Open letter from past-president of Faculty Senate (2017-19)

Dear VCU Faculty Colleagues,

As the summer comes to a close and another semester begins, I wanted to share some information with you as my term as President of Faculty Senate comes to a close. I have had an incredible two years serving you on the Faculty Senate. In that time, we faculty have accomplished much:

  • The Statement on Shared Governance has been implemented in nearly all schools with final schools expected to be submitting updated governance documents in the coming year. I want to thank Mary Secret (Social Work, retired) and the Faculty Affairs Committee of University Council for their sustained efforts with this project.
  • Faculty have worked closely with Aashir Nasim and several University committees to further efforts to encourage, improve, and assess diversity/inclusion efforts across our campuses. We anticipate exciting new programs and opportunities in the near future from these efforts.
  • Undergraduate curriculum reform has been supported by many faculty. Foundations for a new General Education model, the REAL Initiative, new 4-year programs leading to teacher certification, etc. have been implemented or will soon be implemented due to the efforts of many dedicated faculty working in conjunction with administrators.
  • VCU faculty members have worked closely with the state-wide Faculty Senate of Virginia to work with our state legislators on issues of interest to higher education faculty. I want to thank Pat Cummins (French) and Carmen Rodriguez (Biology) for their continued involvement as local coordinators. I also want to congratulate Carmen Rodriguez for her election to Vice President of the Faculty Senate of Virginia.
  • After many years of dormancy, a number of interested faculty have resurrected the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, a national advocacy groups that provides support related to faculty rights. For further information or to get involved, please contact Carmen Rodriguez (cmrodriguez@vcu.edu).
  • Faculty, staff, and administrators worked together in committees and open forums to create a new Quest 2025 strategic plan and the One VCU Master Plan, both approved by the Board of Visitors. Implementation of these plans has already begun, and we will see direct benefits in the form of updated or new buildings and spaces to enhance the mission and programs of VCU.
  • Faculty, staff, and students worked together to change the academic calendar to streamline welcome week and provide for a long-asked-for, student-desired, week-long break at Thanksgiving.
  • ...and too many other accomplishments to mention.

However, we still have work to do in many areas:

  • We need to work with our administrator colleagues to improve faculty recruitment and retention efforts, especially with regards to a diverse faculty, and increase inclusive opportunities for faculty, students, and staff in our units and across the University.
  • We all need to step up and get involved in governance and service in our units (departments and schools/colleges) and at the university-level. We can no longer “protect junior faculty from service”, for new ideas get overlooked, and we must ensure our junior faculty feel as included as our senior faculty. Instead, we need to encourage our junior faculty to get involved (but not over-extended) and “protect them in service” so that they can connect to the university, make meaningful impact, and develop their teaching and scholarship portfolios.
  • We need to guide and mentor our colleagues so that we can help each other live by the VCU Creed and Code of Conduct.

And most importantly, we need to stay vigilant and ensure that faculty involvement in the curriculum, policies, and decisions of the university continues through proper implementation of shared governance. This means that we all must take the time to stay informed — read the VCU TelegRAM emails (especially the bottom portion listing new/revised policies open for public review), participate when asked to serve on committees, and communicate with your colleagues about what these committees are doing. Many committee meetings across the University are open to faculty, so if there is an issue of importance to you, attend meetings and/or share your opinions with your representatives. VCU is what we make of it, and while it is pretty good, we have the potential to continue to make it even better.

While my term as President of Faculty Senate has come to an end, we have some strong leaders stepping up to guide us in the coming year. Incoming President, Nancy Jallo (Nursing), and Vice President Valerie Robnolt (Education) have much planned for us and are open to hearing from faculty regarding any issues/concerns/accomplishments that you’d like to share (FacultySenate@vcu.edu). They are planning another exceptional Faculty Symposium for Reading Day (Friday, October 18), so save the date and look for more details to be released soon.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you these last two years, and I look forward to joining with you to have another successful year.

—Scott Street

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