will be automatically approved after five days.

“Historically, there is seldom any contention about the minutes. Ninety percent of the changes are usually in regards to the attendance roster,” Brown said. “This change would streamline meetings and decrease the time between when we have meetings and when the minutes are available.”

If, in fact, a senator finds a point of contention in the minutes, they would be able to request that the approval be made at the next meeting in order to allow for discussion.

Brown also pointed out that switching to electronic approval does not require a change in the bylaws, so if the new system doesn’t work, it can be tweaked.

The proposal passed unanimously.

Philipe Collon, speaking for the Faculty Senate’s Student Affairs Committee, briefly recounted the committee’s discussion about Notre Dame’s Academic Honor Code. Collon focused mainly on the test on the honor code required of every incoming freshman, indicating that the questions asked on the exam were “very interesting,” and more complex than just “I looked at my neighbor’s exam, was I cheating?”

He said the committee has been looking at whether or not undergraduate students should take the test every year.

“It’s less because we’re not trusting students, but because they’re changing environments, and new situations come up,” Collon said.

The committee has also been questioning why faculty members and graduate students don’t take the exam as well.

Other senators responded positively to the idea that graduate students should be subject to a similar honor code exam, with several indicating that they have heard of honor code problems with that group – especially with international students coming to Notre Dame with different concepts of what is “honorable.”

Another point Collon brought up was the problem of health care for graduate students, both in that they weren’t being included in the discussion about health care, and also that the health care they received was very expensive.

“Where this involves Faculty Senate is in our recruitment [for new faculty members],” Collon said. “I know some students who have said they’d love to come to Notre Dame but don’t because the health care system is so bare.”

The next meeting of Faculty Senate will be on Dec. 6, at which, as Brown announced, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves will be in attendance.