Faculty Senate & Governance

Chair’s message

Thaisa Way, Faculty Senate Chair

Thaisa Way, Faculty Senate Chair


I am honored to serve in the role of Chair of Faculty Senate this year, working with a terrific team of Vice Chair, George Sandison and immediate past chair, Zoe Barsness as well as JoAnn Taricani, Faculty Legislative Representative, and Mike Townsend, Secretary of the Faculty. Faculty Council chairs are also essential members of our efforts to strengthen shared governance. Together we are deeply committed to the public role of our university and the remarkable opportunity we have to transform research, teaching, and service into impact at so many levels and in so many ways.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who participated in the hard work of Faculty Senate in the past year. Chair Zoe Barsness and Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting Chair Paul Hopkins worked with President Cauce and Provost Baldasty to revise Executive Order 64 to increase promotion raises and to establish a clearer process for unit adjustments. Our councils and task forces worked on Open Access, lecturer promotion guidelines, and tri-campus coordination. Under the leadership of many, but particularly Chris Laws, we completed a robust revision of the Student Conduct Code and disciplinary process that is now being implemented and is likely to be a model for universities across the nation. JoAnn Taricani worked hard in Olympia advocating for the Senate and UW priorities during an extended legislative session. The work continues with many challenges but take a moment to thank those in your unit who contributed to these efforts among others.

As this year begins, we share excitement because the start of every academic year allows us to think about new endeavors and enjoy the thrill of new beginnings. However, we also share the knowledge that significant work lies ahead for all of us as a community and each of us as individuals. Last spring a group of us wrote a letter of Shared Values, endorsed by the Faculty Senate, that we distributed among faculty colleagues, many of whom also chose to join us in signing the letter. . This letter summarizes our shared essential values as both a public and an academic institution. I invite you to read this letter and if you want, join us and your colleagues in signing it. We will be sharing the letter and its signatures with broader audiences including students, staff, and leaders at UW as well as our legislators, regional leaders, and neighbors.

There are also clear challenges ahead. As a public university, our fiscal situation continues to be challenging and we need every one of us to help assure that our funds are put to the most productive ends. We face an unusual salary situation in this biennium, with the state assuming three 2% increases across two years, instead of a single raise in each year. This is a challenge for faculty as individuals and as a university. Additionally, we are in the midst of a search for a new Provost. We thank Provost Baldasty for his leadership and look forward to who might join the leadership team in the coming years. Challenges are also external. We may be confronted with the end of DACCA which will impact many of our students, continued challenges to Academic Freedom and the important role of faculty as teachers and scholars, and increased public skepticism about the role of higher education. And who knows what else?

It is important that in facing these challenges we find ways to work together, not necessarily to agree but to commit to productive discourse that moves us forward as a university and as a society. To support this effort Faculty Senate leadership last spring initiated a series of Faculty/ Staff Seminars where we came together in conversation to build community by learning from our colleagues. We will be organizing a similar series this year with discussions of Academic Freedom, presidential powers, immigration policies, and the need for rigorous critical literacy, aka know your fake news, among other topics. Stay tuned for our schedule of seminars − all held on Friday afternoons from 3:30-5:00 pm.

Shared governance has a critical role both internally and externally in the discourse about the value of a public research university. When we step up as faculty, to engage in articulating what we do and why we do it, we describe our essential contributions to a strong democracy. This is not something we can leave for our leaders and administrators to do, no matter how brilliant and persuasive we know they are. The Faculty Senate not only represents the faculty body in governance, but also represents the university. Alongside our students, we are the very individuals who fulfill the mission and vision of the academy. The academy is us. Thus, we encourage each and every one of you to contribute to shared governance. Be aware, talk to your faculty senator, speak up, vote, join your school, college or campus Elected Faculty Council, as they are critical to health of each and every unit, join a University Faculty Council. There are a hundred ways to contribute and play a part, but whatever you choose to do, do it.

As for our work plan this year, we have much on our plate, from a continuing focus on lecturers to fostering increased collaboration between deans and Elected Faculty Councils on budgets and salary plans to Open Access to pre-retirement planning. However, all of this work starts with a commitment to building a stronger community across the academy and strengthening shared governance not only at the university but at the grassroots level − in our departments, schools, colleges and campuses − as we move forward into an era of uncertainties.

We have the privilege of collaborating with a remarkable leadership team in President Cauce and Provost Baldasty. But that is not enough. As we deepen the diversity of our faculty, we must assure that we are fostering a healthier environment and more inclusive community that nurtures the best in each of us. Don’t be mistaken, this is not an easy task and it cannot be done solely through code or achieved by leadership alone. It requires faculty to individually and collectively build the communities that are worthy of our role as a public university. It is too easy to think that because we see ourselves as smart, progressive, and open-minded individuals, then all must be good on our campus. That is not the reality for all of our colleagues. As we ask our students to have the skill and courage to have hard conversations, we too must engage in the difficult and the daunting. So get out there and engage, ask your colleagues what they think and if they feel supported, are they getting their best work done? Find out what you and your colleagues working together might do that can make a difference. And let’s get to work.

Thaisa Way Faculty Senate Chair

Thaisa Way
Faculty Senate Chair