Congratulations on being elected to, and serving as, chair of the Faculty Senate. While members of our community are familiar with what faculty members do in the classroom, could you please explain the role that faculty members—and the Faculty Senate—play in the development of curricula?

CarolAnn headshotAccording to the Articles of Governance, the faculty has primary responsibility for curricula of the University, and faculty members participate in the development of our curricula on many levels. For example, individual faculty members select the content of their respective courses, academic units develop certificate programs, disciplinary majors, and minors etc., and University committees, including the General Education Committee, further define the core curriculum for the undergraduate degrees.

Regarding curriculum development: The role of the Faculty Senate is to ask critical questions to help place the curricula of departments, schools/colleges, and units in the wider context of the University and to ensure that our curricula is equitable, rigorous and sustainable. The Faculty Senate, comprising members of different units, is able to provide a broader lens to examine the rigor and capacity of the faculty to implement the proposed curriculum. For example, are there enough faculty members with the expertise to teach the curriculum? The senate also looks to ensure that our programs are competitive and cost effective.

There have been some requests from students for the University to “diversify/decolonize the curriculum,” meaning that the lens through which students approach their studies is being called upon to incorporate more than a singular, white-centric gaze. Could you explain the role that the Faculty Senate can play in ensuring that our curriculum responds to the needs of an equitable and diverse university?

The development of curriculum starts within the units, so I think that this conversation would be more productive at that level. While the senate must review and approve all curricula, it does not have the authority to mandate any content or perspective within individual courses. However, often in the review of a particular program, senators will ask questions related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism that serve to prompt programs and individual faculty members to think about these issues in ways that they may not have considered.

As a faculty member who has successfully climbed the ranks to full professor in the School of Social Work with a dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-racism initiatives, what shifts and developments are you hoping to support during your tenure as the Faculty Senate chair?

At its best, the senate is a hub for creative dialogue, decision making and deliberation.

Addressing critical issues can sometimes prompt difficult conversations, but these are necessary, nonetheless. These conversations are at the heart of an effective senate. The decisions that come out of these discussions can affect the University’s future direction. So, from the start, my agenda has been to create a safe space for faculty members to share their ideas and concerns and address the academic policies that affect faculty members and students at Adelphi. Having a safe space in which to dialogue can also allow for engaging with one another in ways that are affirming of all our contributions. This is also critical in establishing a climate of inclusion where every member of the senate can participate fully in the discussion.

I believe that faculty members have an important role and responsibility in the governance of the University and that the senate is the space for them to exercise that responsibility. Shared governance is a hallmark of the American higher education system, and faculty expertise and involvement are essential to finding creative and cost-effective ways of realizing the University’s mission to deliver an excellent education. Given both the importance and indispensability of shared governance, faculty involvement and commitment is key.

There are many opportunities for engagement at various levels in the senate, and all bring benefits to the faculty and the University. Involvement in the Faculty Senate is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference in the University.

Participation in the senate can also lead to a better understanding of how the University operates and exposure to different ideas—both of which can improve our problem-solving and decision-making. Faculty senators make important and often complex decisions. This also provides an opportunity for advocacy and leadership on behalf of the faculty in ways that are not always available within individual departments, schools/colleges or units.

So, I am thinking a lot about how to foster engagement and collaboration in the work of the senate in ways that can create equitable forms of belonging and participation.

Can you speak a bit about your own research and how it informs your current position as Faculty Senate chair?

My research addresses the experiences and outcomes of individuals from underrepresented and underserved communities in education and health settings. I focus on barriers and patterns of access and success with the goal of supporting institutions in building and sustaining equitable, inclusive and anti-racist policies.

As part of this work, I analyze policies to understand their underlying assumptions and to uncover opportunities for creating equitable and inclusive environments. This has deepened my understanding and appreciation of the need for our policy documents to articulate who we are, what we do and how.

This has informed my agenda in leading the senate. Because senate representatives come from across the University, the lack of clarity is sometimes exacerbated by individual interpretations of what shared governance is or should be, what issues are most important to the University, how they should be addressed and constituency-based thinking.

Creating clarity around our roles and responsibilities as a senate is critical. This kind of clarity can also facilitate a shared sense of purpose and more equitable, inclusive and compassionate dialogue, not only between members of the senate but between the senate and administration.

Please complete the following sentence: “I will know that I have succeeded in my role as Faculty Senate chair when…”

“ … we are all able to engage in conscious, deliberate and collaborative conversations to further the growth and effective functioning of the University.”

Todd Wilson
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