U Senate proposes giving staff a voice

Incorporating staff members would bring 50 new members to the Senate.

Adam Elrashidi

The University Senate is looking to include staff members who work closely with students in its membership.

Currently, faculty members, academic professionals and students make up the body, which discusses and approves University matters.

The proposal will be presented to the Board of Regents on Feb. 10 at its monthly meeting.

Dan Feeney, a department of veterinary clinical sciences professor who is spearheading the proposal, said the current University Senate does not give staff members an official say in what it discusses.

“It became obvious that what we should do is have a University Senate that is, indeed, a University Senate,” he said.

The proposal would bring representatives from the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators and staff members from the Civil Service Committee into the main University Senate body.

The University has a staff of 18,048, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.

This number includes 4,601 academic professionals and administrators who have never had a representative in the University Senate, Feeney said.

Academic professionals include librarians, researchers and advisers. Civil service workers include custodians and clerical personnel.

Teri Wallace, a research assistant from the Institute on Community Integration, said the initiative would introduce 50 new members into the University Senate. Twenty-five members each would be elected by members from both staff groups.

Although a part of the University Senate as a whole, the organizations would still be able to address their own relative organizational concerns, Wallace said.

Upon approval, Feeney said, the election process would begin this spring with the restructured University Senate in place for fall.

Feeney said one of the many purposes of the initiative is to provide the University Senate with a more-accurate portrayal of what the day-to-day concerns and affairs of students really are.

Frank Douma, a research fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and chairman of the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators Representation and Governance Committee, said staff members would be able to bring a distinct viewpoint to the University Senate because of their high contact with students.

“(Students) interact with (administrators) and civil service,” Douma said. “When those issues come up, faculty and staff will be able to hear the student perspective firsthand Ö I think that’s a great advantage.”

Feeney said that overall, the restructuring of the University Senate would be a great opportunity to improve the University and the welfare of everyone who has an association with it.

“This institution is going to face some fairly trying times in the future,” Feeney said. “It would be much better if we had people working together discussing all kinds of things Ö and have a common forum.”