Faculty Senate gearing up for year focused on community, civility and engagement

As the Faculty Senate prepares to hold its first meeting of the fall semester on Sept. 12, Faculty Senate Chair John McLean is laying the groundwork for a year focused on engaging with faculty members and creating a tone of community and civility.

Faculty Senate Chair John McLean (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

“As society feels more divided than ever, with higher education and its greater purpose under constant scrutiny, one thing continues to bring us together: our belief in the future,” said McLean at the Aug. 22 Fall Faculty Assembly. “We are all here because we believe in the power of research and discovery to make a difference. We must also apply our scholarship, resources and innovation toward our own communities beyond Vanderbilt, to change our city, our state and our country for the better.”

The push for community and civility will be promoted through the Faculty Senate meetings, the Faculty Senate Portal and the “Faculty Engaged” newsroom site. McLean encouraged faculty to attend the senate meetings and actively engage in dialogue about both university initiatives and policies, as well as issues facing academia in general. He also encouraged faculty to submit questions and topics for future meetings to the Faculty Senate Portal.

Topics and issues raised in the Faculty Senate Portal often are addressed in senate meetings or on the Faculty Engaged newsroom site. In the past year, the newsroom featured posts from Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente, Vice Chancellor for Investments and Chief Investment Officer Anders Hall and Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain, along with other university leaders. Topics addressed have included the university’s endowment returns, child care at Vanderbilt, e-scooters and digital security.

“The Faculty Senate Portal and the Faculty Engaged newsroom are places where we can connect the faculty to ask direct questions of our university’s top leadership and receive in-depth explanations,” said McLean. “Engaging with the Faculty Senate has been an opportunity for key leaders and administrators to address faculty questions, ultimately speaking to the ‘why’ behind the decisions that are made across campus.”

McLean is also emphasizing the faculty voice in the Chancellor Search process. McLean, who also sits on the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee, noted that the Faculty Senate has been encouraging faculty to fill out the Chancellor Search feedback form through Sept. 9. The Faculty Senate also helped organize an Aug. 23 listening session for faculty, along with Board of Trust Chairman Bruce R. Evans, who chairs the Chancellor Search Committee, and Dean of the College of Arts and Science John Geer, who chairs the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee.

The Faculty Senate also plans to host a series of community conversations throughout the fall following each Chancellor’s Lecture Series event, providing a space for faculty and staff to discuss the themes that arise at the events. The first will be a follow-up discussion on Sept. 10 about the lecture from actor, athlete and activist Terry Crews taking place the prior evening.

McLean also noted that 2019-20 is a reapportionment year for the Faculty Senate, during which the constitution of senate membership will be evaluated to ensure that faculty are equitably represented across Vanderbilt’s schools and colleges.

The first Faculty Senate meeting of 2019-20 will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 4:10 p.m. in Frist Hall, Room 140, in the School of Nursing. All faculty members are invited to attend.

More information on the Faculty Senate is available at