Faculty Senate approves expansion

The Faculty Senate voted Friday to overhaul its model for divvying up seats, giving bigger schools more voices in the lobbying group.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the GW School of Business and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will each gain two senators – an expansion that will give them more weight in faculty governance. Each of those schools will have 11, five and five senators, respectively.

Most other schools will also gain one senator as the faculty group proportionally lines up with its ratio of tenure-track faculty. The body will swell from 29 to 40 tenure-track faculty starting in the fall of 2013 if the proposal gains approval from the Faculty Assembly and the Board of Trustees in October.

“By expanding the size of the senate and making it more proportional to the size of [each] school, you would get a greater diversity of opinions from different departments in the schools,” said Arthur Wilmarth, a law professor who chairs the senate’s Committee on Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom.

The resolution, which passed 14-6, was a compromise that will give each school at least two senators after faculty debated whether a strict senatorial model or a proportional model would help restore the senate’s influence and inject it with more diversity.

Wilmarth said by increasing the size of the senate, the body could engage faculty from different disciplines, since 52 of 71 total departments lack representation.

Kimberly Acquaviva, an assistant professor of nursing, maintained that the adopted proposal – which was heralded by senators in the University’s largest school, Columbian College – would marginalize smaller schools and make senate representatives less diverse by race and gender.

“I have grave concerns,” Acquaviva said. “Our three smallest schools here have the highest percentage of female faculty. Our largest school has the highest percentage of white faculty. The impact, if we vote on that as a faculty assembly as a whole, it may unfortunately tilt our diversity in a direction we don’t want to go.”

About 20 percent of the senate is female, while the women make up about 40 percent of the entire University faculty base. The School of Nursing – which has all female faculty – the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the School of Public Health and Health Services have the highest percentage of female faculty at GW.

This year, the Faculty Senate has three senators from six schools and nine senators from Columbian College. The School of Nursing, which was established in 2010, gained its first senator in September, while the School of Public Health and Health Services and the Elliott School of International Affairs have two each, because they are the University’s next newest schools.

The adopted plan defeated a pitch to allocate seats based on a strict senatorial model, giving three senators to nine of GW’s schools, while the Columbian College would maintain nine representatives – three for each of the school’s divisions: humanities, social sciences and mathematical and physical sciences.

Michael Castleberry, the chairman of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, said he did not think the change would affect the way the senate operates, because senators rarely form voting blocs by school.

Presentations about ongoing University initiatives like the strategic plan at meetings this year have been met with little resistance from senate members. The body last clashed with administrators over funding plans for the Science and Engineering Hall and the shuffling of parking options during the building’s construction.

Professor of medicine Gary Simon recalled when Columbian College professors and engineering professors locked horns over the $275-million building’s funding, adding that the adopted proposal could have made a difference when Columbian College faculty spoke out against paying for it with University debt in 2010.

“When it does come down to things that affect one school versus the other, we’re not exactly all in lockstep. There is an argument for having a little bit of one [model] and a little bit of the other.”

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