Restructuring faculty service
GV holds faculty forums to discuss meaningful service
Grand Valley State University held its second faculty forum to discuss what service means to the university, and how it can be accurately defined and measured.
Around 20 faculty members came and went during the two hour period in the DeVos Center on the Pew Campus on Tuesday. The first meeting, which had around 30 attendees, was held Oct. 25 in Lake Huron Hall.
“I think it’s just important to hear from the faculty before we make any changes,” said Karen Gipson, chair of the University Academic Senate. “(The point of the forum) is to try to make faculty aware before we make changes rather than after. Faculty who are involved in faculty governance know the issues that have been going on, but that’s a very small portion of the faculty. So faculty who are not aware of what’s going on in faculty governance need a chance to catch up.”
Holding a position on a university committee is a big part of how service is defined at GVSU. However, some committees tend to meet more often than others.
Kristine Mullendore, professor of criminal justice and former chair of UAS, said the idea that 10 percent of the people in many businesses doing 90 percent of the work could be applied to universities and committee work, as well.
“I’ve always been involved in faculty governance and other kinds of service, too, and I think the university values it, but the distribution of the work – it’s no different than any other organization,” she said.
Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, offered his observation of why the forums were important.
“We are in a time of finite resources and infinite demand,” he said. “We have people, ranging from our students, to our communities and beyond, asking us to do wonderful things. The hardest thing for most of us is to say no, internally or externally.”
Part of the motivation behind the conversation regarding service is a restructuring of how faculty members define the scope of their work and prioritize tasks to be completed.
“We have to try and say, ‘Okay to do A, I might not be able to do B,’” Plotkowski said.“To do this, we might have to be more efficient at that. Are the structures we’re using really producing the results we want, or are they just burning time? Are we creating work for ourselves that we don’t need to?’”
With many faculty members, if not all, working more than 40 hours each week, examining the structures used throughout the university, such as in faculty committees, is another way to streamline service requirements and be more productive.
“I think that’s some of the motivation behind the conversation,” Plotkowski said. “Let’s do what we do well, let’s pick and choose what we can and can’t take on, let’s structure ourselves in a way, so that when we are doing service, it is meaningful to the university’s mission.”
Whether advising and mentoring students should be considered service was another question discussed at the forum, which also included the issue of how to assess and keep track of faculty service hours.
Mark Hoffman, director of the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, said he worried if the university moved toward a rigid point system of recording service hours, particularly with advising, whether student frustration may be a result.
“I worry that instead of a cooperative endeavor to make sure our students are being advised collectively, that it would turn into just this bean counting of what I do with my advisees and that would be worse,” he said.“Because I want the student to get help when they come and they need help.”
Hoffman wants a collaborative culture where students can find help from any faculty member, rather than getting turned away from one who isn’t their adviser because the faculty member might not receive service credit for time spent.
The Executive Committee of the Senate, which acts as a steering agent for UAS, hears reports from standing committees and prepares the UAS agenda. Members of ECS are selected from UAS to represent each college within the university.
“Each ECS member is responsible for reporting back to their college,” Gipson said. “And those colleges that have more than one ECS member, each ECS member has specific departments within the college that they’re responsible for reporting back to.”
The purpose of this reporting method, much like the purpose of the forums, is to increase communication between the committees and the general faculty. All faculty members are encouraged to attend UAS and ECS meetings, which are open to everyone, to learn more about issues being discussed.
“When we start talking about where is service going to fit in, what does scholarship count, what does teaching count, I think most of us here at Grand Valley still count our teaching first, and then everything else fits in around that,” Gipson said. “I would hope that any faculty member that has a concern would feel free to come to the senate meetings.”
The next UAS meeting is at 3 p.m. tomorrow in 148 Niemeyer Honors Hall.
For more information about faculty governance, visit gvsu.edu/facultygov/.