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Metz Addresses Board of Visitors

By Paul Metz, Faculty Senate president

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 22 - February 28, 1997

Once again I would like to thank the rector for the opportunity to communicate with you the accomplishments of our faculty and some sense of what is on our minds.

There are certainly a number of things for us all to feel good about as we see this beautiful spring emerge. We are proud of Cameron Hackney of food science and technology for his recognition via a Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. The ASPIRES program, established by Len Peters as a means of moving potential research projects along, of getting them to a point where they could attract outside funding while at the same time giving faculty participants a better idea how that game is played, attracted 140 proposals, of which it was possible to fund 54. This level of participation indicates to me that the faculty members are still aggressive in their research interests, despite competing demands and a sometimes discouraging funding environment, and that the university has been creative in helping to nurture that interest. On the teaching front, there are now many faculty members-more than 50 in Arts and Sciences alone-engaged in the Cyber school Initiative and more than 180 courses using instructional technology in some form.

It's hard to speak for the entire faculty, but I think there may be some sense that our worst days are behind us. The state seems to have accepted our plans for post-tenure review, and we are continuing to move forward with departmental implementation of that. Faculty members are also working through the governance structure to devise a continuum of sanctions for dealing with ethical or other lapses in faculty performance and behavior which might merit serious disciplinary measures but which would not call for movement towards dismissal. Even as we go ahead in very good faith with these measures, we do worry about the highly detailed institutional measures the state is demanding and we do wonder what's next.

The reports back from the benchmarking visits indicate that our peers have simply not been subjected to the level of micro-reporting we face. I find this very easy to believe.

We are also encouraged by the news from the legislature about faculty salaries. We are grateful for the support we have received from the legislature, and for the efforts that we know many of you have made to encourage this. Here too, though, we wonder and worry. Both SCHEV and the Business Higher Education Council had indicated that this should be only the second year in what would require four years of effort to undo the slippage in our competitiveness, and yet the executive branch was apparently ready to walk away so early in the game. Certainly it tempers anyone's optimism to realize that of every thousand dollars of new money the state identified for discretionary spending in the second year of the biennium, the governor recommended that 50 cents be budgeted for higher education.

The Faculty Senate continues to be very busy in the domain of public understanding and legislative relations. Next month we will host two important events. One March 19 we will hold a media workshop, in which our faculty will receive assistance and advice in dealing with the media, so that the sometimes abstract-sounding worlds of research, scholarship, and teaching, can be explained to the public and their relevance to daily life made clear. And we will be sponsoring a meeting on March 22 at the Hotel Roanoke of all faculty senates in Virginia. The purpose of this meeting will be to learn more about how we can communicate directly with the General Assembly and the executive branch and to plan possible means by which, in ways which would complement rather than compete with the universities' efforts, we can put a human face on the faculty and establish our own means of communication.

The last time I addressed you, I spoke about athletic violence and the faculty's strong feelings of shock and embarrassment about the events of last year. I'm sure you know that the Faculty Senate passed a resolution condemning the situation and that we felt strongly that whatever was required to address it must be done. I was pleased to serve as a member of the task force which wrote the report you are considering today. I was impressed by the seriousness Dave Braine and his staff attached to this issue, and I believe that the steps we recommend, which move from recruitment through education and on to a set of pre-established, stiff sanctions whose imposition is out of the coaches' hands, are the right steps and the responsible way to act.