November 29, 2007

University Senate

Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committe of the Senate with President Father Peter Donohue, O.S.A.
Picotte Hall at Dundale, Thurday, November 29, 2007 at 2:30 P.M.

SENATE Executive Committee Members: Dr. Susan Mackey-Kallis, Chairperson; Dr. Sohail Chaudhry; Mr. Robert Dormish; Dr. Lowell Gustafson; Dr. Helen Lafferty; Mr. Brian M. Murray, Executive Secretary; Mrs. Mary Quilter; Fr. John Stack, OSA; Mr. John Von Euw


I. What is the President’s perception of the role of the Senate within the University?
President Donohue began by expressing how much he valued the various groups on campus that allows him to hear the “voice” of the university. He views the Senate as being one of these groups. He sees the Senate as a place where issues can be raised and debated and discussed. He feels as though it is a place where members of the community can come together to discuss campus-wide issues of interest and concern.  He stated that it is a valuable body of people to discuss the issues on campus. Father does not see the Senate as legislating, but that it is a collegial group of people representing the staff, the students the alumni and the various constituencies of the university to look at the university as a whole in various forms.

II. What suggestions might the President have for improving the role of the Senate in governance at the University?

Father responded by saying that he continually asks himself if there is a reason why this definition of collegiality was developed? He wondered if something had happened in the past that there was a reason for this to be addressed. He would like it to be more of a fluid conversation rather than a structured conversation. He thinks that the Board of Trustees questions where this is coming from or if this is an issue that needs to be discussed. He wondered if it would be more profitable for everyone involved if it was a more informal atmosphere such as a luncheon or dinner. His final thought on the role of the Senate is that there seems to be a real formality to it. He referred to St. Augustine and his definition of collegiality was asking how do we discover the truth together.

Dr. Mackey-Kallis, in referring to Father’s suggestion of a less formal mechanisim such as a luncheon or dinner, suggested that was an issue that had been discussed in former years, but had never been followed through.   She noted that these meetings in recent years have been more informal than in previous years. The old procedure was that we would receive the questions from the university community. They would then be submitted to the president who would send them out to the appropriate sources. He would then read the answers to the questions at the Executive Committee’s meeting with the Executive Committee of the Board.  There was often very little discussion regarding these questions. Because of this, we revised the format so as not to loose the “ombudsperson” quality of asking the whole community to submit their questions. Then the Executive Committee reviews these questions and then sends them to the various Vice Presidents who then provide answers which are then sent back to the individual who asked the question. In addition, all of the questions and the answers provided are sent to the President as an FYI and are posted on our intranet website so that all members of the university can see the questions and answers. The Executive Committee then formulates topics of discussion for our meeting with the President and the Executive Committee of the Board that we feel would be appropriate for more informal conversation, rather than having answers to previously submitted questions from the community read by the President. Dr. Mackey-Kallis noted that the Committee is very open to making these meetings less formal.

Mr. Von Euw feels as though the more formal meeting has a tendency to be slightly intimidating. He thinks something more informal would result in better conversations and that what people are really thinking might come to the surface as well. 

Dr. Mackey-Kallis stated that the Senate functions in different ways. Some things will come as an initiative from one of our committees, which might come to the Senate for a discussion and formal vote such as the recently passed motion regarding socially responsible investing. At other times, it will not come to the Senate for a direct vote; for example when a Senate Committee, such as the Committee on Faculty, raises issues or concerns with the appropriate administrators that may be resolved without coming to the Senate for a full vote and discussion. She noted that there are times that we just have speakers of interest where they can discuss issues of concern such as the university’s policy regarding the selection, publication and renewal of endowed chair positions. The Senate, in the previous example, sent the topic of endowed chairs to a Senate committee for more fact-finding. Dr. Mackey-Kallis did point out that, in this case, the Senate ultimately did pass a motions that required an answer.

Father feels as though we need to discuss different venues for discussion.

III. Could you please provide an update on the status of the physical facilities committee?
Father Donohue referred to the Master Plan. He stated that there are five committees that have been established. Some of the members were invited to be on the committees and others have volunteered.   These committees are presently starting their second round. Venturi, Scott, Brown is in Phase II. The initial phase was an entire history of the university and the location of buildings. They reflected on their view of the university as they listened to members of the community. They took feedback from the committees that have been founded and formulated various scenarios as to what could possibly be and they will then refine that. They have identified various areas of concerns such as how to utilize certain buildings like Garey Hall and St. Mary’s and access to them. They are concentrating on the issue of pedestrian vs. cars. They are specifically addressing the issue of parking. Father stated that there will be a preliminary plan presented to the board in June. They will then refine it and present it to the community in the fall.