11/17/20 University Senate

Purdue President Mitch Daniels explained how the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has mainly come from the surrounding community. 

A resolution to increase women's representation and maintain a safe working environment passed with 79% of the senate vote.

Women make up 37% of the faculty body, but on average, women have held less than a quarter of the seats on the senate in the past five years.

The proposal states “overt and explicit efforts shall be made to increase the total number of women Senate members.” These efforts include incentivizing service in the senate by releasing other service responsibilities and considering alternative routes for senate membership other than by appointment.

The resolution calls for a creation of an ad-hoc committee to create a process for anonymous reporting of violations of decency and conduct. Members who have harassed or intimidated others will be removed from the senate.

Some members questioned why mechanisms to ensure a safe working environment needed to be packaged alongside efforts to increase female representation.

“I understand and support (trying) to improve women's enrollment here,” said Alan Beck, a professor of comparative pathology. “What confuses me is that folded into this is this idea of, ‘We have to tell each other to be nice against harassment.’ One, I thought even non-senator faculty have to be nice and non-harassing, but also by putting it in the same thing, it really sets the stage that obviously the culprits are men.”

Audrey Ruple, a professor of public health and equity and diversity committee chair, responded.

“This is very intentionally tied together," Ruple said. "The reason that these are tied together is because I am not willing to put together a request for more women to be represented in this body if we are not also going to be willing to provide a safe working environment for those women.”

Former senate chair Cheryl Cooky expressed her support for the resolution by speaking about her personal experiences.

“As someone who has experienced hostility and harassment, not only on the Senate, not only on campus, but just in the world in general, certainly when you have those spaces, they no longer feel safe and you no longer wish to participate in them,” she said.

Other members expressed that the resolution should extend to all underrepresented groups in the senate.

“I don't see any point in going forward with just women and then trying to get underrepresented minorities of the faculty at some other point in time,” said Sandra Rossie, a professor of biochemistry. “I think it would be stronger if we were more inclusive of all our faculty members who are not well represented in the Senate.

"It would maybe remove this notion that we are just targeting men in the Senate. When we say no bullying we (mean) we want our Senate to represent properly the breadth of our faculty and there to be a reasonable, professional environment for people to exchange ideas.”

Ruple said her committee decided to start with women due to a concern of overtaxing underrepresented groups, which have smaller populations, with service responsibilities. She said she will take comments on this topic back to her committee, but did not make changes to the resolution given that it was set to be voted on.

Faculty debate course modality flexibility

Purdue President Mitch Daniels shared a common complaint he’s heard this semester from parents and students: Many students expected they would take in-person classes but had their courses switched online.

“I will say that a very significant number of our students and their families believe that they were misled,” Daniels said. “I know in many cases it's an honest misunderstanding. But the Senate should know this, there's a widely held view that we suggested that there'll be more of an engaged experience here than we (delivered) this fall.”

Some faculty brought attention to the barrier of needing approval from the Dean to teach remotely. Alexander Francis, chair of the faculty affairs committee and a professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, cited caregiving challenges many faculty have faced given local schools and daycares closing.

“About a week ago, Tippecanoe School Corporation decided to send all their kids home,” Francis said. “I will say that given a choice between me saying to my students, ‘My kids are home, I'm taking a personal day’ or ‘Hey, I’m sorry, we're going to try and work out a compromise.’ I am the instructor of this course, and I have the right to make the decision on how it is taught.”

The senate passed a resolution encouraging the University to enact policies that support faculty facing pandemic-related challenges. These include recognizing “invisible” service work such as supporting students during the pandemic and teaching support for caregivers.

Provost Jay Akridge stressed the need to maintain a balance between student expectations of course modality and faculty needs.

“I think child care falls into the same situation right now and there's going to be some individuals who need some flexibility to deal with this in the shorter run,” Akridge said. “What President Daniels was talking about most directly was we had a catalog went out in July that showed a certain set of modalities, students got here in August, and some faculty chose to change that modality and nobody knew.”

The meeting closed with Deb Nichols, the chair of the senate, recognizing Dave Bangert, a long-time reporter at the Lafayette Journal & Courier who recently announced he will be leaving the local newspaper.

“I would like to recognize Dave Bangert who has been reporting on Purdue and the Lafayette community for many years,” Nichols said. “I am sad that he’s leaving, and I think we all need to recognize the vital role he has played over the years."

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