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February 19, 2015

Should Senate revamp its committee structure?

The University Senate’s executive committee is seeking input on how — or whether — to restructure the Senate’s standing committees in order to keep pace in shared governance with changes in the University.

Thomas Smitherman

Thomas Smitherman

“We’ve been trying to brainstorm how we thought we could make things simpler, better, more efficient, more effective,” said executive committee member Thomas Smitherman, the Senate’s immediate past president, in presenting to Faculty Assembly a five-point proposal as a starting point for discussion.

That proposal suggests:

  • Creating a Senate research committee.
  • Recombining the library and University Press committees.
  • Merging the admissions and student aid committee with the student affairs committee. The mergers aim to ensure that the committees have sufficient agendas and a big enough role and scope, Smitherman said.
  • Expanding the mission of the bylaws and procedures committee to emphasize procedures. The proposal would have the committee prepare information each year for the Senate handbook and for operations manuals for the standing committees.
  • Expanding the mission of the computer usage committee to include information technology issues that currently might go before other committees such as the library committee, educational policies or plant utilization and planning.

The executive committee’s full proposal, which includes a draft mission statement for a standing committee on research, is posted on the Senate website (, with a comment box for input.

“This was designed to give you some information to start thinking,” Smitherman said, encouraging comments from faculty.

Senate President Michael Spring emphasized that the executive committee’s proposal aims to spark discussion. “We have not made decisions. We’ve opened questions,” he said. “There’s nothing decided, there’s no ulterior motive. The only question is: Are we being as effective as we can?”

In brief discussion, Assembly member Susanna Leers suggested the library committee might more appropriately be merged with computer usage, given libraries’ reliance on computers and information technology.

And Assembly member Cindy Tananis suggested keeping in mind the ad hoc committee on non-tenure-stream faculty’s recommendations for several of the standing committees (see related story this issue).

She also suggested reviewing the issues that have prompted the formation of ad hoc committees in recent years: “Does that bring up issues that ought to be more fully considered in the mission of the standing committees?”

—Kimberly K. Barlow