U.Va. Faculty Senate Approves Recommendations in Vision Statement

September 25, 2006
Sept. 25, 2006 -- The Faculty Senate unanimously approved a set of recommendations for the University of Virginia, which is “ideally positioned to become the No. 1 research and teaching institution in the United States,” according to the senate’s vision statement.

Meeting in the Dome Room of the Rotunda on Thursday, Sept. 21, senators approved a vision statement which calls for a 1-15 faculty-student ratio and creating an academic planning process. The statement also says the University will continue efforts to build internationally prominent research programs, establish a versatile information technology environment, require writing instruction and communications skills training for every undergraduate, increase the diversity of the faculty and student body, encourage cross-school exchanges, offer more undergraduate research and increase graduate student funding.

The senators had approved a draft of the statement at their May meeting. Marcia D. Childress, associate professor of medical education and chair of the planning and development committee, presented the senate with the final version for approval on Sept. 21.

The recommendation of a 1-15 faculty-student ratio, to be achieved in seven years, with a long-range goal of 1-to-12 by 2020, is the foundation of the recommendations.

“These additional faculty would enable U.Va. to increase the number of classes having fewer than 50 students and, especially, fewer than 20 students, and to extend faculty involvement with students in research,” the vision statement read.

The statement also endorses several initiatives already under way at the University, including steps toward more international education, advances in science and engineering, plans for visual and performing arts, investment in libraries and digital technology and public outreach to primary and secondary schools.

While approving its vision for the future, the senate also weighed issues surrounding recruitment and retention, another issue that came out of the retreat in January.

Jennifer Harvey, an associate professor in the Department of Radiology and chair of the senate’s task force investigating recruitment issues, presented the senators with a list of concerns her task force had compiled, and she solicited more at the meeting.

The committee’s list included revitalizing the faculty club at which to gather and socialize, recruiting more women and minorities, improving the infrastructure and teaching environment, streamlining and making transparent administrative systems, a tuition benefit for faculty members, domestic partner benefits providing access to benefits and facilities, more spousal hires, daycare, a housing allowance and increasing faculty salaries.

Among the suggestions offered by senators at the meeting were more team teaching between schools and departments, bridge funding for projects that are between grants, money for academic presses that will publish faculty works, increased funding to send faculty members to conferences and a shuttle bus to Washington, D.C., so faculty can take advantage of the city for research.

President John T. Casteen III, in his report to the senate, said the 2006-2007 state budget authorizes salary increases averaging 4.39 percent for full-time faculty; a supplementary payment from the Board of Visitors will bring it to an average of 5 percent. The board has set a goal of increasing faculty compensation to market levels by 2006-2007. This projected 5 percent increase should close the gap with peer institutions in the Association of American Universities.
Casteen also discussed the $3 billion capital campaign, which officially begins Sept. 30, saying faculty members would be involved. Casteen asked senators for any contacts they might have in a list of cities in which there will be campaign events. He said faculty can also be involved in planning proposals for donors.

Casteen also told the senate about the creation of a third Jefferson medal, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Civic Leadership. Joining the medals for law and architecture, the civic leadership medal will be awarded from time to time for personal leadership, generative influence on the common culture and accomplishments consistent with Jefferson’s interests. There are no restrictions on citizenship, age or area of endeavor, but nominees’ accomplishments should be well-known and respected.

In years when it is awarded, the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Civic Leadership will be presented during ceremonies at the Rotunda on the University’s Founder’s Day, Jefferson’s birthday, April 13. Additional honors will be conferred during a dinner in Jefferson’s dining room at Monticello. Each recipient will deliver a public lecture at the University, talk with students and faculty, and receive a medal struck for the occasion.

Nominations must be received by Feb. 1, at the president’s office.

In other business before the senate:

Amy H. Bouton, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and chair of the research and scholarship committee, said her committee will be making the selection for the Harrison Undergraduate Research Grants, awarded in the spring.

Childress said the faculty dinners, instituted last year and hosted at Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block’s pavilion, had been a success and would return this year, starting with a reception on Oct. 11 for all of last year’s attendees.

Reginald Garrett, a biology professor and chair of the academic affairs committee, said his committee will address titles of non-tenure-track faculty and review the faculty handbook, written in 1994.

Senate chairman Kenneth Schwartz reviewed topics for discussion at future meetings, including diversity, growth, libraries and athletics.

The next faculty senate meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library, in the Auditorium.