UW News

October 26, 2006

Faculty Senate chair has substantial experience in governance

UW News

Gail Stygall, chair of the Faculty Senate for the 2006–2007 year, believes strongly in the idea of shared governance, and says openness and cooperation have grown tremendously at the UW in recent years.

“It feels like a different world,” said Stygall, a professor of English who served as vice chair last year and is now stepping into the top spot. “Mark Emmert and (UW Provost) Phyllis Wise represent an incredibly positive change for the faculty.” She commended the administration, too, for bringing issues to the faculty for review and consultation before making them public.

Far from a newcomer to faculty governance, Stygall has represented her colleagues in a number of ways through her career, including three previous terms on the senate, from, 1993-1995, 1995-97 and 2001-2003. She also has significant experience with the Washington State Legislature, having served two years as faculty legislative representative, following a year as deputy faculty representative. In the English Department, she oversaw the Expository Writing Program from 1997 to 2003.

Though there has been much progress, she said, there are still “pockets of” administrators on campus who could use reminding that faculty have the strongest ties with those at the heart of the UW, the students. “I really think the faculty are much closer to the students because we see them in classes. We know who they are, what their lives are like.”

All the more reason, she said, for true shared governance to work “not top-down, but also bottom-up.” Stygall said there needs to be greater linkage, so that issues are taken appropriately “from the department level to the college, to the larger University — so that shared governance is better supported in the schools and colleges.”

She said she sees several issues of importance coming up this school year — from continued efforts at campuswide communication and focus on undergraduate education to faculty pay and control over certain instructional materials.

And today, in the first senate meeting of the year, Stygall said, the senate is poised to vote on a resolution voicing strong concern about the city’s proposed revision of SR520, adding that the senate “has grave concerns about the adoption of the Pacific Interchange option.”

On the issue of salaries, Stygall said she believes the current merit pay policy is flawed. “A 2 percent increase can mean both minimum or maximum,” she said. She also wonders if there is “some meaningful way to expand” the employment progression of academics, possibly creating salary steps not unlike those that guide the salaries of teachers and other state employees.

Stygall said she also thinks the Senate needs to take up the issue of who controls electronic instructional materials when a course has been designed by one person and is used and modified by others. With an increase in podcasting and faculty having their courses taped and used on the Internet, Stygall said, “The faculty creators of instructional materials are the best decision-makers on adding, deleting, revising

Calling upon her experience with the budgeting process in Olympia, Stygall said there should be more openness and transparency in the UW’s budget requests, both in what the institution asks of the state and how it later uses the funds awarded.

This year, too, Stygall said, an ad hoc group of Faculty Council chairs most involved with undergraduate education will be meeting to “monitor issues raised by the Faculty Senate’s report on undergraduate education and the President’s Committee on the Undergraduate Experience.”

Becoming chair of the Faculty Senate is actually a three-year process. The individual who runs and is elected among colleagues first becomes senate vice chair, then chair the following year, and then heads the Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting — a position Ashley Emery, last year’s Faculty Senate chair, takes on this year.

Heading the Faculty Senate is a time-consuming job, to be sure, but Stygall gets a 50 percent release from her teaching and other duties to handle the load. Is it enough time? She replied, as others have before her, with a laugh.

She added, too, that this is not the capping experience of a career, just a stop along the way. She said that next summer she is bringing an international conference to the UW in one of her research areas, forensic linguistics.

“I expect to be back teaching a full load next year,” she said.