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Senate votes to restructure
A view on change and inclusion
By Teri Wallace
From Brief, October 27, 2004
The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. --Charles du Bois
The application of this quote to life at the University of Minnesota, and specifically the University Senate, may seem remote, but change is exactly what the University Senate did. During its September meeting and subsequent electronic ballot, the Senate voted to include 25 employees from the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators (CAPA) and 25 civil service staff through the Civil Service Committee (CSC). The Senate did this in order to see what it might become with a more inclusive body, including faculty, students, academic professional and administrative (P&A) staff, and civil service employees. The addition of CAPA and CSC senators would mean changes in numbers of faculty and students, yet the Senate--mostly faculty and students--voted in favor of change and in favor of inclusion.
The decision still must be approved by the president and Board of Regents before procedures for implementation will begin. Pending those approvals, the reorganization could be in effect beginning July 1, 2005. More information is available on the University Senate Web site, www.umn.edu/usenate.
In 2002, a consultant to the University suggested that the Senate was not as inclusive as it might be and proposed some ideas for improvement. University leaders took those ideas seriously and decided to create a working group of faculty, P&A employees, students, and civil service staff to generate a proposal. In 2003, the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC) initiated a process that led to a proposal to restructure the University Senate, changing some reporting lines and adding members. Professor Dan Feeney chaired this group, convening it for input and dialogue over several months.
As a P&A member and as CAPA's chair, I am excited about this change in University governance. Academic professionals and administrators already actively serve on nearly all Senate committees, so including them on the University Senate was a natural next step, but the change did not come without some people feeling that they might sacrifice what they are. Over time and with information and dialogue, the new proposal overwhelmingly passed the Senate.
I've been told that other universities would like to know more about our innovative approach to a more inclusive governance system. To begin, we can share with others my experiences with University committees, which can be summarized in four points.
- I have seen that including a diversity of opinion, situation, and experience in decision-making often leads to a stronger and perhaps more easily implemented decision.
- When this diversity of opinion, situation, and experience is shared with others, there is a deeper awareness of the issues surrounding a specific topic. Faculty can better understand the student perspective, civil service can better understand the faculty view, and so on. This is a simple idea, but, when implemented, it can have powerful influence and results.
- Once this breadth of perspective exists, people vote based on the issues.
- When individuals become committee members, I've learned that it is not who they are but what they do when they're there that matters.
I look forward to watching the next steps unfold as our university takes this innovative approach to a more inclusive governance system. It does require change, and we seem to be up for the challenge to see what we can become--which is truly inspiring.
Teri Wallace is 2004-05 chair of the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators (CAPA).