Faculty Senate Welcome

Thank you, Provost Gould, and welcome to everyone on behalf of FHSU’s Faculty Senate. When I became Senate President in May, I knew I’d have to give this speech. Considering my nearly crippling shyness, I was worried. Honestly, I was worried because I see lots of speeches in my field, and they are full of sound and fury, yet signify nothing. I’m reminded of a quote from Buddha “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” If my Senate Presidency is to have a theme, I hope it is of putting words into action.

It’s my honor to be this year’s Senate President. My proud duty is to carry on the work begun by Drs. Jeff Burnett and Rita Hauck. I hope to pass that legacy of leadership to our President-Elect, Dr. Emily Breit, in May.

We live in a time of great change in higher education. Every day my inbox is filled with updates from higher ed news about the university climate. The forecast is troubling. New, arbitrary measures are proposed regularly to measure “faculty productivity” as a stalking horse for widespread changes to how faculty are evaluated, paid, and retained. Tenure is under siege. State legislatures have spoken of draining funds for public universities out of one side of their mouth while bemoaning rising tuition rates out of the other. But it’s not all gloom.

Teaching at the college level remains one of the most satisfying jobs around. And in eight years at FHSU, I’ve always known that ours is a particularly good place within higher ed. I believe our success is due to a very strong collective sense of purpose. Administrative leadership have tried to alleviate strains on faculty at the same time they have asked us to do more with less. They should be commended for that. Even more so, we as faculty should be very proud of our ability to respond to today’s challenges. But you can only ask people to stretch for so long before they become overly strained. I want to be sure we don’t reach that dangerous breaking point.

Over the last three years, I have become very concerned about the effect of these pressures on faculty morale. I fear we feel powerless as a faculty, and thus see no benefit in putting actions behind our words. If so, it is time for this self-defeatism to end. I ask the Senate to gauge faculty morale and use that information to guide our work this year. Other Regents institutions, notably Emporia State, have undertaken similar assessments and the results are telling.

Yesterday University Relations sent out an e-mail promoting an e-mail survey on the University mission you will receive Monday. I urge everyone to fill out the survey and encourage others you know to complete the survey as well. I know the semester’s beginning is a busy time but please take the few minutes to participate. Even new members of the University community should share their thoughts. One way we can make sure we keep FHSU on the best track possible is by participating fully in the Mission Review process. I need the insight of our faculty to represent us on the Mission Review Task Force. Please share your thoughts about the mission through the survey, with me, or your department’s senator.

The traditional academy is besieged on all sides by forces of change and those changes are affecting us here at FHSU. Our role in the shared governance process will be more important than ever. Whether it is declining support from the state, competition from other universities, Texas’s new $10,000 degree proposal and productivity measures, or a changing regulatory environment, the academic’s milieu will look different in five and ten years than it does now. It is incumbent upon us as part of FHSU’s shared governance to ensure that we can adapt without jeopardizing the core strengths of Fort Hays State University or the academy generally. We must drive the forward momentum at FHSU. One important area where we can move forward is in efficiencies. Our jobs can be made much easier with online and automated reporting, which we are all required to do. Developments like the Digital Measures portfolio system and the new Faculty Portal are steps in the right direction. I am asking Senate to explore ways to make our jobs easier through other online systems as a result.

I take the gavel ready to work, and I hope to honor the Senate and its role over the next academic year. My goal is to continue moving the Senate forward and turn words into action. I’m proud to be a faculty member here and to be Senate president. Thank you very much.