Faculty Senate convened for its final meeting of the 2020-2021 academic year on May 7. Among the issues discussed were daily campus functions, budget issues, and a lack of inclusivity in Greek life.
There will be a change to the fall 2021 academic calendar regarding pacing break. In order to accommodate the expressed community interest to cancel classes on Election Day, the break will now be split up, with one day of break on Monday, October 11, and the other on Tuesday, November 2.
There are also plans to make campus tobacco free beginning this upcoming August. Currently, Lehigh is a smoke free campus.
There is a plan to change the hours that campus buildings are accessible without an ID swipe, although no timeline was provided for when this will take effect.
Provost Nathan Urban joined the meeting to answer questions and provide clarifications for what the $12 million budget surplus actually means.
Urban said the phrasing “surplus” is misleading, as the money does not actually reflect an excess of money in the budget, but instead the money across all university accounts that was earmarked but not spent.
Urban said about $7 million of the “surplus” is in endowment related accounts, not available to be spent across the university for general purposes. He said at the end of the year there may be a smaller amount of money, somewhere between one to two million dollars, that may be available to be used in a variety of ways—either spent at that point or held in reserve.
“This year was more than just an unusual year. It was an unprecedented year in terms of financial strains on the university,” Urban said.
He said that there was a $75 million overall decrease in revenue.
Faculty Senate voted to approve a resolution in commitment to return the surplus dollars to faculty and staff.
“I think asking for some sense of putting as much money we can back into compensation to thank the people who got us here is really important,” said Professor Jeremy Littau before the vote took place. “So, I would encourage all my fellow colleagues to vote for this.”
The resolution passed with 96 percent voting in favor.
Next in the meeting, Ric Hall, vice president for Student Affairs and Chris Mulvihill, associate dean of students spoke about Greek life and its impact on the campus climate. The faculty had identified it as a topic directly impacting their ability to enhance diversity and inclusivity on campus.
Hall said it had been four years since he had been invited to speak with the faculty senate
There are three sections of Greek Life at Lehigh: The Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic, which are both historically white, and cultural based fraternities and sororities.
Hall said as of now approximately 30 percent of the undergraduate population is actively involved in fraternities or sororities.
It was noted that there were only 14 members in the cultural organizations but over 1,000 in the others.
Hall said fraternities and sororities have to go through a course covering oppression bias, unconscious bias, allyship, and much more. There is targeted diversity related programming.
An editorial written by a Lehigh ’17 alum was also discussed in this context. A former student who had been involved in Greek Life wrote about his experiences and how his participation in some conversations and activities fueled bias specifically about Asian students.
Hall said they reached out to the current presidents of the Greek councils to encourage them to write a response with help from the Office of Communications but they all declined.
“For me it was more alarming that no one stood up to say ‘hey that’s not the Lehigh I know,’” Hall said.
The fundamental issue of fraternities and sororities being gendered, was also brought up as it excludes anybody who does not identify as male or female.
“If a person can’t even find a bathroom or a club to join, I’m not really sure how they would feel coming to Lehigh as a student,” Professor Mellie Katakalos said.
Deputy Provost for Faculty Affairs Jackie Krasas then led a discussion to receive feedback on the university COVID-19 impact statement and edit it.
The last item on the agenda was reviewing the code of ethics, but time ran out and it was tabled for the first meeting of the fall semester.