"When you look at the university, things change. The administration changes, the students change, but the faculty is still there," Henry Ferrell, ECU Professor of History and faculty senator, said. "The idea of shared governance is a standard of higher education. It's an ideological commitment here, it's not just a process."
Catherine Rigsby, chair of the Faculty Senate, has expressed enthusiasm at recent faculty senate meetings for the upcoming observance. All but two of the surviving past chairs plan to attend the meeting and reception, including professors emeriti John C. Ellen, Charles R. Price and Vila M. Rosenfeld.
"I was amazed at the networks that still remain between people on campus today and those folks who were here very early on," said Susan McGhee, a faculty senator and professor of recreation therapy, who is helping to coordinate the event. "For a few moments, we want to say thank you who to those who served us 40 years ago."
Members of the faculty had always been involved in the governance of student behavior and academic programs, but interest in creating a faculty senate at the then-East Carolina College started in 1962, after a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation review committee suggested the university reorganize its governance to include a faculty senate, Ferrell, the university's historian, said.
In 1964, Leo Jenkins, East Carolina's president, said at the convocation that faculty meetings had grown so large that they "almost preclude the judicious treatment of the real problems of the college," and called for the establishment of a faculty senate. By February 1965, the parameters were established and faculty from each academic department elected their respective senators, 50 in all. Their first day of service began at 4 p.m., March 16, 1965.
According to minutes of the first meeting, senators approved a host of changes to required hours of credit and course offerings for academic departments, and added a summertime Naval officer training program. The four-point grading system, still in use today, was also approved at the inaugural meeting.
In the past 40 years, Ferrell said the work of the faculty senate has included crafting and approving appendixes to the faculty manual in the 1970s that included operating codes and procedures. In the 1980s, the faculty senate gained the right to elect representatives to key search committees, rather than have an appointed faculty representative.
"We are a very active bunch," Ferrell said, adding that ECU's commitment to shared governance is known and admired across the UNC system.
"Two things have made it work: the willingness of the administration and the willingness of the faculty groups to do it," he said.
The Faculty Senate will include the formal observance during its regular business meeting and will be followed by a reception at the Chancellor's residence.
Since 1965, there have been 24 chairs of the ECU Faculty Senate.
ECU News Bureau