The Governance and Engagement Committee has proposed the formation of a Faculty Senate.
Last spring Lehigh’s Faculty Steering Committee determined that a new committee should be established to conduct a comprehensive review of faculty governance and engagement. The Faculty Steering Committee consists of 16 members of the Lehigh faculty.
Eight faculty members from Lehigh’s four colleges were elected by the entire faculty body to form the Faculty Governance and Engagement Committee. The committee regularly meets and discusses plans to create an effective faculty governance system. By February, the committee had drafted a Faculty Senate proposal.
The proposed Faculty Senate would include 8 percent of the voting faculty proportional to the size of the colleges. In addition to the elected senators, there will also be a number of non-voting members. The Faculty Senate would also include President John Simon, Provost Pat Farrell, the university secretary, college deans and two student representatives. The student representatives will likely be the the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate student senates.
Douglas Mahony, an associate professor of management and the chair of the committee, said he felt the faculty governance system was not functioning well and was not effective when it came to addressing faculty needs and interests.
“The time is right for a change,” Mahony said. “It’s needed. We have an administration that is supportive of it, and we think we have put together a document that really did address some of the key flaws that faculty felt existed in prior forms.”
There have already been two prior proposals for a Faculty Senate. Neither of the proposals — one from 1997 and the other 2007 — passed when taken to a vote.
Frank Gunter, a professor of economics and a member of the faculty steering committee, described the need for a senate as a generational one.
“When Lehigh was a smaller place, the faculty went to meetings,” Gunter said. “That generation is passing away. The new generation has their research, their teaching, etc. I think this proposal has a much better chance of passing because of the growth of the faculty are people who have a different focus.”
Mahony said the faculty governance system allows all 540 faculty members to come to monthly meetings, but few actually come because of other commitments.
“This form of governance is really not sustainable, nor does it function well,” Mahony said.
Gunter said the faculty governance system needs to change because higher education is evolving rapidly. The faculty, administration and board of trustees have to react quickly to change to take advantage of opportunities and avoid complications.
Mahony said the proposed Faculty Senate extends the faculty voice and has greater consultation, particularly through the role of the executive committee and the committee chairperson.
“The senate is going to have to communicate,” Gunter said. “If you are elected to be a representative of your college, then you are tasked with not only keeping your college informed of everything the senate does, but you are tasked with meeting with every department in your college at least once a semester.”
The committee will be hosting two town halls to discuss the Faculty Senate proposal. The first town hall will be held April 19 at 4:10 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium and the second will be held April 25 at 4:10 p.m. in the Tower Room on Mountaintop Campus. All faculty and non-faculty members are encouraged to come to give feedback, voice concerns and find areas for change or improvement on the proposal.
Anne Anderson, an associate professor of finance and a member of the committee, said attending the town halls is important.
“This is an important decision,” Anderson said. “We’re setting up these meetings because we really want to hear the perspectives of everyone. It’s important that if you have an opinion, you come and state it.”