Faculty Senate working to give voice to professors

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Creation of an advisement center, improved recruitment and retention of students and reducing professors course loads are only a few items on the agenda of the SHSU Faculty Senate this year.While the Student Government Association serves as the voice of Beakats, the Faculty Senate offers SHSU professors the chance to improve the university they work for and make their concerns known to campus administrators. “We recommend things, we don’t make policy,” Faculty Senate Chairman Bill Fleming said. “Our proposals then go to the Academic Policy Council, which is made up of all deans. If it passes there and is of great importance, it goes all the way up to President Gaertner for approval.”One thing the senate hopes to propose this year is the establishment of an advisement center for students.”We’re looking at the advisement center right now and hope it could be housed in the new classroom building being constructed,” Fleming said. “It would be a place where students could go to be advised rather than having to go to faculty offices.”According to Fleming, a center dedicated to advisement would make the process much easier on both students and faculty members.”We’ve found that the primary problem with advising is when school is not in session, but the school is still open,” Fleming said. “Students come up to be advised and if I’m not here they can’t be cleared to register. “That’s why if we can do advisement all in one place, someone can always be there for the students,” he said. “It would be staffed either by professionals or we could use faculty as the professionals.”Improving recruitment and retention at SHSU is also a goal of the Faculty Senate.”Some faculty now actually go to schools to help recruit students, but not many,” Fleming said. “We want to come up with ways for more faculty to help with that. A lot of them really want to.”Fleming also has a theory on why retention is a constant problem at SHSU.”Sam Houston has this problem because so many people like to have degrees from A&M or University of Texas. They just want that big name on a diploma,” he said. “But I guarantee that students can get just as good of an education here as anywhere else. It’s up to you to get an education, you can mess around here just as much as you can there or you can choose to get it.”Fleming adds students should be thankful for the advantages a somewhat smaller school can provide.”One good thing about here is in every course you have a real teacher rather than a grad student,” he said. “At some bigger schools you’ll be into your junior or senior year before you have a real professor.”Fleming said the senate is also working to reduce the course load of SHSU professors.”Right now professors teach four classes a semester but at many other universities the teaching load is three or less,” he said. “At Texas and A&M professors only teach two courses.”Because of the emphasis on research the faculty have to do, many times the four-course load is really too much to get done.”Fleming said if the workload proposal passes it could mean increased class sizes.”We will have to reorganize things to make classes larger. We don’t want them too big though, because some classrooms just won’t allow it,” Fleming said. “We’re looking at it and trying to do what is best for everyone.”According to Fleming the senate hopes to have proposals ready to submit to the council and President Gaertner by spring. He said he is confident the proposals will gain approval.”We’ve met with President Gaertner and he was very supportive of our ideas,” Fleming said. The Faculty Senate consists of 25 members selected from the university’s four colleges of study. Faculty members vote each spring to elect representatives who will each serve a three-year term in office.According to Fleming, the senate is responsible for the faculty evaluation surveys students fill out each semester and are always working to improve them. They also conduct a survey of SHSU faculty members each year to determine what issues they consider most relevant.”We ask professors to rank all of the offices on campus,” Fleming said. “They also rank individual administrators and give us any input, ideas or comments they may have. We then use that information to suggest campus improvements.”Fleming said the Faculty Senate is always willing to work in conjunction with SGA to address issues of concern to both students and faculty. He also encourages non-senate faculty members to attend meetings and share their ideas.The Faculty Senate meets the third Thursday of each month at 3:30 p.m. in Austin Hall.