An Inside Look at Faculty Senate

Photo courtesy of Shannon Davis

Davis discusses her role as the new chair of the faculty senate


Dr. Shannon Davis, a professor of family sociology, was elected to serve as the chair of Mason’s faculty senate after serving as a faculty senator for the last four years. 

The faculty senate is an elected body of faculty members at Mason that represent the general faculty at Mason, including full-time instructional, research and clinical faculty members. One of the main responsibilities of the faculty senate is to maintain a sense of shared governance with Mason’s administration. 

One role that the faculty senate plays is the oversight of curriculum and degree programs while maintaining academic freedom. Each academic department has the right to create the curriculum of its classes, while the faculty senate must ensure that the curriculum meets certain requirements that the university has. 

“It is essentially shared governance in that the faculty works with the committee to make sure that undergraduates have the skills and competencies they need when they graduate,” Davis said.

To make sure that all undergrad students are accounted for, Davis makes sure that tasks she is not able to handle are delegated to other faculty members.

As chair, Davis must also ensure that the senate represents Mason faculty in both administrative and legislative conversations. These conversations often relate to tuition, budgeting and standards for professors and other faculty at Mason.  

In serving as the head of the senate, Davis must also coordinate with the executive and standing committees, and regularly communicate with the provost to deal with issues outside of the university’s control.

“One example we had where faculty representation was critical was an issue dealing with how Mason could grow bigger in the online space. There were rumors that the Mason administration was going to purchase an external entity and create an online university separately, which brought up serious concerns about the role of faculty in decision making and the role of the curriculum,” said Davis. 

The faculty senate worked with the provost in holding four to eight town hall meetings for faculty and students to hear what people’s concerns were. 

“The faculty senate was instrumental in holding public conversations about the issue,” Davis said. 

“My role as co-chair of the search committee and chair of the faculty senate is to figure out how to better partner with other decision makers in the university to deliver better and more efficiently on our mission, as well as not to overtax the faculty and students,” continued Davis.

According to Davis, at the end of the day, the most important goal is for the faculty to put students first, no matter what.

“The goal is for students to have the most challenging intellectual experience they can get while gaining the skills to create a better world.”