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December 7, 1993

 

  Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes

  Approved:  25 January 1994

 

  7 December 1993

  7:00 p.m.

  32 Pamplin Hall

 

  Senator Present:

    Anderson, Armstrong, Badinelli, Bambach, Barbeau, Beagle, Brown, Bunce

    Creamer, de Wolf, Wendy Jacobson (for Bob Dyck), Fern, Ficenec, Foy,

    Graham, Hardell, Holtzman, Wendy Jacobson (for J.B. Howard), Hult,

    Jones, Lambur, Landgraf, Martin, McDaniel, Mullins, Wendy Jacobson

    (for Michael O'Brien), Pierce, Pinder, Richardson, Rojiani, Sherman,

    Shumsky, Sumichrast, Tze, Vinson, Webb, Zhang, Zink

 

  Absent

    Benson, Carrig, Cramer, Giles, Greenberg, Gregoire, McKenna, Norstedt

    Olin, Riley, Sanzone, Scigaj, Shires, Williams

 

  Guests

    John Ashby, Editor, Spectrum

    Allison Blake, Higher Education Reporter, Current

    Peggy Rasnick, Staff Senate Representative

    Paul Torgersen, Acting President of VPI

 

  1.  The meeting was called to order by President David de Wolf at 7:00

      p.m.  Visitors were welcomed.

 

  2.  The agenda was adopted after minor modifications proposed by

      President de Wolf.

 

  3.  Announcements:  President de Wolf made the following announcements:

 

      The University Advisory Council on Strategic Planning and Budgeting

      met on 2 December 1993.  Senate officers were present at the

      meeting.

 

      Senate Vice President, Larry Shumsky, called a meeting with

      University Provost, Fred Carlisle, to discuss possible student

      attendance policies.

 

      President de Wolf met with the Faculty Response Committee on 1

      December 1993.

 

      The Faculty Senate Officers met 26 November 1993 with Acting

      President Paul Torgersen.

 

      Senate Officers met with Executive Vice President Minnis Ridenour

      earlier today.  They arranged for Mr. Ridenour to be the main

      speaker at the January Senate Meeting.

 

      President de Wolf met with the leaders of the Student Government

      Association and the Graduate Student Association on 6 December 1993

      for the purpose of gathering information for the Faculty Response

      Committee.

 

  4.  Program:  President de Wolf welcomed Acting University President

      Paul Torgersen and provided the Senate with a brief background

      of Dr. Torgersen.

 

      Acting University President Torgersen began his address by reading

      from a report published in 1881.  The report, written by a

      geologist, offered the State of Virginia advice on a university

      which ultimately became Virginia Tech.  Dr. Torgersen noted

      that in these days of tight budgets, the state and the university

      are getting a great deal of advice, sometimes from people who are

      not well qualified to give it.

 

      Dr. Torgersen went on to discuss general criticisms given to higher

      education by authors and the general public.  He noted that

      foreigners have a different perception of American universities.

      The citizens of foreign countries are almost unanimous in their

      praise and admiration for American universities.

 

      The first general type of criticism mentioned is the alleged

      obsession with research by university professors.  He said there is

      some truth to this criticism because universities often want to

      increase their prestige through research.

 

      A second general criticism is that professors do not value teaching.

      Dr. Torgersen provided several examples from publications, such as

      the Wall Street Journal, which anecdotally supported this claim.

 

      A third general criticism mentioned by Acting University President

      Torgersen is that tuition and fees are going up much faster than

      the rate of inflation.  He acknowledged that many people realize

      this is due in large part, to state budget cuts.  However, he also

      mentioned that parents still must pay the increasing tuition and

      fees.

 

      The fourth category of criticism generally found in the popular

      press, is that college teachers do not work.

 

      Dr. Torgersen used numerous examples of published articles which

      hold each of these criticisms.  He did not say that he agreed with

      the criticisms but went on to say that it is important for faculty

      to be aware of what is being said about them.

 

      President Torgersen reviewed the positions he has held since 1990.

      He explained how he became Acting President of the University and

      reported on actions which he has taken since assuming the office.

 

      Dr. Torgersen has spent a great deal of time visiting state

      legislators.  He explained to the Senate that the Virginia General

      Assembly includes a wide variety of people with various backgrounds.

      He noted the general trend of increasing Republican strength within

      the legislature and he spoke of the significant turnover in the

      House Appropriations Committee after the last election.  Dr.

      Torgersen used personal stories to explain the priorities of

      legislators.  He stated that they were receptive to higher education

      but, higher education is only one item on a long list of priorities

      for legislators.  His personal knowledge of the thoughts of

      individual legislators demonstrated again and again that the

      legislators feel pride in Virginia's higher education system in

      general and in Virginia Tech in particular.

 

      Acting President Torgersen explained that Virginia Tech has the

      potential to greatly influence state legislators.  He mentioned that

      approximately 1 in every 100 Virginians are Virginia Tech graduates.

      However, he feels that Virginia Tech is late in getting to the

      legislature.  In his own words, "...we are playing catch up".

      Other university presidents have courted the legislature for years.

 

      Dr. Torgersen explained the concerns of the legislators to the

      faculty.  He stated that the legislature is disturbed about the

      Virginia economy and that the legislators need to be convinced that

      the faculty knows that the state has serious financial problems.  He

      said that the university needs to send signals back to the

      legislature.  Dr. Torgersen also said that legislators want

      assurances that faculty teach.  He provided them with some

      anecdotal evidence of this.  Finally, he said that legislators

      want a restructuring of higher education.  While the precise meaning

      of restructuring is not clear, it is clear that change is necessary.

      Dr. Torgersen gave examples of actions taken by Ron Carrier which

      are viewed in a very positive light by the public and by the

      legislators, because these actions are seen as changes.

 

      Next, Dr. Torgersen addressed actions that the university should

      take.  He stated that he is optimistic for the long term future of

      Virginia Tech.  He expressed the necessity to communicate better

      with the public and the legislature.  Virginia Tech needs to use

      it's alumni and extension agents to carry it's message effectively

      to the public.  Dr. Torgersen stated that the President of Virginia

      Tech should be highly visible.  In the short term,  Virginia Tech

      must show that it is ready to change without sacrificing quality.

      He mentioned two specific examples which he can point to in

      conversations with state legislators:  the Phase II program devised

      by Provost Carlisle and the efficiencies in administration achieved

      by Vice President Ridenour.

 

      At the conclusion of these opening remarks, Senate President de Wolf

      opened the floor to questions.

 

      Question:  Senator Bunce stated that he was disturbed by pressure

      put on faculty to use technology to deliver lectures.  He stated

      his displeasure with this aspect of restructuring and said that he

      believed it would break down faculty to student ratios.  He

      expressed his desire for more personal contact  between students

      and faculty.

 

      Answer:  Acting University President Torgersen said he was also in

      favor of low student to faculty ratios.  However, through an example

      example, he showed how the student to faculty ratio could be

      increased without sacrificing quality.  He said that he is currently

      teaching a class with only five students and suggested that this

      type of a class might be taught every other year with a higher

      enrollment.

 

      Question:  Senator Lambur asked what was meant by legislators who

      say "we need to get our act together".

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen expressed resentment at the insinuation by

      some that we do not have our act together.  He stated that he was

      unsure of exactly what was meant by the statement but went on to say

      that he feels it is necessary to send positive signals to the

      legislators.  He used actions taken by Minnis Ridenour to improve

      administrative efficiency as examples of positive signals which

      could be sent to the legislature at this time.

 

      Question:  Senator Brown noted that Virginia has always ranked low

      on state support for higher education compared to other states.  He

      asked Dr. Torgersen if Virginia's low rank on this measure has come

      up in discussions with legislators.  He asked how legislators would

      respond when confronted with the fact that other states are better

      able to support higher education than Virginia.

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen noted that many items in the state's budget

      are fixed.  He also noted that state legislators are extremely

      worried about a pending $300 million lawsuit.  Dr. Torgersen noted

      other priorities for state funding such as students in primary and

      secondary schools in the southwestern part of the state who enter

      institutions of higher learning with significant deficiencies as

      compared to students from wealthier areas in the northern part of

      the state.  He stated that a state tax increase could help eliminate

      some of these problems but, was unlikely within the next four years.

 

      Question:  Senator Hult noted that a great deal of time had been

      spent considering how to respond to external influences.  She stated

      her concern that Virginia Tech is not participating in a debate

      about what is really important.  She asked how to find a balance

      between fighting for what we find to be important and trying to

      please external critics.

 

      Answer:  In the long term, Virginia Tech needs to explain why it is

      important to Virginia.  It must take an advocacy position.  However,

      this type of response will not be effective in the short term.  We

      need to respond to our critics to receive financial relief in

      January.

 

      Question:  Senator Barbeau noted that we can claim that Virginia

      Tech is an "economic engine" to the state.  He stated that by

      emphasizing the financial benefits of the university it won't be

      seen as a drain on state funds.

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen said he would like to see that case made.  He

      believes that the university does a good job of making the case at

      the local level, however, it can do a better job making the case

      statewide.

 

      Question:  Senator Hult expressed her concern at over-emphasizing

      the economic development aspects of Virginia Tech within the state.

      She stated that it would cause parts of the university which, can

      not be directly linked to economic development, to shrink.

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen agreed a balance must be reached.

 

      Question:  There is a disturbing mismatch between education that

      is needed and what is actually provided.  Values are missing.

      Virginia Tech should stake out the high moral ground and emphasize

      its ability to teach values.

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen stated that this was an internal issue.  He

      pointed out practical problems from overemphasizing such an issue

      with state legislators.  Dr. Torgersen stated that legislators

      freely acknowledge that Virginia has a first class system of higher

      education and that universities do not need to apologize.

 

      Question:  President de Wolf stated that some have claimed that

      Virginia Tech is becoming a regional university.  He asked if

      Dr. Torgersen had heard this during his visits with legislators.

 

      Answer:  Dr. Torgersen stated that Virginia Tech has the best case

      for claiming it is a statewide university.  He mentioned the broad

      range of students which Virginia Tech attracts.  He noted, however,

      that Virginia Tech must become more visible statewide.

 

      President de Wolf thanked Acting University President Torgersen

      for addressing the Faculty Senate.

 

  5.  The Faculty Senate Minutes of 16 November 1993 were approved without

      changes.  Cabinet Minutes of 29 November 1993 were accepted.

 

  6.  Council, Commission and Committee reports had been distributed

      electronically.  A brief discussion  period was held concerning

      these reports.

 

      President de Wolf summarized a late report sent by Former Senator

      Carl McDaniel concerning the Faculty Senate of Virginia.

 

      Senator Holtzman reported that the EOAA Committee has formed a sub-

      committee to coordinate various diversity committees within the

      university colleges.  Senator Holtzman stated that representatives

      of college committees are invited to attend a meeting with this new

      university subcommittee.

 

  7.  New Business

 

      a.  President de Wolf asked that Faculty Senate Cabinet to meet

      briefly after the Senate meeting.

 

      b.  President de Wolf reminded senators to pay Faculty Senate dues.

 

      c.  President de Wolf invited nominations for various for committee

      and commission openings.

 

      A senator must be nominated for the newly formed Commission

      on Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs.

 

      The Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Board requires an

      additional member to represent the Faculty Senate on a three year

      appointment.  This representative need not be a senator.

 

      The Faculty Review Committee needs a representative from the

      College of Architecture and Urban Planning for a two year

      appointment.

 

      The Committee on Committees requires additional representation

      from any college.

 

      The Committee on Credentials and Elections requires representatives

      from College of Architecture and Urban Planning and Extension.

 

      The Commission on Academic Support needs two representatives.

 

      University Architect, Peter Karp, has requested a representative

      from the Faculty Senate to help determine building priorities for

      the university.  Senator Bambach noted that the faculty has never

      before been asked to help make such decisions.  He emphasized the

      importance of such an offer.  Senator Graham volunteered to assume

      this responsibility.

 

      c.  Senator Shumsky informed the Senate of a memo sent to him by

      university legal council, Jerry Cain.  This memo summarized a new

      law passed by the Virginia General Assembly specifically for

      institutions of higher education.  The new law requires that any

      financial aid provided to increase diversity at a campus must be

      open to all minority groups as defined by the federal government.

      Further, the memo stated that the federal government has recently

      redefined minority groups in such a way that almost everyone could

      be considered a minority.  The Senate discussed the potential

      implications for this change.  Senator Bambach provides a plausible

      interpretation for this apparent weakening:  as an example, whites

      may be a minority at an afro-american university, and they may

      require EOAA action there for federally-mandated programs.

 

  8.  Adjournment

 

      There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:21 p.m.

 

  Respectfully Submitted,

 

  Robert T. Sumichrast

  Secretary, Faculty Senate

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