May 2, 2006 — Offering a list of priorities to guide the University of Virginia into the future, the Faculty Senate approved a new vision statement for U.Va. at its meeting on April 28 at Clark Hall.
The primary initiative in the statement, which was drafted by the senate’s planning and development committee, calls for a 20 percent increase in faculty to bring the average faculty/student ratio to 1:15 over the next seven years. The statement also calls for building internationally prominent research programs in science, social science, humanities and professional schools; encouraging writing instruction for all undergraduates; increasing diversity of the faculty and student body; increasing cross-school exchange; increasing undergraduate research with additional funding; and establishing an ongoing academic planning process.
Questioning specific wording, several senators challenged elements of the statement, but Marcia Day Childress, associate professor of Medical Education and co-director of the Program of Humanities in Medicine, who chairs the planning and development committee, said the statement could be modified once it was approved.
“We want to be on record of what the direction is for the University and what the priorities should be,” she said.
Childress, in presenting the statement, said that various sources put U.Va.’s faculty/student ratio anywhere from 1:15.2 to 1:17.6, while some private universities have ratios of less that 1:10. Senate Chairman Houston G. Wood, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, noted that the student enrollment of the University would be increasing over the next several years.
University President John T. Casteen III said many new faculty posts would come from targeted gifts from the $3 billion capital campaign.
Jeffrey J. Rossman, the lone dissenting vote, said he wanted the statement to reflect more concern for faculty interests.
“There is not anything in here about faculty salaries,” said Rossman, an associate professor of history. “Faculty welfare should be front and center.”
But other senators argued that the statement should focus on the progress of the University, not faculty self-interest. Wood urged the senators to read the vision statement and make changes later.
“The committee did a good job with this,” he said. “We should not edit it today.”
The senate approved the statement with the understanding that it can be modified later and that e-mail comments would be accepted.
Casteen updated the senate on the $3 billion capital campaign, which officially kicks off on Sept. 30. He said that $910 million has been raised already, putting the campaign ahead of schedule. About a third of the money raised will be used to support faculty and students, he said. Casteen also reported that his fund-raising travels had shown him that different regions around the country are interested in different elements of the University program. In Boston, for example, there is an interest in curriculum, while on Long Island, N.Y., donors are concerned with the hard sciences. Because of these different interests, he said there is a strong need for faculty participation in the fund-raising process.
In apprising the Faculty Senate on the state budget, with which legislators are still grappling, Casteen said all funding is back on the table, which means that budget items that had been approved may now be rescinded.
“Research money may be at risk,” he said.
He also cautioned that if there is no budget in place when the current spending plan ends on June 30, the University may not be able to issue pay checks.
In other business, Teresa Culver, secretary of the senate and associate professor, and assistant chair of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Civil Engineering, proposed a policy statement calling for a 30-day comment period for policy changes that affect faculty members. After debate the senate endorsed the recommendation.
Later, the senators approved a Master of Public Policy degree, in which a student could earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years. The program would draw heavily from the economics and politics departments, and would include a public policy internship. The senators also approved a doctorate in nursing practice.
Senators also OK’d a bylaw change to place the chair of the planning and development committee on the executive committee.
The gavel was passed from Wood to Kenneth A. Schwartz, the new chairman of the senate. Schwartz, an architecture professor, said he wanted to work on faculty recruitment and retention, faculty contributions to the capital campaign and increased communication within the senate. He proposed an online bulletin board where senators could hold an ongoing discussion of ideas.
Ricardo Padron, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish Italian & Portuguese, was nominated to be chair-elect. There was no opposition and no other candidates were presented. Faculty members will vote via e-mail.