An administrative insider has been picked to lead the Faculty Senate, bringing with her a background that she said will allow for more collaboration between top leaders and faculty.
Scheherazade Rehman, an international business professor, said Friday that while the Faculty Senate sometimes clashes with the administration, she has seen stronger ties in the last several years since the arrival of University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman.
Rehman, who has been a professor for 24 years, said she hopes to continue strengthening relationships that have improved under “Steve and Steve.” And she said as the University undergoes a transformation under its top leaders, faculty are increasingly working with administrators to weigh in.
“Nobody at this University is interested in standing still anymore, and I believe the Faculty Senate has adopted that mantra,” Rehman said.
The senate’s role is advisory, meaning members can submit resolutions to help shape administrators’ decisions but hold no formal power. Rehman will take control of a senate that is one-third larger than last year, with 11 additional positions that Lerman said would bring new energy and ideas.
A member of the strategic plan steering committee, Rehman met weekly with Lerman and other administrators to create a vision for GW’s next ten years. She said becoming the executive committee chair after being part of the strategic plan process will help the Faculty Senate oversee the plan’s implementation. The plan is likely to be approved by the Board of Trustees Friday.
She joined the executive committee two years ago, after serving for a year on the senate. Minutes of this year’s senate meetings show she attended only three of the monthly meetings, rarely speaking.
Rehman is the director of the European Union Research Center and travels abroad often, causing her to miss senate meetings in the past. She said the new position will likely keep her in the country more next year.
“There’s always a struggle between my academic part of the work and service,” Rehman said. “But at the same time, I know this University inside out. Being here this long, being here also as a student and watching the changes here as a faculty member.”
A three-time alumna of the University, Rehman worked as a foreign exchange trader before finishing her education and entering academia.
As well as implementing the strategic plan, Rehman said she hopes to improve the global scope of the University and increase diversity awareness efforts. She said the faculty will work with administrators as GW increases its presence in countries such as China and improves diversity on campus.
Anthony Yezer, chair of the Faculty Senate research committee, said the senate has been less active in recent years, which he said may be an indicator of faculty contentment, or, more likely, a “lack of confidence” in the senate.
“If the senate isn’t doing much, then the faculty thinks the senate can’t do much,” Yezer said. He criticized the executive committee for not pushing forward with many important resolutions in recent years.
Donald Parsons, an economics professor and long-serving member of the Faculty Senate called the executive committee dysfunctional, saying it is a “lunch group” that meets with the president and provost each month.
“You don’t really expect much,” Parsons said. “Every once in a while you’ll have a committee where you’ll have some very projective person and they’ll take it somewhere, but most of them you just plop down something unless there’s some leadership somewhere.”
Former executive committee chair Michael Castleberry said it was better for the executive committee to communicate with the administration than pass multiple resolutions, calling the senate meetings “the most collaborative environment for sharing information.”
Lerman, who previously served as the chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty, said the number of resolutions passed was not the way to evaluate the success of the senate, adding that much of the interaction between the executive committee and the administration was more casual.
“It’s much more an informal backchannel that complements the more formal channels that happen through the committees of the senate. And I think it’s very healthy, it allows for multiple things to get caught. And if it’s going to be a problem, I’d rather it was sooner rather than later to find out about it,” Lerman said.