Today: Jul 16, 2024

Inside scoop on the Southern Faculty Senate responsibilities


Southern students enter into their freshman or transfer year learning policies based on the university and their academic department or school, but are unaware of where and how these decisions are made.

Southern, has a shared governance model, meaning that faculty, staff and administration work together to make the university work as one. According to their website, Faculty Senate’s primary function is to serve as the agency by which the faculty can actively participate in the governance and policy-making decisions of the University.  It is represented by 50 members, at least one from each campus department, including coaches and librarians.

The Senate also has seven subcommittees made up of members within which specialize in areas within like student policy or academic policy

“We hope to maintain our mission and identity,” said Susan Cusato, President of Faculty Senate. “Southern serves as a unique role in the community. We work hard to provide dynamic and liberal education programs.”

Matters at hand include curriculum policy and structure, requirements for degrees and granting of them, policies for recruitment, admission and retention of students, academic policies relating to students, and matter of campus community concern.

“The strength of having Senate is that the faculty has control over academics and anything that impacts student learning,” said Cusato. “Having shared governance is a way to communicate between faculty, students’ needs, and staff or administration.”

Various issues are discussed at meetings every other Wednesday.  Meetings include announcements of anything the general community should know about, presidential reports with administrators about any resolutions that have been passed or rejected, any old and news business. After the whole Senate meets, Standing Committees meet to do their own reports. Standing Committees also add to the table what they have been working on each week.  Discussions that have been raised at the previous meeting by subcommittees include academic grade appeal policy and the liberal education program which received its approval from the Senate.

Deborah Weiss, professor of Communication Disorders, serves on the Academic Policy Subcommittee, which makes policies for issues based on grade change, attendance in class, and credit transfers. Weiss has been an active member of the Senate for the last two years.

“Faculty Senate acts like an umbrella for other faculty organizations,” said Weiss. “It is a very open group and is thoughtful in terms of thinking through issues.”

Discussions that come onto the floor, said Cusato, are sometimes intense. The work they produce is done through different perspectives and discussions from each member. The Senate does their best to come to a faculty resolution and have actions take place with many opinions floating around. Each time they decide to take an action a resolution is written to be signed off by President Battle.

The University, said Cusato, is split into four populations: students, faculty, administration, and staff. Faculty has the authority over academics and everything that impacts student learning, to maintain and convey through the senate and staff or the administration if something needs to be done, she said.

“If we didn’t work together as this shared government that we are, it would be hard to work as a community to accomplish what we want,” said Cusato.

Student Government has also now asked to attend as a way to be aware of what they are doing to communicate and to provide an insight into how hard the faculty works to provide a good experience for students.

Many administrators can also present their insights on views of larger issues at the University to the Senate. President Battle was one of those, who last week, spoke on budget issues and reconfiguration in the state of higher education.

“Arguments from both sides of the issue are always presented,” said Weiss. “This body of faculty can accomplish and make many good changes on campus.”

The Senate continuously works to improve the life of Southern students; currently one of their items on the agenda is working to revise the student misconduct policy.

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