This is what I think is Auburn. This is a place, where we have the opportunity to build on tradition by laying the groundwork for future innovation. Right now, this is a campus that is forward thinking. This is a campus that is showing what shared governance can do at its best, even while many other American universities are hindering these processes. People here are listening to each other; people are collaborating; and people are coming up with great ideas.
More than at any time in recent memory, we have an administration that is receptive to our voice, the faculty’s voice, and is willing to implement changes. Dr. Gogue as a leader has been enthusiastic in his support for the faculty and is open to ideas that will help us to be a more dynamic and productive campus. He is sincere in his commitment to the classroom, to research, academic freedom and shared governance. This is a time when we can be more constructive. We can move forward to address concerns, solve problems, implement new strategies and guidelines, and inject new momentum into our classrooms and research with innovative technologies and updated facilities.
We have obtained numerous successful outcomes in recent years through processes that were fair and open. A strong foundation has been laid with the 2013-18 Strategic Plan. I am inspired by the attendance at the forums, and the many concepts that were started there. The plan is a road map of our intentions, outlining goals that we must now find ways to bring to fruition. For that to occur, we must all remain committed to voicing ideas and concerns, listening to others, and standing firm in the face of resistance. As secretary, my greatest commitment was to disseminate all pertinent information so that everyone was included in the process. I made a priority of seeking out as many ideas and perspectives as possible, and encouraging everyone to participate. As we begin to make changes to achieve our goals, I believe it is essential to take the time to communicate, explain, and receive feedback to make sure we all understand and agree on the right direction to take.
Implementing the Strategic Plan will be one of the major tasks before the faculty leadership in the next years ahead, but there are many other concerns as well. We are only just beginning to become familiar with the recommendations provided by the Huron Group for the Strategic Budgeting Initiatives. In order to consider them, we need clarity in greater detail. We also need to look beyond those measures to the possible repercussions for those values we hold that are not financial: the quality of our ability to educate, conduct research, and maintain an environment that is fair, respectful, and progressive. Other issues must constantly evolve as new concerns are raised: parity of salaries and benefits, curriculum, racial and gender inequalities, campus safety, etc.
I have served on numerous committees throughout my career at Auburn, including Multicultural Diversity, Faculty Handbook and University Safety. Currently, I am on the University Master Planning Committee and the University Senate representative on the Central Classroom Facility (Academic Success Center) Steering Committee. This is my fourth year as Calendar and Schedules Committee Chair. From July 2011 through June 2013, I served as your secretary-elect and secretary respectively, and as a member of University Senate Executive, Rules and Steering committees. Representing the faculty as an officer in the Senate is the best way to gain the necessary experience to prepare for the job of chair-elect, a position that requires leadership, initiative, and a willingness to serve all members of the university.
I continue to believe the fairness of shared governance relies on the consideration given to differing opinions, and is strengthened by the transparency of the process. As secretary, I made it a priority to ensure inclusiveness of all faculty, and to encourage participation well beyond the membership of the University Senate. I am committed to the work of establishing protocols that will ensure in the future that the process of governing at Auburn is open and transparent. If elected as your chair-elect of the University Senate, I will remain respectful and open to the opinions of all, listen intently to all members of the university, examine the issues of concern without bias and/or fleeting thoughts, and be a strong advocate and representative for the faculty at all times. Thank you sincerely for this honor. War Eagle.
Relative newcomers to Auburn may be skeptical about this, but I believe Auburn is experiencing some of its best years in over two decades. Of course the budgets are not good, and funding is more difficult to obtain than it was a decade ago, but budgets have rarely been flush at Auburn.
Over the last six to eight years, our economy has struggled through one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression and yet I think our experience with fluctuating budgets positioned Auburn to weather these changes admirably. Many schools have done worse. So, although we are not experiencing economic good times, it actually hasn’t been all that bad either. A key factor in my feelings about where we are as a university has to be the nearly unprecedented good relations the faculty have with the current administration.
Now that the pundits are proclaiming they see light at the end of the recession tunnel, our focus can change from surviving to thriving. In order to attract and retain the best faculty, we will soon need to address some faculty welfare issues. Key issues (in addition to salary) are healthcare costs and retirement planning. Since AU’s healthcare insurance plan is self-funded, we need to be at the forefront, as a faculty, encouraging participation in programs designed to reduce costs (such as Healthy Tigers) while at the same time, ensuring that non-participants are not being stigmatized, or worse yet, ‘flagged’ (as many colleagues felt about our approach to the smoking ban). We are one faculty and we have to be respectful of the diverse opinions/attitudes/lifestyles of our colleagues. Regarding retirement benefits, we are all making larger percentage contributions to RSA than we were several years ago and new faculty (since 2013) are expected to do more in the way of planning for retirement independently. For these reasons, we need to be involved in discussions about total faculty compensation to determine if AU’s programs (such as the 403b matching program) are competitive with our peer institutions.
As faculty representatives, the Senate also needs to make sure that faculty have the opportunities to keep pace with changes in how research is conducted and how education is being delivered. By working with the administration, programs can be developed that help researchers understand the changes in the extramural funding landscape. Multi-institution research cooperatives are new to many senior faculty and helping them navigate new methods for bringing researchers together will make us a stronger university. On the education side, central classroom facilities will soon be built that will make it easier to implement new education technologies and methods. The Engaged Active Student Learning spaces are a good first step to ensure that these facilities will be utilized efficiently and effectively, but a broader outreach program to faculty that introduces them to the possibilities they will offer is critical. Who remembers the campus before Blackboard, Canvas, Panopto or clickers? These technologies have made content delivery and student feedback much more efficient and created more opportunities for meaningful distance education programs, including outreach and extension programs. More than ever, creative faculty are needed in the review and selection of innovations that can allow us to be more efficient (and relevant from a student perspective) as we face budget challenges in the future.
Shared governance at Auburn requires at least two things: supportive leaders in the administration who are willing to share responsibilities for charting Auburn’s path with the faculty, and faculty who are willing to step forward and accept responsibility (and the work that goes with it) to make it happen. Historically the institution has been very willing to let the faculty do the heavy lifting when it comes to academic issues such as curricula, academic standards, research and outreach programs and decisions about faculty tenure and promotion. Only a few administrations (including this one) have sought faculty input regarding faculty welfare, budgets, enrollment, and strategic planning for the university generally. As the administrative body primarily focused on representing the interests and ideals of the faculty, the Senate must embrace each opportunity we are given to express the concerns and the suggestions of the people we represent. Over the next few years, changes in the way that resources are allocated, instruction is delivered and staffing decisions are made will require the creative ideas of dedicated faculty to ensure their success.
Since my arrival at Auburn in 2006, I have enjoyed my involvement with the University Senate and have developed an appreciation for how shared governance and university and Senate service gives us the opportunity to shape and change our environment.
I have served on a variety of University, Senate and ad hoc committees. I believe that my experiences as a Senate representative, two terms as a member of steering, and membership on the rules committee have given me insight into what the senate represents and what the position of secretary-elect would encompass.
As secretary-elect I would embrace the opportunity to further serve and help lead Auburn forward as the university begins to respond to the changing student climate and the myriad financial challenges ahead.
The recession continues to impact our financial flexibilities, but there are other factors on campus that warrant input from the Senate. We recently adopted a new strategic plan that places emphasis on achieving preeminence. To achieve this status, the strategic priorities and goals outlined within this plan are aimed toward increasing student diversity and retention, enhancing assessment practices, improving faculty vitality, promoting enhanced research and scholarly contributions and the development of a new budgetary model. The Senate will be important as the university begins to outline the best paths toward achieving these priorities.
The University Senate will serve as an important venue for the dissemination of information, a place to be heard and a place to actively participate in policy and procedural changes that will be incumbent with these new initiatives and strategic priorities. As secretary-elect, I would look forward to helping address today’s pressing challenges and issues that are important to the Auburn community and especially the faculty.
The challenges and the decisions ahead are not inconsequential, especially as we make efforts to change our current budgetary model and find the one that will best fit Auburn. Transparency and an open platform for discussion will be imperative as we make strides toward responding to today’s and tomorrow’s environment, while maintaining Auburn’s current mission and the Auburn Spirit. In short, I am keenly interested in fulfilling the duties of secretary-elect and in providing campus leadership via this position.
Service through faculty governance provides opportunities to make a difference as we observe, assess and learn from the broadened wisdom of the collective university community. The Senate is not designed to be a forum where faculty, administrators, students or other constituencies assemble to defend turf, but rather a place where all of us participate in mutual purpose and respect to advise university leadership of faculty views.
My two years on the Steering Committee and chairing the Teaching Effectiveness Committee availed opportunity to work with Senate leadership to gain insight into and appreciation for the essential importance of shared governance at Auburn to achieve excellence in its endeavors.
I believe the core values of Auburn are conveyed through our healthy and systematic form of shared governance which fosters collaboration, transparency and collegial interaction among faculty. It is critical for faculty from across our campus to be accurately informed on issues and to view each other as part of a larger university community for which we have stewardship responsibilities and a representative voice.
Consistent with the challenges facing higher education as a whole, our campus has increasing complexity around the educational, research and outreach missions. Collectively, this makes the process of university governance more important yet more difficult than ever before. Our strategic future depends on positive faculty input and active involvement in finding solutions to the challenges confronting the university.
I bring experience and expertise of service from editorial boards of professional journals along with scholarship in research, teaching and outreach. The secretary’s role is a serious responsibility, and I promise to serve the faculty to the best of my ability especially as we continue to move forward on the work ahead on many fronts including key elements of the new strategic plan.
It would be an honor and privilege to serve as secretary-elect and work with you and the Senate team to protect and enhance shared governance. If elected, I will work diligently to execute the duties of secretary to foster effective communication, creativity and leadership to the role. As we face emerging challenges, I pledge to communicate with objectivity and accuracy to keep faculty informed and ensure their voices are heard.