Faculty Senate adopts anti-racism Statement of Solidarity and reviews multi-year diversity report

The Thinker
The Thinker statue at the front of Grawmeyer Hall

Faculty Senate met virtually on July 1 via Microsoft Teams. Senators discussed the fall 2020 policy recommendations, results from the provost’s updated diversity report and voted on an anti-racism Statement of Solidarity.

Senator Reginald Bruce and former Senator Scott LaJoie, co-chairs of the 2019-2020 Faculty Roles subcommittee, presented recommendations for how faculty can be more supportive and inclusive of students this fall semester. Bruce shared a mind map the subcommittee created which shows how classroom design, classroom policies, class structure, faculty coaching and cultural proficiency can help faculty foster an inclusive and supportive environment for students. LaJoie then shared the following list of pandemic-specific recommendations the committee submitted to the provost for all faculty to follow this fall: 

1. Attendance: Be more accommodating of students who miss class for health, family or other reasons. Avoid requiring doctor’s notes for absenteeism of less than two weeks. Help students make up missing work.
2. Deadlines for Assignments: Be more flexible in deadlines. Avoid language that prohibits extensions for late assignments. Set daytime deadlines for assignment submission (e.g., not 11:59 pm). 
3. Satisfactory Completion of Coursework: Be willing to grant an incomplete grade or encourage a compassionate withdrawal.
4. Clarity in syllabus content and course requirements: State expectations for being successful; write clear learning objectives. Identify resources for academic assistance and mental health.
5. Grading Policies: Timely feedback throughout the semester with expectations on when grading will be returned. Use Bb gradebook. Early warning system to help students asses academic performance.

A full description of all recommendations can be found here. This link was also included on page 14 of the 2020 Pivot to Fall planning document released by the provost on June 23. 

Some senators expressed concern with a few recommendations. One senator asserted that faculty should prioritize preparing students for the attendance expectations of their future workplace. Another senator argued that a doctor’s note should be required for sick absences to avoid students taking advantage of the attendance policy.  

Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm explained the attendance policy recommendations are pandemic-specific. The level of recommended flexibility is due to the university needing to help students navigate the continued pandemic. Regarding doctor’s notes for sick absences, Boehm said, “We expect that students cannot always get doctor’s notes. If in fact we have a surge and the health clinic is packed… they said they really don’t want to see a lot of students who are not COVID presenting in the fall because it will overwhelm the healthcare system. So, it’s really about trying to find that sweet spot where we can ask students to be responsible, but also not overwhelm the healthcare system that may have a second surge.”

President Neeli Bendapudi provided brief university updates. She emphasized how fortunate UofL was to be able to save and acquire the UofL Health hospital facilities with loans from the government. Although the university is undergoing significant financial challenges in the face of the pandemic, the profit margins of UofL Health have helped support the university’s programs. Bendapudi applauded the Department of Sociology’s recent letter to UofL administration which outlined multiple questions the university should consider to better demonstrate its anti-racism priority.

Provost Boehm presented an updated diversity report which compared data from 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019. 

“We have lost faculty across the board at UofL, but the highest number of folks has been our Black African American faculty and our non-resident, non-citizen faculty,” she said.

Since 2016, UofL has lost a total of 115 faculty members— 13 of which were Black faculty. Following Kentucky State University, UofL currently has some of the highest faculty of color numbers in comparison to the rest of Kentucky. Boehm shared that in the fall of 2019 she charged all deans to ensure candidates of color were part of their hiring searches. Moving forward, when hiring freezes are lifted, she will be putting more pressure on deans to bring diversity into their hiring decisions.

A senator asked if the provost would be willing to set a recruitment goal that aims to double the current number of Black faculty. Boehm agreed that the university needs to work harder and said the university also needs more Black faculty in the pipeline. Bendapudi added that Black faculty who are currently with UofL need to be better supported to become higher levels of professors and chairs. Bendapudi agreed that a goal should be set to increase the number and she will bring it to the attention of the Board of Trustees.

The Executive Committee presented an anti-racism Statement of Solidarity to senators. Some senators expressed concern that the statement was too broad and did not have enough concrete actions included. After a discussion, it was decided that the statement was a first step toward future actions and the Statement of Solidarity passed.

Boehm gave an update on the plans presented in the 2020 Pivot to Fall document. The university has capacity for approximately 15,000 people to get flu shots in support of the recommendation that all university members be vaccinated. A high volume of COVID-19 tests have been garnered for those who display symptoms and for anyone returning from “hot spot” locations. Boehm explained that the Coordinating Committee is still finalizing the process for what will happen when a room has had someone in it that tested positive for the virus.

Faculty Senate Chair Krista Wallace-Boaz shared a comprehensive report of university activity for the month of July. She shared that the Board of Trustees recently approved the FY21 operating budget, tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year have been finalized, and that health and safety protocols have been established for returning to campus. She also shared the university’s retirement contribution (which had been put on hold for May, June and July 2020) will be partially restored at 2.5% for all employees, plus a 2.5% match of employee contributions beginning August 1, 2020.

Committee reports and a video recording of the virtual meeting can be accessed on the Faculty Senate meetings webpage.

Source: Faculty Senate reviews fall 2020 policy recommendations and multi-year diversity report(UofL News, July 10, 2020)