Spectrum - Volume 19 Issue 05 September 26, 1996 - Senate sets agenda for new year

A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor , a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Senate sets agenda for new year

By John Ashby

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 05 - September 26, 1996

The Faculty Senate heard reports last week from this year's working groups, heard a presentation on the university's self study, and learned more about the offices of University Relations and Government Relations.

Joel Nachlas said that his institutional-definition group will examine issues such as the quality and nature of the undergraduate-student body as it relates to the university's role as a comprehensive, residential academic institution; as well as admissions policies and practices.

The group led by Tom Sherman is examining perceptions, and has two main issues to discuss, Sherman said. The first issue is what information and perceptions are available internally and externally in regard to the faculty, with an emphasis on the external. The second area of emphasis for the group, Sherman said, is how to maximize faculty influence , including the possibility of lobbying. "We will look at how we might organize and be more closely associated with colleagues at other institutions-we are looking for a way for faculty members to contact legislators and communicate the value of the work they [faculty members] do," Sherman said.

Jim McKenna's group is looking at faculty performance. "The two most important topics," he said, "will be post-tenure review, and administrative review." When questioned, McKenna said the term "administrative review" referred to a review of university administrators. McKenna listed several other topics the group would examine including the composition of search committees, retirement and benefits, who speaks for the university in regard to philosophy and diction, and the negative impact technology has had on faculty members.

Senators then heard from David Conn, self-study director, and Anne McNabb, chair of the self-study Steering Committee. This self study will be different, Conn said, because the accrediting organization expects the university to meet all accrediting criteria, and has agreed to let the university conduct a strategic self study as a way of "identifying issues , drawing conclusions, and make recommendations" which will be useful strategically for the university. (For a detailed report on the strategic aspect of the self-study, please the September 19 issue of Spectrum.)

Conn described the compliance aspect of the process, which ensures that the institution meets the criteria for accreditation. An on-campus committee will compile documents illustrating compliance. These reports will be audited by the accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, in March 1998. (A detailed description of the compliance phase of the self study will be published in an upcoming issue of Spectrum .)

McNabb described the committee structure for the strategic aspect of the self-study, and fielded questions about makeup of the committees.

Senators heard a description of the role of University Relations as it handles the public-relations issues of the university. Director Larry Hincker detailed the organization of University Relations and described its mission as "promoting public awareness and understanding of and support for" the university. University Relations accomplishes this goal, Hincker said, by "disseminating useful information affecting Virginians, and by providing the university with a wide range of communications expertise and services."

Hincker said public relations is important, because "nothing is more important than our image, which reflects the quality of our faculty, our students, and our programs."

Ralph Byers described his role as that of an official legislative liaison whose mission is to "identify and address issues of importance to the university, and work with state government for the university's benefit." Byers said he has dealt with issues such as budget cuts, restrictions on the number of out-of-state students, exemptions from the state hiring freeze, bond issues for campus building projects, and others.

Byers told the senators they still scored high on reputation surveys, and should speak out on issues involving higher education. "Op-ed pages are very powerful tools in dealing with the media," Byers said.