Faculty Senate marks 50 years
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson October 24, 2019
Past presidents gather to celebrate Senate’s history, accomplishments at October meeting
When University of Delaware Faculty Senate first convened, the University was a fast-growing and ambitious institution, full of students who fretted about America’s involvement in global conflicts, but who were confident they were in the right place to make a real difference.
Now, 50 years after the Senate’s inception, so many things have changed about UD and the world—but in some ways, those bygone challenges and ambitions carry a familiar ring.
Echoes of the past and hopes for the future were prominent themes Oct. 7 as the Faculty Senate marked its 50th year of working to ensure that high academic standards and shared governance remains a solid institutional pillar at UD.
“That decade of the ‘70s is where we got a lot of the programs” that are deeply ingrained in UD culture, including women’s studies, Africana studies and international programs, noted Senate member Barbara Settles, a professor of human development and family studies who has served on the Senate since its inception. “There was a huge number of newly hired faculty all over campus who were spouting off. People got to know each other, and got deeply involved with each other’s concerns.”
The result was a collegial-but-determined community of scholars, who fought for students’ academic well-being even as they guarded their own academic freedom by pressing for shared governance. Former Senate President Prasad Dhurjati remembered the tireless advocacy of the Senate’s first head, fellow chemical engineering professor Jon Olson, who passed away in 2014.
“He marched to the beat of his own drummer,” Dhurjati told the Senate. “He realized what made us unique was our emphasis on faculty governance and academic freedom. What Jon Olson realized was in order to preserve that academic freedom, to preserve faculty governance, we had to have a strong Faculty Senate.
“I think we need a University that’s so diverse that it can nurture people like that, even if he doesn’t ‘fit the mold,’” said Dhurjati, who noted that the Senate highest award is named in his honor.
Another great force for cohesion and progress through the years has been Senate administrator Karren Helsel-Spry, who was lauded Monday for her 23 years of Senate service, and was coaxed to join a group photo of the 19 former Senate presidents who were on hand for the commemoration.
“She is truly the beating heart of the Faculty Senate,” said Chris Williams, immediate past president, as he presented her with a carved blue-and-gold duck decoy, signed by all presidents present and inscribed with words of gratitude:
“To Our Mama Duck,” it read. “Thank you for guiding us to calm Senate waters.”
In other business Monday night, the Senate moved to:
- Change the name of the Department of Music to “School of Music,” a move that is expected to enhance visibility, status and competitiveness for students;
- Create a new Master of Engineering: Particle Technology degree to meet growing demand;
- Realign course requirements for Ph.D. programs in sociology and criminal justice, nursing science and sociology, in an effort to keep pace with competitors and enhance UD’s appeal.
Editor’s note: The minutes of the Oct. 7 meeting will be posted on the Faculty Senate website. The Faculty Senate meeting was preceded by the semiannual General Faculty meeting with remarks by UD President Dennis Assanis.