General faculty meeting held to discuss new education developments, presidential hiring process
BY LAURA SCUDDER, NEWS EDITOR
A general faculty meeting was held on Wednesday, Jan. 29. The meeting, hosted by Interim President Anne Holton and Provost David Wu, provided faculty the opportunity to interact with administration and covered a variety of faculty-related topics.
Holton began the event with a quick introduction, discussing the current legislation — in the Virginia House of Delegates regarding higher education.
Delegate David Bulova has introduced HB 510, which “Provides that no discretionary exclusion in FOIA shall apply to protect information relating to the amount, date, purpose, and terms of a pledge or donation made to a public institution of higher education.” Delegate Danica Roem has signed on as chief co-patron.
According to Holton, students part of Mason DREAMers testified in front of members on Wednesday to advocate for HB 1547, which is legislation that allows undocumented students living in Virginia to receive in-state tuition rates.
Faculty Senate Chair Shannon Davis announced a few important upcoming dates related to the presidential search process. On Feb. 7, there will be a search committee meeting and on Feb. 12, there will be a special session to allow faculty and the faculty senate to talk to Rector Tom Davis. The times and locations for these events have not been announced.
Davis expressed that they hope to announce a new university president before March.
The meeting then got into general faculty matters, including plans for growing the university and education. Janette Muir and Oscar Barton went into detail about the accreditation process and the new Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) that Mason will try to implement within the next few years.
The Office of Student Scholarships, Creative Activities, and Research, more commonly known as OSCAR, began as a QEP.
According to Barton, there will be four QEP options for the Mason community to listen to and provide feedback on.
From there, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Development Kimberly Eby discussed the results of a faculty satisfaction survey, which had a 63 percent response rate.
To end the general faculty meeting, Wu led a discussion pertaining to his recent blog post which discussed the First Amendment and academic freedom.
“In many aspects, the scope of academic freedom goes beyond the First Amendment — it extends beyond the speech rights to include the right to determine the curriculum of the classroom, institutional rules and regulations, faculty recruiting decisions, and other academic decision making that protect broader concerns of academic freedom,” Wu wrote toward the end of his post.
Wu then addressed comments from the faculty. American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Bethany Letiecq commented on how the idea of academic freedom relates to shared governance.
“We have a problem with secrecy and transparency at this university and without knowledge and access to data, we’re stymied and we’ve been stymied by that,” Letiecq said.
She continued “We hope that the Virginia legislature passes its new FOIA bills, but that’s not going to address those gift agreements that still are locked behind closed doors at the foundation that preclude our ability to discern whether we have a problem with undue donor influence here or not, which challenges our academic freedom.”
She added, “Likewise, the presidential search, up to right now, continues to be categorized as secretive. We still do not know as a faculty whether we will be allowed as a general faculty … our handbook says we must be given opportunities to visit with finalists for the search.”
According to Letiecq, Mason faculty were given zero opportunity to engage with presidential candidates in the last presidential search process.
“I’m not saying the policy is perfect. It’s not perfect, we still have room for improvement. However, we did make a significant effort to make our gift acceptance process much more transparent,” Wu said. “It’s certainly in our best interest to make that process as transparent as possible.
While this process will be implemented going forward, it does not seem that there will be a way to make past gift agreements public.