While many Gonzaga students know about and stay up to date with student senate in the Gonzaga Student Body Association (GSBA), many haven’t even heard of the faculty senate.
GU’s faculty senate is the primary faculty governance on campus. It meets and addresses anything that impacts faculty life via policy or simple one-time decision making. Each department at GU elects a representative to vote on policy and stay up to date with university issues. It is a representative body that ensures respect and consideration for faculty.
Faculty senate is broken up into three different committees, but they all come together for meetings. Every senator sits on one of the three boards.
The finance committee, headed by Mirjeta Beqiri, MBA programs director and professor of operations management, focuses on academic programs and student-professor relations. The finance committee’s chair is Marc Baumgardner, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and this part of faculty senate deals with budgeting and distributing resources while keeping faculty interest in mind. Joseph Gardner, associate professor of political science, is chair of the third committee, the policy committee. This team oversees recommending changes and reviewing policies of interest that affect faculty.
Forty-one professors on campus are on the faculty senate, along with upholding their full-time positions.
Thomas McKenzie, current president of the faculty senate, said that students may not realize how committed professors are to maintaining a healthy, smooth-running academic experience for the Gonzaga community. McKenzie is a math professor, a former department chair and has had almost two years of experience as president of faculty senate.
“Professors do more than students may think,” said McKenzie, “There are four areas: teaching, advising, professional development, and service. The service component is really important because the faculty is supposed to help the administration set policy. Also, students don’t see the professional development work we are doing. The job is really multifaceted. Students really only see advising and teaching.”
The senators are dedicated to working on goals for the benefit of not only the faculty, but also student health and university logistics.
“The connections I have made have really opened my eyes to what’s going on in student life on campus in terms of issues that students face and the storms they have to try to weather,” said Brian Steverson, former faculty senate president. “And it made me realize that faculty can either be helping students get through that, or we can be another hurdle they have to get over or another storm they have to survive.”
Senators set aside time to review policy, meet with the senate and connect with the student body. Their passion for Gonzaga is above and beyond.
Meetings for faculty senate are held on the first and second Wednesdays of every month for 50 minutes, usually in the middle of the day. All 41 passionate, involved senators attack the agenda with intention when they get together to meet, McKenzie said.
“The trick is to have a detailed, reasonable agenda," McKenzie said. "We also have clickers for voting. Little logistical things like that are important when having big meetings like these."
Some of the agenda items that are being discussed at the faculty senate meetings are a new parental leave policy, a revised faculty handbook and summer course arrangements.
The revised faculty handbook has been in the works for a while, and the senate is working on finalizing some listed policies in section 300. Section 300 of the handbook addresses professor promotions, tenure and contracts.
The parental leave policy has been a new area of work, because recently, Washington state has implemented their own parental leave program. The university is now working on revising and editing it to fit the state and faculty standards.
GSBA and the staff senate play a significant part in the faculty senate agenda. The three senates work together to consider the three outlooks of the impact of policies. Students are the reason why Gonzaga exists, and the faculty senate acknowledges that the importance of student health, success and relationships.
“Working with GSBA and administration to set policy and strategic plans as a shared governance is so important and is something students need to recognize,” McKenzie said.
“We are working on creating even stronger bonds and more robust channels through GSBA and the senate," Steverson said. "We are all in this together.”
Steverson was faculty senate president for four years, from the Fall 2014 to the Spring 2018. He said that this experience enhanced his involvement and passion at GU through student connection and a broader understanding about university issues.
“I have a much better understanding of the lives of our students here, a better understanding of issues that the university itself faces and a better understanding of the role faculty can play in helping those issues,” Steverson said.
Faculty senate continues to review policy, connect with students and meet to talk about real issues on campus.
“We are allies," Steverson said. "Faculties can be great allies for students. Don’t be afraid to approach us with issues, questions and concerns.”
Further information, details, agenda items and involvement details can be found at gonzaga.edu.