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Faculty Senate » Elections

Candidate Biography

HENRY SAYRE, (at OSU since 1984), Distinguished Professor of Art History, Department of Art, College of Liberal Arts.

FACULTY SENATE: Liberal Arts Senator, 1997–present and 1985–91; Ad Hoc Information Services Committee, Chair, 1998–99; Committee on Bylaws and Nominations, 1992-95; Baccalaureate Core Committee, 1988–91 (Chair, 1989-91); Executive Committee, 1989–90; Faculty Consultative Group, 1989; and Ad Hoc Committee to Evaluate Travel, 1985.

COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS: Faculty Council, 1998–present, 1992–94, President, 1989–90, President-Elect, 1988–89, 1985–86; Promotion and Tenure Committee, 1994–96 and 1986–87; and Liberal Arts Coordinator, Distance Learning Degree Program (Ed-Net), 1991–95.

OTHER UNIVERSITY SERVICE: Friends of the Library Board of Directors, 1991–96 (President-Elect, 1995–96); Faculty Committee, Library Expansion Project, 1991–92; and Percent for Art Selection Committees, 1985–89.

Candidate Statement: I have a fairly good working knowledge of both the Senate and its Executive Committee. I enjoy working with both. The question facing us, as it has been since I first served in the Senate 15 years ago, is whether we can become more proactive than reactive. Must our general purpose be, as it is today, more to question (and usually ratify with minor amendment) the decisions of the central administration, or can we become a more effective force in guiding the university community. I'm not sure I could do much better than anyone else has done. But I'd like to try.

Responses to Questions Posed by the Executive Committee

1. What will be the critical issue for faculty over the next two years, and how can you help move that issue forward on their behalf?

A week ago I would have answered this question differently. I probably would have said something about salary levels, peer institutions, and the "Tier 1" aspirations of the university. But after hearing Vice President for Finance and Administration Specter's presentation of the current university budget at the November Faculty Senate meeting, my sense of the critical issue(s) facing the university has changed radically.

Vice President Specter put as positive a spin as possible on the budget. After all, our budget has increased by some $13 million. But the reality is this: In their budget presentations, the Deans and Directors asked for some $50 million in order to sustain and maintain current levels of service at proper levels. In the new budget, only $5 million of these needs were accommodated.

Why the shortfall? Since Measure 5 first reared its ugly head, we have continually striven to do more with less. For ten years, all of us across the University have managed to do just that, but most of us have done it with the understanding, or at least the hope, that one day we would be able to return to something resembling normalcy in our day-to-day operations. We dreamed that we might return to reasonable and manageable student/teacher ratios, that we could replace worn out equipment and furniture, that we could renovate a lab, or, most of all, hire back a few of the tenure lines that we gave back with retirements. In effect, every department and college in this university has incurred ten years of deferred maintenance.

It is now abundantly clear that we cannot recover what we have lost. The budget process this year has taught one very hard lesson. We are trying as a university to do too much with too little. We are not just overextended. We are dramatically overextended.

This situation will require some extremely difficult decision-making. The euphemism the administration chooses to use is "strategic planning." In reality, the process we began with Measure 5 ten years ago continues, and will continue in the foreseeable future. I fear that we have so far made only the easy decisions.

Every member of the community needs to participate in making these decisions. The Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate leadership need to spearhead the process. We cannot be driven by any vision other than our own.

2. How can the discussions at Faculty Senate meetings be improved? (e.g. Sense of the Senate debates; Electronic referenda, or polling; other strategies?)

It is a fact that Robert's Rules of Order stifles discussion. It is designed, at least in part, to control and limit the scope of debate. Short of suspending Robert's Rules—and perhaps this might be a useful thing to do in "Sense of the Senate" debates, which I favor—I can think of only one strategy that would serve to enliven debate.

First, let me say what I think a Senate meeting is: It is, of course, often boring, but it is also, and primarily, an informational forum. I leave most meetings far better informed about the workings of the university than when I arrived. I take this information back to my colleagues and share it.

The real work of the Senate takes place in its committees. This is where meaningful debate occurs. This is where innovation originates. I think we have to trust that the committees are doing their job. I think we need to strive to make sure that divergent points of view are represented on our committees.

I'm not sure this last point is indeed the case. I do not recall ever seeing a "minority report" from a Senate committee, something that would suggest a divergence of opinion. I think it would be useful to the Senate and its leadership to receive and review such reports. I think we ought to encourage them, and the Senate Executive Committee should be no exception. The Executive Committee is often in disagreement. There is no special reason it should present itself to the world as a united front.

In short, I'm suggesting that Senate discussion, even under Robert's Rules, would be greatly invigorated if more often both (or multiple) sides of an issue were presented to the Senate and if, when appropriate, alternative motions were presented to the Senate to pick and choose between and among. Perhaps as a result we would less often feel that our only job is to rubber stamp a series of faits accomplis.