Emergency Planning the Focus of Faculty Senate Meeting

May 7, 2007 --  University President John T. Casteen III focused on issues of campus safety and security in the aftermath of the recent shootings at Virginia Tech in his remarks to U.Va.’s Faculty Senate on May 2.

The University is addressing several emergency planning issues over the next two months, he said, including creating an emergency management office, clarifying U.Va. procedures for a violent incident, increasing faculty and staff in-service training, implementing a student/employee notification system and reviewing emergency plans.

Casteen said the emergency planning office would be included in the 2007-2008 budget, and a name would be chosen that makes it clear the office will handle violent incidents as well as natural disasters.

In reviewing procedures, Casteen said it must be decided who determines when classes are canceled, who has the authority to close the University and how, and who can override established procedures. The University’s reaction to an off-Grounds, but nearby violent incident also has to be determined, and the University needs to set a date for new construction and renovation guidelines that will include upgraded security measures.

Under consideration is in-service training for faculty and student affairs personnel, as well as selected others, to better identify people who are at risk of injuring themselves or others. The academic workplace has many of the same risk factors as other job sites, Casteen said, so there will be a review of policies dealing with employee terminations and disciplinary actions to minimize the risk of violence.

He said there would be an accelerated implementation of an emergency notification system, which will distribute text, e-mail and Web messages to cell phones, personal digital assistant devices and computers. He said the University is also exploring the feasibility of a Groundswide siren and public address system.

The University needs to have a pre-arranged means of immediately involving local and state personnel, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the event of an emergency, and University officials need to know how to seal off sections of the Grounds if that is necessary, Casteen said.

In other business, Casteen introduced the senators to newly appointed Provost, Dr. Arthur Garson, who will also be an executive vice president. Casteen said the job has been expanded; one or two vice presidents will be appointed under Garson, and there will be other changes to make the office more efficient.

Casteen said the curriculum for the recently announced Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy should be ready by the fall and assured senators they would be able to review plans for the school in the next several months. The dean search will commence once the core curriculum is in place, he said.

Casteen updated the senators on the Commission on the Future of the University, noting that preliminary reports should be turned in about June 1. He said some committees will work through the summer, with final reports due on Nov. 1.

Among the themes the commission is considering are moving toward a more interactive university, how graduate education is financed and examining the University’s mission.
“The University needs to lead society but it also needs to respond to people’s needs,” Casteen said.

As part of this process, Casteen said the University needs to acknowledge its deficiencies as well as identify and protect its core strengths.

Casteen praised Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block, who is leaving to be chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles by Aug. 1, and Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. R. Ariel Gomez for the rapid development of the sciences at U.Va. He noted in some schools science-oriented students are placed immediately in a culture of technology. He said many U.Va. students seldom come into contact with technology courses if that is not their field. Casteen said the University has a model for exposing technology students to the humanities, and may want to use it to expose humanities students to technology.

Block, in his last official appearance before the senate, said his office is looking into intellectual property issues and how other universities handle them, investigating policies at Wake Forest, Columbia and New York University. Block said he was doing this determine what policies are at other universities and which ones are the most entrepreneurial in developing faculty ideas.
Block also said efforts are being made to keep South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu part of the Semester at Sea program. Tutu was on the spring voyage, and Block said he helped counsel several Virginia Tech students following the recent shooting on their home campus.

Ricardo Padron, associate professor in the Department for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and the incoming senate chairman, said the senate will be strongly involved in shaping the Batten School.

The faculty is looking at a period of change and transition, as U.Va. gets news leaders and the $3 billion Campaign for the University is under way, he said. A large percentage of the faculty will be retiring during the next 10 years, and at the same time, the faculty will be expanded and new positions added. While there are concerns about preserving the “academic character” of the University, he urged the faculty to “take advantage of the change.” He said with new people and new fields of study, there will be more opportunities for collaborative involvement.

In a round up of committee reports, Reginald H. Garrett, professor of biology and chair of the senate’s academic affairs committee, said his committee would continue to look at academic titles for nontenure-track faculty and review the faculty handbook. Marcia Childress, associate professor of medical education and chair of the senate’s planning committee, said she had forwarded to the Commission on the Future of the University a statement of vision for U.Va. that included a college of global studies and an annual all-University theme.

Edmund W. Kitch, a law professor, was voted chairman-elect of the senate.