Letter from the Chair

People who know me at all have heard me say “I love it when the students come back!” Sure, traffic picks up, and the hustle of the academic cycle kicks into high gear, but every year at the beginning of August I start leaning into the beginning of the school year and that flush of energy and excitement that only youth and a fresh start can bring to any enterprise.

So it is in that mindset that I welcome you all back to campus to a new semester and to the always rewarding work of the University. We’ve weathered some difficult days over the past year, but a lot of hard work has been done by many dedicated people to bring us to a fresh start as an institution. I believe we stand in a place of both reflection and strength as a community, ready to tackle what challenges lie ahead.

The Senate will consider many important issues this year, and will do so in the context of a great deal of change, including an ongoing search for the next President of the University, a search for the next Chancellor of the University System, and significant changes in the State legislature – all of which will have great impact on our institution. I hope you will engage in the presidential search listening sessions, and/or send an email to express your priorities to both search committees (see this webpage or send feedback via umcp-presidential-search@usmd.edu). Information regarding the search for the next Chancellor may be found here.

We are also beginning a brand new endeavor – the establishment of our Special Committee on University Finance, chaired by Dr. Katharine Abraham (Economics), whose members are charged with advising the administration on institutional priorities and with educating the Senate and the campus community on the University’s budget and the budget process. I look forward to learning more about how the University works through their efforts, and hope you will be engaged with them and the work of all of our committees throughout the year.

Finally, we continue to work through the findings of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) toward solid footing on accreditation standard VII, self-governance.  We are endeavoring to build a stronger, more positive relationship with our Board of Regents, through regular meetings with Senate leadership, the Board’s establishment of a UMD Regent Liaison, as well as changes to Board practices intended to promote transparency. I am very hopeful that these changes, along with improved communication overall, have put us on track for a positive resolution with MSCHE.
And so as we launch into the new academic year, I would like to thank the members of the Senate, the Senate standing committees, the special committee, and the councils, as well as the very hard-working Senate Office staff, for their dedication to the University community and their efforts to better the institution for everyone. Here’s wishing everyone a “fearless” fresh start.

 

Notes from the Senate Meeting

 

At the September 12, 2019, Senate meeting, Senators reviewed the 2018-2019 Legislation Log (Senate Document #19-20-01) and approved the Committee & Council Slates (Senate Document #19-20-02). Senate Director Reka Montfort also gave an orientation for new and returning Senators.

Senators discussed and approved recommendations from the Campus Affairs Committee on Procedures for the Use of Physical Facilities (Senate Document #18-19-10), and approved the PCC Proposal to Establish a Doctorate of Public Health (Senate Document #19-20-12).

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Quote of the Month

During the 2018-19 academic year, the Senate responded to the failures in University leadership before and after the tragic death of undergraduate student Jordan McNair. We held an emergency meeting in which we condemned the Board of Regents for their attempt to interfere with the University’s governance structure. And we continue work to hold the leadership of the Athletics Department accountable. These oversight actions have demonstrated the importance of the Senate’s role in University self-governance, and they have made me proud to serve as a Senator.

-Scott Trudell, Faculty Senator (College of Arts & Humanities)

Committee Work

The Senate’s ten standing committees are back to work after a restful summer. As a result of changes in Maryland law, the Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Committee, Student Conduct Committee, and Faculty and Staff Affairs Committees have each been charged with reviewing aspects of the University’s Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. The Faculty Affairs Committee will also be working on a number of other charges as well, including reviewing a Proposal to Establish a Consensual Relationships Policy, a Proposal to Review Policy and Practice Surrounding PTK Non-Renewals, and Policy on Criminal Background Checks for Faculty and Staff Employees. Nearly all of our ten standing committees have been charged this year with reviewing various University policies or procedures, or considering proposals sent to the Senate. To learn more about the work of our committees, visit our legislation page!

APAS Recommendations on Student Course Evaluations

In early 2017, the Senate’s Academic Procedures & Standards (APAS) Committee was charged with reviewing UMD’s approach to evaluating courses (CourseEvalUM). After nearly two years of work, APAS developed a series of recommendations, which it approved on March 29, 2019. The Senate will consider these recommendations at its next meeting on October 2.

The committee identified significant concerns with elements of the current system, which includes items that are inappropriate or open to bias, or that ask students about topics they are not equipped to address. CourseEvalUM is also unable to provide timely feedback that instructors can use to improve their teaching, given results are not available until after a term ends. The committee also found that results have been relied on too extensively when evaluating some instructors, particularly professional track faculty. Yet the committee also determined that University-wide data on student experiences serve a useful purpose, and that an instrument for gathering them should be retained and improved. The committee approached its work as an opportunity to reimagine the instrument in light of current best practices; narrow its purpose; and develop a tool that provides more and better information to administrators, instructors, and students. Its key recommendations include:

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