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Faculty Senate » April 4, 2003

Faculty Senate President's Message



Faculty Senators

Bruce Sorte

Faculty Senate Summary
April 4th, 2003

Tough to focus on issues in Corvallis, while war rages. In addition, a virus spreads globally. I spend so much time rushing and taking myself very seriously week-in and week-out, these events remind me that I should give higher priority to enjoying conversations and projects with colleagues.

Thanks so much to those of your who put a check in the hat at yesterday's Senate Meeting. Every dollar you added is worth three dollars with two coming from the Austin match, OSU Alumni Association, and other trustees and friends of the University. If you have not been able to contribute, please consider doing so and sending a check to the Faculty Senate Office, 107 Gilkey payable to the OSU Foundation - EFSA (Emergency Fund for Student Access).

As the Legislature works through the Session, OSU needs to plan now for more budget reductions, which may mean more reorganization, reduction and termination of programs than OSU has ever experienced. OSU is ahead of many institutions by having a very well developed policy that involves faculty input in program redirection. The Guidelines For Program Redirection were adopted by the Faculty Senate and President Byrne in May of 1992. You can find them at For the past two years the Executive Committee has been trying to encourage a revision of those Guidelines. We believe the changes we have suggested would assure that the Faculty Senate participates in these types of decisions while they are still in the formative stage and there is still an opportunity to assure that individual faculty members directly involved in a restructuring are able to provide ideas that are carefully considered. Finding the right balance between Administration's need to flexibly manage and quickly respond to budget issues and the Faculty Senate's desire to be deliberate and protect the professional futures of individual faculty is difficult. Timing and confidentiality are the critical issues and I am hopeful that we can develop a compromise that will be approved by the EC, you, and then the Administration. We need to have the revised Guidelines in place by summer.

During spring break, Joanne and I visited UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and Stanford with our daughter, Sally. Our two older children completed their undergraduate studies at Whitman College and OSU, respectively. So, from their searches and attendance we are fairly familiar with some private and public institutions. During this most recent series of visits I seemed to be even more preoccupied with comparing these institutions, which get strong national rankings, with OSU. I guess my only conclusion was that we need to spend much more time studying other institutions and quickly trying smaller scale changes or programs that seem effective at those institutions.

Working with Faculty Senate standing committee/council chairpersons and members, we discuss one or two ideas at each meeting that may deserve pilot testing. Yet, it is tough to take an idea in an institution this size and roughly form it, try it, assess its success, and then stop or expand it. For many good reasons there are a number of gates that each idea must pass through and the keepers of those gates can dampen enthusiasm very quickly. An example, adapted from a recent conversation with Jeff Hale, would be admitting 75 first-year undergraduates who would each choose an issue/service focus to their undergraduate education (e.g. hunger in Oregon, restructuring the Oregon tax system, mending Oregon's east/west divide) and all their studies would in some way focus on solving their particular problem of interest. Then, for at least three more years the same options would be given to incoming students and 75 students added to the team. What could three hundred undergraduates working through interdisciplinary studies, supported by the enthusiasm and mentoring of faculty and fellow students, accomplish on a year-round basis for four years? After that, phase it out or extend the project? Find a small amount of funding to get started, avoid panic over the risky nature (both physically and professionally) of sending students out across Oregon to represent OSU and help solve big problems. We can say we are essentially doing this in a number of ways, or the focused nature of the approach would compromise the essential range of knowledge those students would need, or that the federal government is already doing this. It would be difficult to convince me. We could "sell" these types of programs at tuition rates sufficient to cover their costs and I believe significantly boost the students' knowledge and critical thinking skills.