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GW Faculty Senate Activity

March 27 Faculty Senate Executive Committee Update

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) held its regular monthly meeting today via WebEx. The Committee heard reports from the President and Provost on the financial impact of COVID-19 and planning for the remainder of the spring semester, the summer, and the fall. Several School representatives also gave reports. The agenda for the Senate’s April 3 meeting has been posted, and the slate of nominees for the 2020-2021 FSEC will be posted early next week. The FSEC agreed that it may need to continue meeting frequently in May and throughout the summer to monitor developments and make recommendations on COVID-19-related developments as they arise.

March 24 Faculty Senate Executive Committee Update

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) met via WebEx today in special session. Under its authority to act for the Senate on matters of urgency, the FSEC unanimously adopted Resolution 20/12 to amend the Bylaws of the Senate to permit the Senate, under extraordinary circumstances, to hold electronic remote meetings and to use electronic voting. This resolution will be implemented for the April 3 Senate meeting, which will be held via WebEx with planned online voting.
The Resolution also creates a new position of Vice Chair of the FSEC to act as chair temporarily should the Chair be unable to perform their duties. The FSEC elected Professor Jeffrey Gutman to serve as Vice Chair. Under the Resolution, he will serve until a new Vice Chair is elected.

March 20 Faculty Senate Executive Committee Update

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) has been engaged over the past week on urgent matters regarding the extremely fluid COVID-19 situation:

  1. The FSEC passed a Resolution urging the Provost to establish as a Guideline to the Schools that they may use online technology to hold School faculty meetings without a prior incorporation of this instrument in the School Bylaws. Some faculties have already been holding online meetings, but the FSEC wanted the Provost to clarify that all schools may do so subject to their individual needs. All faculties have important votes to take in the spring.
  2. The FSEC is working on a Resolution to permit online Senate meetings with online voting. This Resolution will be voted on by the FSEC early next week so that the next Senate meeting on April 3 can be held via WebEx with online voting.
  3. The FSEC Nominating Committee will be meeting early next week via WebEx to finalize a slate for the FSEC and FSEC Chair for the 2020-2021 Senate Session. This slate will be brought to the Senate for approval at the April 3 Senate meeting.

Other issues are pending, and more information will be posted here as it is available.


March Senate Meeting Highlights

The Senate practiced social distancing, meeting via WebEx with very limited in-person participation in the State Room. For this meeting, any items on the agenda requiring a vote were subject to unanimous consent (various options for remote voting are under consideration). The President and Provost provided updates on the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic prior to moving into the meeting agenda.

  • President LeBlanc reviewed a joint letter from Board Chair Speights and himself to the GW faculty regarding strategic initiatives and planning.
  • Several Senate standing committee chairs provided reports on their respective committees' responses to the strategic planning committee interim reports released last month.
  • Provost Blake presented the annual Core Indicators of Academic Excellence.

A Note of Clarification Regarding Senate Resolution 20/11 from Sylvia Marotta-Walters, Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair

A few Senate members have called our attention to a mistake in the PDF of the Senate Bylaws (an appendix to the Faculty Organization Plan (FOP) that is now posted on the Senate website.  This mistake has been fixed now, and a corrected PDF of the FOP has been posted. The mistake involves Sections 2(c) and (d) of the Bylaws. In writing Resolution 20/11, the Executive Committee relied upon the 1987 printed version of the FOP, which is widely distributed and posted on the Provost website. This printed version is out of date but is correct regarding the text of Sections 2(c) and (d). For many years, the University reprinted an update sheet to the 1987 Bylaws every time an amendment was made but ceased doing so several years ago. To fill the need for an updated version, the Senate staff recreated the PDF document a few years ago but inadvertently left off Section 2(c). Until today, the error went unnoticed because the 1987 printed version is used during Senate and Executive Committee meetings.

The significance of this typographical error is that it has led some Senators to wonder whether Resolution 20/11 seeks to delete the following provision:

(d)          The Executive Committee shall include in the Agenda for any meeting any matters requested by the President or by 20 percent of the members of the Senate. Arrangement of the Senate’s business upon the Agenda within the above categories shall be the duty of the Executive Committee. Matters on the Agenda may be taken up out of order by a majority vote.

The answer is that Resolution 20/11 does not touch the above provision because it is mislabeled (d) when it should be labeled (c).

The subsection (d) to be amended is:

The Agenda for a regular meeting shall be available to members in writing in the office of the Secretary, and a copy of the Agenda addressed to each member shall be put in the University mail, on the seventh day before the meeting day.

The housekeeping amendment proposed by the Executive Committee is to update this to say:

The agenda for a regular meeting shall be available to members in writing on the Senate’s website, and a link to that Agenda shall be sent to all members on or before the seventh day before the meeting day.


Strategic Planning and the Faculty Senate: Recent Activity

February 25, 2020: The Special Meeting of the Faculty Assembly convened by Senate Chair Sylvia Marotta-Walters met this afternoon with an attendance of 213 Faculty Assembly members. The Provost gave a report on the Future Enrollment Task Force, and the chairs of seven Senate committees gave reports on their findings and conclusions regarding major ongoing University initiatives. A motion was offered to approve the Urgent Resolution adopted by the Executive Committee in October as well as six Senate Resolutions adopted from November through February (20/3, 20/5, 20/6, 20/7, 20/8 and 20/9). This motion was approved by unanimous teller vote. Draft Assembly minutes will be posted on the Senate’s website as soon as possible.

February 18, 2020: Senate Executive Committee Chair Sylvia Marotta-Walters met with three faculty members (Jamie Cohen-Cole, Harald Griesshammer, and Guillermo Orti) along with Senate Parliamentarian Steve Charnovitz to discuss the recently-published agenda for the February 25 Special Meeting of the Faculty Assembly. The Parliamentarian's view was that a petition recently submitted by 62 faculty was inadmissible to add an agenda item for a Special Assembly.

The three faculty were concerned that without the new petition being on the agenda, the Assembly would not be able "to voice a clear and differentiated opinion."

Chair Marotta-Walters pointed out that the Special Assembly agenda provides for oral presentations and follow-up discussion of the reports of Senate committees. In response to a request for rapid dissemination of the proceedings of the Assembly, the Chair suggested that a transcript would be put on the Senate website as early as possible.

Concerns were expressed that while the Special Assembly agenda specifically notes that, under the Faculty Organization Plan, the Assembly would be able to vote to disapprove/"adversely review" any of the listed Senate actions, the agenda does not mention any Assembly votes to express approval of the recent Senate resolutions. In response, Parliamentarian Charnovitz agreed that voting down a motion to disapprove was an awkward way to express approval. Therefore, he suggested that a motion to approve the Senate’s Resolutions would be in order (as a majority vote).

Those attending agreed that several options were available at the Special Assembly. For example, discussion from the floor could raise issues included in the petition, and votes to approve or disapprove Senate resolutions could be taken under agenda item 4.

Furthermore, an updated version of a petition requesting swift Senate action following the Assembly can be submitted to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee at least two days before its meeting on February 28, 2020.

The Parliamentarian also explained that the Faculty Organization Plan provides a mechanism for the Senate to decide to seek an Assembly referendum on certain propositions regarding University academic policy. Such a mechanism could be utilized by the Senate for a future Faculty Assembly to be held later in calendar year 2020.

Read more about the Senate's role in GW's strategic planning process.


About the Faculty Senate

The GW Faculty Senate is the faculty governance body of the George Washington University. Senators are elected to two-year terms by their home schools, and the Senate annually elects an Executive Committee that sets agendas, reviews proposed resolutions, and guides the work of the Senate. The Senate is in session from September through May, although the Executive Committee works year-round on faculty and administrative matters.


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