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Senate Newsletter - Fall 2011
2011-12 Mānoa Faculty Senate Chair
The Mānoa Faculty Senate has always served a vital role in maintaining the academic focus of the University of Hawaii. Its strength comes from the breadth of faculty willing to serve, express diverse opinions, and reach consensus on issues affecting all aspects of university life including, academic policy, administration, equity, and curricular issues. The exchange of views with university administrators in a process of shared governance is ultimately what makes a university strong and vibrant. Over the last two and half years we have seen a fundamental change in the functioning of the Mānoa Faculty Senate. Under the leadership of David Ross, increased emphasis was placed on the need for both the administration and the senate to adhere to proper processes in carrying out shared governance. Susan Hippensteele, last year's Senate President, furthered that concept and with the assistance of our new administrative assistant, Kristin Herrick, transformed the functioning of the senate to bring it into the 21st century and make it more responsive, transparent, and efficient. This year in addition to reinforcing and strengthening the accomplishments of my immediate predecessors, I and my colleagues on the SEC have attempted to strengthen the committee system and empower senators to a much greater degree. For shared governance to work, we must constantly fight against the concept of top-down management systems, both within the university and within our own governance system and to stress the prime academic missions of the university. No single person within the university has a monopoly on good ideas or the perspective and wisdom to always make the right decision. It is through open debate, sharing of information, and collective decision-making that we have the best chance of arriving at the best alternative in any given situation. Even then, we sometimes have to revisit decisions made in years past, as new information becomes available and we reevaluate the impact of changes we have made. We are not always perfect nor the fastest, however, in my experience the faculty make the university what it is and have the collective wisdom to steer the proper course.
This year is shaping up to be one of the most successful in Mānoa Faculty Senate history, as evidenced by increased attendance at Senate and committee meetings, completion of issues, updating of bylaws, increased faculty participation, and increased recognition of the role of the senate in the decision-making process thanks largely to the hard work of the various standing committees and the coordination provided by Kristin in the Senate office. Increasing the quality of and respect for undergraduate education at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa is an essential goal that has been highlighted by the Senate. Equally important is the need for the administration to respect the right of faculty to be supported in their duties and participate fully in decisions on reorganizations and facilities closures that impact faculty and their research and teaching missions. The faculty fully recognize that often difficult decisions need to be made, however, those decisions need to be made in an open process that involves full disclosure, faculty advice and consent, and through a process that places the prime missions of the university in the forefront. Faculty work incredibly hard to teach and carry out research in an increasingly competitive environment and it is easy for all to to ignore service to organizations such as faculty senate as a nuisance. However, decisions not made by faculty will come back to haunt all of us and threaten us in many ways. When we ensure that our colleagues throughout the university are treated fairly, we protect our own academic rights as well. I urge all faculty to take the step to get involved with the Mānoa Senate, meet their colleagues from other disciplines, and voice their opinions regarding the future of this university. You will find, as I have, that the faculty of UH Mānoa are a diverse and impressive group with much to offer. [Pdf]