Board of Trustees Remarks

Marianna Walker, Chair of the Faculty

November 20, 2009


Good morning. I bring greetings from the faculty and the Faculty Senate.


It’s hard to believe that it has been two months since I initially provided the Board of Trustees with my first report as Chair of the Faculty.  In September, I pledged to provide you with updates on the role of the faculty and progress made in university initiatives and goals. This month, I bring you positive news regarding the work of the faculty and the faculty senate and the collaboration between the faculty and administration on current initiatives.


In the last few months, the faculty and the administration have been involved in some of the most important endeavors ever in the history of the university.  Two months ago, as I reported to you, the review of the Faculty Manual became a major charge to the university and faculty senate. At the beginning of this academic year, the faculty officers, University Standing Committees, Faculty Senate, and the Faculty Manual Steering Committee began their review of the faculty manual.  Words cannot describe the amount of time, attention, and communication that has taken place in these arenas regarding review of the Faculty Manual.  The tone of the faculty is positive, but serious. They want to preserve traditional faculty responsibilities, but understand that many issues should be discussed with other key constituencies. The faculty are willing and eager to participate in roundtable discussions involving issues such as advising, academic policies, faculty workload, retention and graduation, and academic program development. Faculty and administration are engaging in dialogue in a collegial and constructive manner, which resonates a climate of camaraderie and forward thinking. 


The Faculty Manual Steering Committee has completed its second round of review of the manual and has made interesting observations and suggestions for consideration by the university committees and the faculty senate.  In this committee, faculty, administrators, and a Board of Trustee member (Mr. Greczyn) are engaging in valuable, honest, and thoughtful discussion about the Manual and relationship to future university policies that will be housed in the University Policy Manual.  We appreciate Mr. Greczyn’s time and commitment to this committee. This potentially controversial charge has resulted in collaborative and collegial conversations about the nature of the faculty manual, including possible reorganization and removal of particular sections. The committee consists of six faculty, and 5 administrators including a department chair, two deans, two vice chancellors, and a BOT member. The Provost (Dr. Sheerer) and I chair the committee. In our last two meetings, we reviewed the entire manual, up to Appendix I, a feat that astonished all of us! In our next meeting, we will complete our review of the faculty manual and will consider university standing committee recommendations regarding the emendation of the faculty manual. Thanks to the entire group for all their hard work!


The University Standing Committees (faculty senate committees) have also worked diligently in reviewing, and contemplating reorganization and revision to the faculty manual, specifically charged to the committee. These university committees, which also include administrators and administrative representatives, are meeting in addition to their normal monthly meetings, in order to complete their charge. In addition to these regular committee members, a group of faculty advisors knowledgeable about faculty manual and committee functions were chosen to assist the committees in their charge to review specific faculty manual sections.


At the present time and within a two-month period, the Standing University Committees have already completed an initial review of their respective faculty manual sections in a logical, thoughtful, and meticulous manner. The committees are making suggestions about vetting the issues with other appropriate university units, staff, and administration, as needed. For example, Donna Payne, University Attorney, will be meeting with the Hearing and Appeals Committee and the Grievance Board regarding Appendix Y; and the Grievance Board has requested a meeting with the EEO Officer, ECU Employee Relations Director, and the University Attorney regarding Appendices J, V, W, and X.  Faculty Governance will be presenting Appendix D to the Faculty Senate in December and begin a discussion on Joint Appointments.


The Academic Standards Committee is reviewing, reorganizing, and revising Part V (Academic Policies), which will involve future discussion regarding classroom management and disruptive student behavior, and advising. I am so proud of these committees and their dedication to making ECU’s faculty manual the best in the UNC system! I have been meeting with these committees and have shared discussion with them, from the Faculty Manual Steering Committee, in order to facilitate the review this year. The faculty on these committees are providing an enormous amount of time and effort in reviewing the faculty manual, with no extra pay or reassigned time, in addition to a full faculty work load consisting of teaching numerous classes, conducting and mentoring research, engaging in patient care and clinical supervision, and service responsibilities. 


Or course, all these recommendations will be sent to the faculty senate for approval on these committee recommendations. We are already discussing how to limit opening remarks and reports so the senate can hear and discuss the university committee recommendations regarding the faculty manual. As stated previously, this work will take some time, but I assure you that significant progress will be made by the end of the year, in the review and reorganization of the faculty manual. I want to commend the faculty and the faculty senate for work done thus far this year. We will continue our work and I will keep the Board of Trustees apprised of the progress.


ECU is fortunate for the structure of these standing university committees; a structure that is not always present in other UNC university shared governance models. The structure of these committees, and the standard for accountability and responsibility underscores the work that they are carrying out in a timely manner.


Another university initiative relates to the Honors College, which was given support from the Board of Trustees last month. At the present time, faculty are involved in a committee charged with proposing a Business Plan for the Honors College. The faculty and faculty senate will be involved in this process relating to program planning and curriculum issues.


In the last three months, I have engaged in continuous discourse with the Chancellor, and senior administrators regarding many important university initiatives.  My job has been to provide opportunities for discussion and to facilitate communication among the faculty and with the administration. The working relationships between the faculty and the administration have been commendable.  Joint meetings have been collegial, even when controversial issues are raised and subsequently discussed at the table. Communication is the tool to change and ultimately to contentment.  Faculty are openly communicating their ideas and requests in monthly Faculty Forums and other meetings, especially in the review of the Faculty Manual, the University Policy Manual, retention and graduation, and other issues relating to the education of our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.  The administration has been very supportive of the faculty and their views, which is interpreted as a renewed sense of shared governance. Thanks to Chancellor Ballard, Provost Sheerer, Vice Chancellor Horns, and Vice Chancellor Mageean for all their support.


So, I report to the ECU Board of Trustees that significant progress is being made in the review and emendation of the faculty manual. Faculty are at the table relative to Retention and Graduation issues, Honors College, University Policy Manual, Academic Integrity, Master Planning, Educational Planning and curriculum, and issues relating to tenure and promotion, and Academic Standards.


In the season of Thanksgiving that is approaching, let me give thanks for and accolades to the faculty for all their passion, energy, and commitment to East Carolina University. We would not have a university without their presence. We have all the “experts” we need to assist in solving contemporary university problems or issues. These “experts” are the faculty, members of a multicultural academic society and a community of scholars who are all interested in educating students at a higher level in a multitude of disciplines.  These faculty members, many of whom have become university administrators, immerse themselves into any incentive or charge on the table. Their mantra is “give us a challenge and the time, and we’ll find a solution”.


I wish all of you good health, happiness, and harmony as we celebrate Thanksgiving next week.  Thank you for your time today and for all that you do for our great university.