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Faculty Senate helps discern Baylor's future

Nov. 10, 2010

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

Faculty Senate began discussing its role in the university's strategic planning process at its meeting Tuesday night.

Dr. Rosalie Beck, member of the Faculty Senate executive committee and associate professor of religion, said faculty were encouraged to be active in helping to discern what Baylor's goals should be for the future.

"It's very important to get involved because there needs to be a common sense that this is our goal and that we're all willing to work for it because it's ours," Beck said.

The faculty's support for the process is essential to its smooth implementation, Dr. Raymond Cannon, chair of Faculty Senate and professor of mathematics, said.

"You can't go anywhere without the faculty. And Judge [Ken] Starr, I think, is aware of that as he says that he does not want this to be a top down sort of thing," Cannon said. "The faculty are the people that are here long term, so you can't have the university moving in a direction that the faculty doesn't want to go in without severe problems, dissension, difficulties."

Student life was another topic discussed at the meeting.

The discussion focused on helping senators know who to call to provide help for students dealing with emotional or psychological issues.

"Students don't understand this, but we actually care about you guys," Cannon said. "We're actually on your side. We want the best for you, absolutely the best for you, and we want all of you to succeed, and if some of you get in trouble, we'd like to be able to help. But we're not qualified to help, so what we'd like to do is get you to people who are qualified to help."

Dr. Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries, also gave a presentation about malware-inhibiting software that will probably soon be implemented in the university's Wi-Fi system.

The software, which combats dangerous software online that can steal a person's personal information by tracking their keystrokes, is already in use in dorms and libraries on campus.

Cannon said there was a positive faculty reaction to the idea of implementing the software in the Wi-Fi system.

Dr. Todd Still, member of the Faculty Senate executive committee and associate professor of Christian scriptures at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, said he was eager to see the software put in place.

"To the extent that we can be proactive and protective, keeping our computing free as possible of viruses and unwanted information, this is absolutely win-win across the university," Still said.

It was also decided at the meeting that Cannon should continue working on a policy regarding transfer credit for online courses.

The policy was previously discussed at the October Faculty Senate meeting.

"To a certain extent, this will be a long process," Beck said, "but it's becoming a more and more important issue simply because there are so many universities that do online credit for courses."

Beck said there are concerns regarding whether online courses provide the same level of learning as standard courses, and that as of yet, she has not seen definitive research on the topic.

"We need to have a sense of whether real learning is taking place, and if so, how should that affect the way we receive transfer credits for online classes?" Beck said. "It [the topic] has a ton of issues that are involved in it, but it's also something that every level of the university is concerned about."

Cannon said he is not advocating a specific outcome for the policy, but wants to ensure the faculty and administration can work together to devise a policy that is viable for everyone.

"What I am concerned with is that the administration and the faculty work together so that we have a policy that everybody agrees upon and one that the administration can live with, and the administration's in charge of carrying things out so I want to make sure that they can execute the policy," Cannon said. "It's got to be a policy that balances academic concerns of the faculty with practical concerns of the enforcement by the administration."

A unanimous vote was also made at the meeting, confirming that senators will now be elected through an electronic voting process.