New Chair Counsels Faculty Senate to Embrace, and Shape, Change

September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011 — Robert Kemp, chairing the University of Virginia's Faculty Senate for the first time, exhorted his fellow senators to welcome the change that will be the inevitable result of turnover in University leadership.

Kemp, Ramon W. Breeden Sr. Research Professor at the McIntire School of Commerce, opened a discussion of the future of the University by reminding senators that the University’s top leadership has changed hands over the past year. President Teresa A. Sullivan arrived just over a year ago, Michael Strine came on board July 1 as executive vice president and chief operating officer, and John Simon takes office this month as executive vice president and provost.

"Change is uncomfortable for a lot of people, but the reality is that change is going to happen," Kemp said. "This is a great administration to lead us and we have to step up. It is an opportunity to be proactive and be part of the change."

He urged faculty members to join committees and weigh in on new initiatives, including the creation of a new internal financial model that will emphasize transparent decision-making, incentive-based allocations and prudent stewardship of University resources.

In her remarks, Sullivan said the new financial model – scheduled to be implemented by the 2013-14 fiscal year – would encourage entrepreneurship among deans and the faculty while also creating greater accountability. Her goal, she said, is to create a model that aligns resource allocations with academic decision-making. To that end, she has charged a steering committee comprising of several vice presidents, deans and a representative from the Faculty Senate to begin to think through a new model that would be tailored to the University. As part of this process, there is also a working group researching financial models and reporting systems at other institutions and examining components that might work at the University.

Strine, in his first appearance before the senate, reiterated Sullivan's goal of  wanting "to align people, time and money" at a time when many citizens and legislators are questioning the value of public higher education.

"They want a return on research," he said. "They want to know how efficient and effective you are."

Strine said that to make a new model successful, more discussions will be needed among deans and academic leaders from different parts of the University. "I want there to be more integration and more joint conversations," he said.

Sullivan said the University must control costs and increase efficiencies – both priorities for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who appointed Sullivan to his advisory Commission on Higher Education.

One of her goals, she said, is to help the state to understand the important work of U.Va. faculty members.

"I apply an offense, defense and special teams model when dealing with the state," she said. "I want to bring in more money, secure more funding for new faculty; beat back things that can hurt us; and take advantage of opportunities as they come up."

Sullivan also told the senators that U.Va is not acting alone in its efforts in Richmond. "I want to make education better for the whole state," she said. "We rise and fall with the rest of the colleges and universities."

Kemp urged senators to attend a working session in October to discuss possible financial models and to invite faculty leaders from their departments who are not members of the senate.

In other business:

• Senators reaffirmed a decision by the executive committee approving two new degrees for the School of Architecture. The senators had approved the degrees in the spring, but there were questions of whether a quorum was present, so the executive committee approved the degrees pending ratification of the full senate.

• Dr. Christopher Holstege, an associate professor in the School of Medicine and chairman of the Faculty Recruitment, Retention, Retirement and Welfare Committee, outlined a new faculty survey the senate will undertake. The senate first surveyed the faculty in 2007, with a 61 percent response. Kemp said the new survey would include work/life issues as well as questions about how faculty members interact with students. Sullivan advised senators that this would be an important tool for her in talking with legislators.

"I know that as faculty you interact with students more than just in the classroom," Sullivan said. "As we are trying to get more funding for faculty, it is important that the General Assembly has a better idea of what you do."

Sullivan said some schools have turned to generating profit-and-loss statements to show their productivity. Though she said she disagrees with that approach, she needs to demonstrate faculty productivity.

• Past senate chair Gweneth West encouraged senators and faculty members to continue several initiatives that started during her term, including the Day of Dialogue Part 2, Dialogues with the Dean, Flash Seminars for Faculty, a graduate funding initiative, Open Grounds, peer-review research poster competitions, the Respectful Workplace Task Force and the University Academy of Teaching.

• Interim Executive Vice President and Provost J. Milton Adams outlined for the senators some of the services that are available to blind and visually impaired students.

• Susan Carkeek, vice president and chief human resources officer, discussed the work of the Respectful Workplace Task Force, which is examining how employees can be more respectful of co-workers. She said a report would be issued soon, but she still welcomes faculty input.

— By Matt Kelly

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications