Faculty Senate Seeks Larger Role
The university faculty senate sees the new school year and transition to a new president as an opportunity to establish a larger role within the university.
Over the past few months, the UFS has been reaching out to the university student senate and plans to meet with incoming president David Van Zandt on a regular basis, both of which mark a major shift in the senate’s function.
The UFS's more dominant presences concludes a period of turmoil.In December 2008, the faculty senate gave President Bob Kerrey a nearly unanimous vote of no confidence after he took over the Provost's office, which set off a series of on-campus protests, including two occupations. “We’d like to think that time is behind us,” said Nidhi Srinivas, a UFS co-chair and Milano professor.
Established in 2003, the UFS is an advisory committee made up of representatives from each division. Senators also serve on a standing committee (faculty affairs, academic planning or governance) within the senate. Faculty give their opinions on university-wide issues to the non-voting members – the president, provost and a dean. It is headed by three faculty senators who are elected co-chairs each year.
Currently, the senate is revising the full-time faculty handbook and the university’s wireless policy.
While primarily a deliberative body for faculty matters, the UFS is also hoping to better serve the students. They believe it is important that students have their own prominent representation in the university to create a dialogue that will, it is hoped, avoid situations like the April 2009 occupation. The UFS didn’t agree with the students’ actions, Srinivas said, but they believed there should have been more outreach to the students before the NYPD was called.
The three co-chairs proposed a liaison and structured relationship between the faculty and student senates. The relationship will be a “critical link,” according to Alexandra Chasin, a co-chair and Lang literary studies co-chair.
Although it is still in preliminary stages, a student senator will be able to attend open UFS meetings and a designated faculty senator will be available to the USS.
The USS is enthusiastic about the relationship. “The university will recognize our charge a bit more,” said Anna-Karin Loureiro, a USS co-chair and spokesperson.
The co-chairs are confident Van Zandt will give the senate more weight in the university. Not only were they included in conversations during the selection process, but they also had an informal meeting with Van Zandt himself that left them with only positive feelings.
“[Van Zandt] extended a request to meet with us on a regular basis, which was very encouraging,” said Ken Stevens, a co-chair and Parsons design professor.
“It’s unprecedented and auspicious,” Chasin added.
Previously, the UFS met with Kerrey informally, but “not much at all,” Stevens said. The UFS mainly saw him when he sometimes attended meetings. They worked closer with the provost due to his role as the chief academic officer.
“I think The New School has a talented, brilliant, diverse, kick-ass faculty,” Chasin said. “What we really want to do on the senate is enable that faculty to do its best possible work.”