UW News

March 11, 2004

Faculty Senate communication goes electronic

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of columns by the chairs of Faculty Senate councils and committees. Lea Vaughn is secretary of the faculty and professor of law.

About two years ago, U Week published an article about planned changes to the Faculty Senate voting procedures, the Web page, and the University Handbook. All of the changes involved greater use of electronic forms of communication. Thanks to an overwhelmingly positive faculty vote in June 2003, many of these plans are now reality.

In the last few weeks, all voting faculty received an e-mail message asking them to volunteer to serve on faculty councils and committees. Unlike past messages, this message contained a link to a Web-Q survey site that allows faculty, at their convenience, to nominate themselves and colleagues to various University councils and committees. Our office hopes that this electronic form is easier and more convenient to use. Already, we have had a higher response rate to this electronic nomination form than the old paper request form. If you have not used it yet, we urge you to do so. The form takes only a minute or two to complete.

One new feature of the council nomination form is an interest survey. In the last several years, thanks to the efforts of Faculty Senate chairs, the administration has increasingly looked to the senate as the source for faculty nominations to a wide variety of presidential committees, University task forces, and other forms of shared governance. Many of these committees meet only a few times, or until their assigned task is done, generally before the end of an academic year. For example, the committee that selects the annual faculty lecturer concentrates its work in the period of several weeks, reviewing the vitas of colleagues in order to select next year’s lecturer.

These ad hoc and short-term committees may be a more convenient and engaging form of University-wide service, tapping, as they do, a wide range of faculty expertise and interests. We will maintain a database of faculty who indicate an interest in short-term appointments in areas of their expertise and interest. Now, one of the University’s most valuable resources, the expertise of its faculty, can be considered when a committee has to be assembled quickly.

Another e-mail will be sent your way in mid-April when faculty receive their first electronic ballots for senators. Like the council nomination forms, the balloting will be conducted using secure Catalyst tools. A Web-link in the e-mail will direct voters to a ballot. Although the Faculty Code requires that everyone who is eligible for election be listed on the ballot, letters have already been sent to departments suggesting that willing faculty make their interest in being elected known to their colleagues. When the ballot arrives, indicate your choice, click “send” and voting will be completed. Balloting for Class A and B legislation will be conducted in a similar manner.

Two final developments deserve notice. One is a complete re-design of the Faculty Senate Web page. Although Web page maintenance is always a work in progress, we have endeavored to make this site a “one stop” location for a wide variety of news and information that is of interest to faculty. In the future, more features will be added to the page to make it as valued as possible for all faculty. A second development, now underway, involves a re-thinking of the University Handbook as we move from maintaining it in a paper format to an electronic one. Working with the Provost’s Office, we are trying to determine the best way to maintain up-to-date information on University policies and other centrally developed information.

None of this work could have been done alone. For example, last summer, Tasha Taylor, assistant to the secretary, spent countless hours updating the Faculty Senate database so that every member of the voting faculty was represented. She also met with staff from Catalyst to design a voting system that would meet the faculty needs.

Similarly, Nancy Bradshaw, assistant to the chair, developed numerous designs for a Faculty Senate Homepage until we found one that we believed would appeal to all faculty members and be easy to use. The recorders for the councils, Brian Taylor and Linda Fullerton, have both spent time learning techniques for posting minutes and other council materials to the Web. All of these staff efforts complement the work of Faculty Senate leadership to develop a long-term vision of shared governance emphasizing teamwork, and setting realistic priorities and goals.

All of this is a work in progress, and depends upon faculty input and ideas. Please let me know what you think of these new changes, and how we can improve the electronic (and other) services we provide for faculty. I look forward to hearing from you at secfac@u.wash ington.edu.