Faculty Convocation

Catherine Rigsby, Chair of the Faculty

August 2005


We’ve come through an exciting and transforming year as a university.  We’ve had an almost complete transformation of the upper administration.  And, I am pleased to say, FACULTY played a large and important role in the process – at least ˝ of all of the major search committees where comprised of faculty members.  Thanks to of you for your hard work on these committees and I thank the faculty at large for participating in the on-campus portions of those searches.


I’m also pleased to be able to say that we now have the most transparent and inclusive system of shared governance that has ever been seen at ECU.  Faculty are involved in almost all aspects of university operations and decision making.  This is because of the volunteer spirit of the faculty who accept appointments to committees – Faculty Senate committees, administrative committees, search committees, and ad hoc university-wide committees. 


It is also because of the attitude of our new administration.  One sign of the change in “administrative tone” is the inclusion of the Chair of the Faculty on the Chancellor’s cabinet.  This puts increased responsibility on the faculty Chair, but it offers an unprecedented information conduit between the faculty and administration.


Having this voice gives the faculty the opportunity to be heard, to better understand the rationale behind decisions, and to work toward compromise on contentious issues.  But, this new inclusiveness also comes with new responsibility: 

when we are asked to participate we must not withdraw; 

we must come to the table with our ideas, options, and suggestions – we must come prepared to debate and negotiate. 


To do so, demands increased faculty participation on our committees.    If the faculty do not participate, we lose our opportunity to contribute to this change.


I can give you a few examples of the kind of change I’m referring to . . .


Last year we finally passed a new Serious Illness and Disability Policy.  This was done through the hard work of the members of the Faculty Welfare committee in cooperation and collaboration with our administrators across campus – including John Toller and his staff in Human Resources and several of our university attorneys.  The bulk of the hard work of understanding both the constraints AND the possibilities presented by OP’s demand for a new policy was done by the faculty.  The faculty on the committee were willing and able to stand up for faculty needs by working collaboratively (& negotiating) with the administration to insure that only the best possible policy be approved.  This process, to me, involved an unprecedented level of openness and inclusiveness for ECU.


A similar level of shared governance is currently being exhibited in regards to faculty input into the design and placement of new facilities and the environmental/ecological maintenance of the campus.  For example,


·        Faculty have been asked, by the VC of Student Life (Garry Moore), for input regarding to the expansion of the Mendenhall Student Center. 


·        And, over the summer, a new faculty/administration committee – one that was prooposed last Spring by a Faculty Senate resolution – was implemented, jointly, by me (as Chair of the Faculty) and the VC of Facilities and Finance (Kevin Seitz).  This committee – the Greenspace Committee – will provide oversight of use of campus green spaces as well as input into all major campus-wide projects that could have an impact on the environmental quality of our community.


Through these examples, I believe we are glimpsing a new university: 

·        a university where faculty work not only to enhance their own research, teaching, and career goals, but also to facilitate the success of our colleagues;

·        a university where faculty work to redefine our sense of place by making ECU more outward-looking and inclusive of the challenges to the community;

·        a university where faculty work with the administration and the community to use our tools and expertise in the transformation of eastern North Carolina socially, economically, and environmentally into more sustainable, more livable, place.


We do, however, still have major challenges ahead – both regionally and on campus:


·        The Faculty Mentoring study we started last year (in an effort to facilitate the success of all faculty) remains a major priority.  This semester, additional faculty input will be solicited and the Faculty Welfare committee will have membership on the administrative New Faculty Orientation Task Force.


·        The discussion of University-wide Standards of Excellence that we started last year still needs work.  A report prepared by an Ad Hoc Committee will be considered by the Faculty Governance Committee.  Although the question of Provost-level tenure and promotion committees remains a difficult one, we all agree that across-university standards of excellence are a given and that any administration-level committee must be vetted by shared-governance processes.


·        The Educational Policies and Planning Committee will work to revamp Part V, Section III of the Faculty Manual – the section on curriculum development – to bring it in line with current policies and practices and (not incidentally!) to make it make it more comprehensible.  They will also continue – as they did last year – to work with the Provost’s Academic Program Development Collaborative Team to carefully evaluate both the academic quality and the “readiness” status of proposed new programs.




·        Although the budget situation is better now than we thought it would be, the University Budget committee will continue to provide input to VC Seitz and the rest of the administration on matters of resource distribution.  During the summer, the Budget committee was consulted several times and was given complete information – about everything from the state-level budget situation to the Provost’s draft compensation plan.  The committee will continue to be the main information conduit for budgetary issues and will have input as critical, on campus, decisions are made about budget issues.  Increasing budgetary transparency will make us all more comfortable with, and more confident in, the process by which on-campus decisions are made.  It will also give us greater responsibility – the responsibility to pay attention and to speak up on issues of importance to the university community.


We must step up to the challenge that this new openness and inclusivity presents and continue to improve our university and our region.  


To do this, requires 2 things:

·        increased and sustained faculty support for shared governance,


·        the willingness of administration (at all levels) to recognize the value of service and the value of applied research.

By service, I mean both service in the field, where faculty provide unique resources to the community AND the service to the university that is essential to keeping the transparency and the collaboration alive. 

By applied research, I mean quality, peer-recognized, research that can aid in the transformation of our region.

We, the faculty, have the tools, the expertise, and the talent to create a renaissance on our campus, and in our city, and in our region – all we really need is the excitement and enthusiasm to make happen.

If we are to continue to grow as a research university, to expand our graduate offerings, and o attract and retain the best research-active faculty, we must work to transform ourselves, our policies, and our community – we must be able to compete with other major research universities, not only in the realm of salaries and benefits (no, we’re not there yet . . .), but also in our level of service to the community, our quality of life, and the state of our local environment. 


I urge you ALL to participate this year in shaping our university and our region.   


With your participation we can form good policies that encourage faculty development, improve the status of our university, and enhance the quality of our community.   

Look beyond your offices, labs, classrooms, and studios.   

See the whole university.

See the university’s place in the community and the region.   

Offer your expertise on matters of community significance.

Offer to serve on a university-level committee.


Be willing to help shape the future of ECU and of eastern North Carolina

by helping us build first from our greatest strength – by using the expertise of the great faculty sitting in this room.