This year the Faculty Senate will celebrate its 75th anniversary. Founded in 1938, the Senate is the legislative body of the faculty, with whom the President of the University shares the responsibility of formulating regulations and procedures governing key aspects of University.
Never has our system of shared governance been more important. UW has endured four straight years of state budget cuts, tuition increases, and frozen salaries, along with staff layoffs and escalating faculty departures. Hopefully the tide of bad news will turn this year and we can begin to recover.
Here are some of the issues that need attention during this anniversary year:
Educational mission: Tuition and fees have almost doubled in the past five years. At the same time, class sizes have been increasing while the number of instructional faculty and TA positions has decreased. These trajectories are not healthy.
Debt and expansion: UW now owns four hospitals and a variety of other medical services. It has borrowed hundreds of millions to rebuild Husky stadium and finance new dorms and a host of new buildings. We are also expanding educational programs via Educational Outreach which next year wants to implement a new degree program that will rely exclusively on online courses. How much expansion is safe and wise?
Compensation: Not since the fall of 2008 have faculty or staff seen an increase in their pay checks. Inflation means that by the end of the upcoming academic year, those paychecks will have lost more than 7 percent of their value. The freeze was sustainable for a time, but now is having a destabilizing effect. Faculty are leaving at higher rates than normal.
Intellectual property: Recent court decisions are causing universities, including our own, to rethink intellectual property issues in ways that may be uncomfortable for faculty. Who owns research results, publications, course content, etc.? Who decides what is of commercial value and how to use it? These are issues that will shape the future of the University and are a high priority for the Senate leadership this year.
Faculty demographics: The last five years have seen an accelerated decline in the percentage of faculty in tenure-track positions. At the same time, we have been making little progress on two important goals: increasing racial and ethnic diversity and achieving gender equality.
Governance: Here is the good news. President Young and Provost Cauce have worked well with the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Councils charged with shared governance responsibilities. We look forward to continuing that productive relationship in our 75th year.
Chair, Faculty Senate