Faculty Senate outlines charter concerns
The Faculty Senate released a position statement on the Commonwealth Chartered University Initiative Jan. 11 to address possible implications of the charter, Faculty Senate Chair Marcia Day Childress said. The charter proposal would bestow on the University greater financial autonomy from the Commonwealth.
"The committee was very much interested in not speaking simply out of faculty self-interest, but considering the needs of the academic community and the citizens of Virginia for affordable and accountable education," Childress said.
The ad hoc Faculty Senate Committee on the Commonwealth Chartered University Initiative was formed last semester and charged with creating the position statement. The committee, co-convened by English Prof. Alison Booth and History Prof. Herbert "Tico" Braun, director of graduate studies, met on several occasions over winter break, Childress said.
Acting on behalf of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Executive Council unanimously adopted the statement, which addresses some of the faculty members' lingering concerns regarding the implementation of the charter if it is adopted, Childress said.
The statement "cannot hope to represent each individual faculty member's point of view, but the committee did some careful thinking," Childress said.
Specifically, the position statement outlines four areas of concern: the University's commitment to public higher education, economic diversity and quality of the student body, employment conditions and quality of the staff and governance, according to the position statement.
"I personally came to think it was important to join our voice to the administration's, so as not to derail the progress in Richmond," said Herbert Tucker, an English professor and ad hoc committee member. "Speaking only for myself, it is my distinct hope that the administration will read this document as an invitation for ongoing consultation and dialogue."
Before drafting the statement, Tucker said the ad hoc committee met with a number of University administrators and employees at the University Medical Center, who have experienced codified autonomy.
The ad hoc committee might continue its work during the spring semester, Childress said. She said she has not contacted all of the committee members to inquire as to whether they would be available to work together as a committee during the charter debates which will take place in the next legislative session.
"I would like the committee to stay together this semester to continue the dialogue to make sure the faculty and administration stay connected," Childress said.
Most faculty members said they believe it is difficult to assess the charter initiative because there is "nothing in hard and fast writing," Childress said.
"It is very much a moving target," she said. "There are still some things very much in negotiation [that] the University, academic community and legislature should be concerned about."
Tucker said the complex nature of the details also poses a problem for faculty members who are unsure of how the charter will affect the University if it succeeds.
"When it comes to student tuition levels and staff compensation and benefits, we as a University must exercise maximum vigilance so the distinctive features of U.Va. do not erode away," he said.