By: STEPHEN M. SALISBURY
Raman Adaikkalavan, department chair in Computer Science and Informatics within the IU South Bend College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and new President of the Academic Senate, began the first meeting of this austere group promptly at 10 a.m. on Friday and quickly embarked on a well-defined agenda for the day. While it was at times difficult to hear his voice over the conversations that were happening within the audience, it was clear from the beginning that he was determined to wade through the various concerns of the group in a timely and efficient manner.
Being from a discipline centered on data analysis, he began the meeting by reminding the faculty that there were four elected committees within the Senate hierarchy, 18 standing committees and a total of 267 full-time faculty members they were representing by their presence. The Academic Senate essentially serves as the governing body over anything and everything having to do with curriculum on the campus. It sets the standards required for all degree programs, faculty appointments, tenure and promotions, admissions, the academic calendar, along with a number of other responsibilities.
During this inaugural meeting of the academic year, all new executive office holders were introduced, there was a special election to fill committee spots, constitutional revisions were discussed and presentations were made by various faculty involved in the development of the new Center for Excellence in Research and Scholarship, the Carnegie Engaged Campus initiative, and the revisions to General Education requirements.
Interim Chancellor, Jann Joseph, spoke on the question, “What does your best mean?”
She encouraged faculty members to think about how they can work more effectively to engage with students focusing on an approach that is proactive and not accusatory when students are struggling. She stated that she hopes this is not just a transitional year as the campus searches for a new Chancellor, but one in which all can work together to get things done.
“I can be better” is the mantra that she encouraged all to consider including herself.
Linda Chen spoke in her capacity as Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and said she had one word that she is focused on and literally keeps her up at night: “retention.” She said there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to student retention, but she believed that the more collaborative the faculty and administration are when it comes to keeping students on campus and on track towards graduation, the more successful their efforts should be.
The last part of the meeting focused on the ongoing work of the General Education Task Force which has been commissioned with re-evaluating these requirements within the campus curriculum. This process has been an active part of the Senate agenda for over two years and the task force is hoping to begin finalizing parts of the plan over the course of this academic year. They were able to accomplish the first step toward that goal on Friday by calling for an electronic vote on one of two resolutions that they brought to the Senate.
The resolution now up for consideration would essentially keep “the four current fundamental literacies: Writing, Oral Communications, Quantitative Reasoning, and Critical Thinking” in place as they have been since 2003.
The other resolution they had hoped to have considered that focused on four areas within the Common Core was tabled until next month as Adaikkalavan said they had run out of their allotted time.
The next meeting of the Academic Senate will take place on Friday, Oct. 19. All material associated with their activities can be found on their website: academics.iusb.edu/academic-senate.