Senate communications

April 12, 2018

Report of the Faculty Senate Chair

Thaïsa Way, Professor, College of Built Environments

I write this while serving as host for a UW Alumni Association tour in Peru and Ecuador, providing commentary and lectures as an urban and landscape historian. Connecting my work as a scholar to my role as a representative of the UW faculty is an important reminder of the multiple roles faculty play within the university. We are scholars, teachers, mentors, colleagues, and more as we teach, research, and engage in a broad range of service activities. As President Cauce noted in her presentation to the university, faculty are challenged to more fully recognize the multiple roles we play and the diverse approaches we engage. Our faculty engaged in basic research are critical to building new knowledge, as is our faculty who serve as public scholars, and our faculty who pursue user-inspired, applied, and community-engaged research. As President Cauce noted in her Spring Address:  “The case is strong and compelling, and the facts clearly suggest, that higher education, and especially public higher education, contributes to the public good on a larger scale than perhaps any other institution. Because of their unique role in both education and research, or knowledge production, universities are arguably the most powerful tool we have for increasing equity and social mobility across all populations.”

Fiscal stability:  In this time of multiple challenges in public education, we in Washington are also faced with significant financial challenges. Although we live in a state with one of the highest GDPs, where wealth is all around us in multiple forms, and the university has realized remarkable success in our campaign, many of us are facing inadequate budgets, ones that do not support our ongoing efforts, much less the need to expand access and increase excellence. Nevertheless we remain committed to serving our state. We enroll over 74% of our students from in-state and we hold true to our Husky Promise, which means we cover tuition for those who qualify for a state need grant when the state does not provide the funds. This means 40,000 of our students have attended the UW without having to pay tuition- that is the access we believe in. Additionally, did you know that our students graduate with lower debt load than the average and over half graduate without any debt? We are limited in our ability to garner financial support through tuition both by the limits of the legislature AND by our commitment to remain an affordable university. This is not the time for merely passing blame, but a time to think openly and creatively about our options. How can we be part of the solution?

The Board of Regents (comprised of deeply dedicated members of the community- take a look at their bios, the UW leadership, and faculty leaders are focused on these challenges. In response changes are being made in order to improve the fiscal health of the university so that we can continue to serve our vision and mission. This has meant tough decisions whether it is to address the serious and significant deficit in the School of Dentistry or to consider new administrative structures for the UW Press or to pursue alternatives to the UW Hospital’s Consolidated Laundry services. The Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting, as noted in the report this month, has been focused on this work and expressed serious concerns in regards to the implications of the dentistry, athletic, and other deficits and the overall debt for the fiscal health of the larger institution. The challenges ahead require that we come together to work toward collective change.

Academic Strengths:  We are equally focused on how to strengthen our contributions as a public academic institution of higher education. We are finding ways to use technology not merely as a toy but as a tool to improve and expand research, scholarship, and teaching. This includes using technology to enhance access to our public good and facilitate our sharing of knowledge with the public. Our Open Access policy builds on that intention. It has been discussed with the chairs of the Faculty Council on Faculty Affairs, Faculty Council on Research, Faculty Council on University Libraries, the Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property, Policy and Practice, Library leadership, and Faculty Senate leadership. We as a Faculty Senate will consider legislation in May meant to build a strong infrastructure for public access to our scholarship that appears as published articles in journals. The proposed policy and supporting materials are available at the UW library’s website: Please read and review with your faculty prior to the May meeting.

Many of our faculty are deeply engaged in communities locally, regionally, and internationally developing scholarship that will impact the future. One way we are supporting this work centrally is through our application for the Carnegie Community Engagement designation. This work will strengthen our support for community engaged scholarship, teaching, and service as defined by the Carnegie Foundation:  “Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.”

We are also working with the administration to build a stronger infrastructure for lecturers. While some will point out that we better support our lecturers than most any other public university, we know we can do better. The Faculty Council on Faculty Affairs has proposed important legislation for voting rights and for clarifying promotion criteria. A task force co-led by the provost and I are compiling a handbook for lecturers to assure that everyone has access to the information needed, and to correct the misperceptions that remain. We have a remarkable body of lecturers that teach across our campuses, schools, and colleges. They are an integral part of our community and our mission. Please take a moment to acknowledge those that work in your arena.

Another issue that has arisen given significant changes in our student population is how our admissions and advising policies and practices can better meet their needs while sustaining our mission and vision. Direct to college is one idea and we will hear more in our meeting from the College of Arts and Sciences. The College of Engineering is accepting their first Direct to College cohort next year and we all need to pay close attention. These proposals challenge us to consider the nature of the future community we want—this is not merely a fiscal and budget question, but one about who our future students and faculty will be. Faculty need to be deeply engaged in these conversations and decisions if we are going to be the public university that we envision in the future.

Strengthening Shared Governance: The university is grounded in our academic vision and as faculty we drive the academics. Thus shared governance is an essential element of our potential success. We are currently preparing for a new provost as well as a number of new deans. We need both to bring these new leaders into our community and to learn from them–each are coming from successful universities. An essential element in our success is your participation in shared governance. So first, thank you for serving as Faculty Senators. Now invite your colleagues to join an Elected Faculty Council or one of the Faculty Councils. How else can we support such critical contributions? For example, how many departments include institutional building, i.e. shared governance activity as a positive part of the tenure, merit, and promotion guidelines? Maybe it is time to consider that in your unit?

Diversity and Equity:  We often celebrate the diversity of our students, staff, and faculty, but we also know we must do better. We have excellent models in the humanities and social sciences as well as some of our professional schools such as Social Work and Education. There are UW faculty whose scholarship and teaching engage issues of race, gender, class, and difference and we can learn from them. There are others who have identified how these issues shape basic research in the sciences, engineering, medicine, and design. We can learn from them. We need to build on those models at the same time as we rigorously challenge ourselves to identify where we have failed to build a community that fosters the best in all of our faculty as well as our students and staff. As has been pointed out most strongly in the past year, we have much work to do. The Race & Equity Initiative, Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, and the efforts of the Diversity Committee are critical but we need to expand this work across school, college, and campus communities. It is relevant at every level of our engagement. The Faculty Council on Women in Academia has proposed legislation that acknowledges the importance of quality wellness and lactation rooms. The Faculty Council on Multicultural Affairs has proposed that scholarship and teaching on diversity “shall” be considered by promotion committees when requested and submitted by the faculty member. A group of 19 new department chairs participated in a year-long diversity leadership training. These are small but critical efforts. What are you doing in your community?

At the same time we recognize that stewarding a diverse community that is resilient, supportive, and strong is hard work and so we must do the work with generosity. We are going to get angry, frustrated, and hurt, and many of us are going to make mistakes along the way no matter the good intentions. How do we create a positive place for grace, where we can learn together to be a better, more supportive community that stewards all members? Let’s see what we can do with this to make this university more resilient and stronger and better for everyone.