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Faculty Senate discusses graduate program issues

Tori Roeck | Friday, December 7, 2012

The Faculty Senate did not pass any resolutions this semester, but the group addressed the implications of controversial resolutions passed last semester and thoroughly discussed the consequences of future resolutions.
Although the group passed no resolutions this semester, Faculty Senate chair Doug Archer said last semester’s resolutions supporting Student Senate’s decisions to advocate for a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) on campus and the addition of sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause are still at the forefront.
The Board of Trustees struck down the motion to amend the non-discrimination clause in the spring, but the University approved an unnamed official student organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) students earlier this week. The plan also included the creation of a new advisory board and the future hire of a full-time staff member to liaison between the administration and the student body.
In addition to the resolutions supporting Student Senate, Faculty Senate passed an important resolution last semester concerning health care for graduate students which continues to spark debate with administrators, Archer said.
“Graduate students can purchase insurance through the University for individuals … but they can’t purchase it for families,” Archer said.
The resolution urges the graduate school to subsidize more health care costs for students’ dependents because most of the affected parties are ineligible for state-sponsored Medicaid programs.
“Given that the University of Notre Dame is attempting to encourage more talented and brighter graduate students to attend the University and work with the faculty, the Faculty Senate believes one of the ways in which the University can show its commitment to graduate students and their families is to better provide for their health care needs at a level on par or better than our aspirational peers,” the resolution states.
Gregory Sterling, dean of the graduate school, responded to the resolution citing the weak economy for the school’s slow progress in complying with Faculty Senate’s requests. He also said the forthcoming Wellness Center will better address health concerns for graduate students and their dependents.
Currently on the agenda is the University’s lack of a conflict of commitment policy, Archer said. Notre Dame has a conflict of interest policy stating professors cannot invest money in companies associated with the University, but no policy exists that addresses professors’ time commitments, he said.
“[A conflict of commitment policy] specifically refers to those things that don’t fall into the category of teaching or research,” Archer said. “Examples would be serving on professional boards or committees, serving as an editor of a journal, which are perfectly appropriate things to be doing but could theoretically interfere with one’s primary responsibility [to teach].”
Archer said different departments have different expectations. For example, the Architecture Department requires its faculty to continue private practice. The Faculty Senate seeks to standardize these expectations somewhat, he said.
Another concern for Faculty Senate is examining new master’s degree programs to ensure they are keeping up with Notre Dame’s standards, Archer said.
“There has been a growth in the number of proposals coming down the pike,” he said. “The concern is that the quality of our graduate programs be maintained.”
Archer said the group focused mostly on research this semester and will work on drafting and passing resolutions come January.