Friday, January 17, 2014

Faculty Leadership at SCSU



As you know, the faculty senate spent much of last semester defending our tenure and promotion process—a process which is at the heart of the faculty role in shared governance. Eventually, the recommendations of the University Tenure and Promotion committee were ratified by the Board of Trustees, and we started the new year with President Elzey enacting the recommendations of the faculty senate that the raises which normally accompany tenure and promotion be instituted. Though this is a struggle many of us feel should never have had to happen, it shows the value and need for us to come together as a faculty engaging in the shared governance process.
Shared governance is an essential part of the Academy; it demands that decisions be made  openly and transparently, that all major stakeholders (faculty, administration, students, alumni, staff) have a meaningful say, and that faculty take the lead role in shaping programs and the direction of the university.  Faculty may not control the purse strings, but we do control the intellectual capital of the university. It is faculty who bring the ideas, who develop the research, who disseminate the information, and who convey the passion for learning that makes the modern university the engine for both preservation and change that it has become. Faculty are the university leaders who make universities and their leaders successful.  Universities become great because of the work faculty do.
South Carolina State University is a university with a great mission and a great history.  We bring economic and cultural opportunities to underserved students, and we do this better than almost anyone else.  However, no one familiar with our recent history would say that the university is living up to this legacy in a full bodied way.  Now is the time then for the faculty to define our mission for the future. 
Those of us who have been studying the proposed Faculty Handbook revisions are aware that the University in general and Academic Affairs in specific have mission statements.  That is well and good, but the faculty body should have our own Mission and Vision statements, to articulate where we are, where we want to go, and how we will get there.  In order to judge our own progress (or lack thereof), we need to articulate a shared idea of what progress should look like.
Based on the feedback from faculty and my own experiences as Faculty Senate President, there are four concerns that I think we can widely agree on:
ñ  The academic structure needs to be viable, to promote the integrity and growth of our programs, and to respect the leadership role of the faculty;

ñ  The Tenure and Promotion process is basic to faculty rights and faculty development;

ñ  The continued budget retrenchment has already undermined our programs; Academic Affairs needs to be enriched, or we risk falling deeper into a vicious spiral; and

ñ  The Faculty has a mission which we take very seriously to develop faculty and academic programs.
The faculty senate is exploring the possibility of sponsoring a luncheon (tentatively set for Feb 11) to initiate a conversation on how the faculty can move forward.  Among the questions we need to ask ourselves:

ñ  What are our core values around teaching, research, and tenure and promotion?

ñ  What are our pathways to productivity?

ñ  How do we define our mission?  How do we define our vision for achieving that mission?

Your senators and I will keep you informed as the plans for this Faculty Leadership workshop develops.  In the meantime, I want to urge everyone to read through the Faculty Handbook online, submit your comments as soon as possible, and if you have not done so already, please pay your faculty senate dues ($20), our funding for projects like this, to your senator or to Dr. Crystal Nixon.

Yours in university service,

Thomas Cassidy

SCSU Faculty Senate President

Professor, English and Modern Languages
South Carolina State University

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