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Shared governance

UD President Dennis Assanis, Board Chair Terri Kelly and Provost Laura Carlson discuss shared governance at November Faculty Senate meeting

At the Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis once again expressed his commitment — along with that of the Board of Trustees and the University’s administration — to shared governance and to working closely with the faculty to address important academic issues.

“It continues to be a great honor for me to work with all of you and to serve you as your University president,” Assanis said. “We need to continue to foster a culture of respect and trust. If you don't have that, shared governance doesn’t work. And I believe shared governance works here.”

In that same vein, Terri Kelly, chair of the UD Board of Trustees and a 1983 alumna, gave an overview of the Board’s role in relation to working with President Assanis, Provost Laura Carlson and the faculty.

“[Governance] only works if it's a shared responsibility,” said Kelly, who began her term as chair on July 1, 2022. “I'm very proud to say it's working quite effectively in terms of both the relationships we have amongst the trustees, but equally the relationship we have with the leadership and beyond. That's a testament to the commitment we've all made to make this work.”

Some key areas of focus for Kelly as chair include further clarifying the decision-making responsibilities outlined in the Board’s bylaws, supporting the implementation of a talent-management program to develop future leadership, filling open trustee positions and creating a strong pipeline of potential candidates, and ensuring support, oversight and assessment of the University president.

“I'm really proud to say that all of the trustees take their commitments extremely seriously,” Kelly said. “The level of attention to detail and engagement is just phenomenal.”

At the meeting, Carlson gave an example of shared governance in action. In May, the Faculty Senate voted to revise the section of the Faculty Handbook related to the selection of department chairpersons. Over the summer, Carlson met with the proposers of the resolution as well as the Faculty Senate executive committee to implement that change in the Faculty Handbook.

“I really appreciate the work of the Senate’s executive committee and the willingness of the proposers to meet to talk about the different interpretations and to find a path forward,” Carlson said. “Our meetings this summer were true examples of shared governance.”

Following Carlson’s remarks, Amanda Steele-Middleton, assistant vice president of enrollment management and former University registrar, presented the 2024-2025 academic calendar.

The Consent Agenda portion of the meeting included a single vote to approve five graduate proposals.

The only item on the Regular Agenda was a request to discontinue the Z grade from the UD grading system. The Z grade was established in 1960 to differentiate between an “earned” F and an unofficial withdrawal, resulting in course failure.

Steven Mortenson, associate professor in the Department of Communication, agreed with the proposed resolution.

“A failure is a failure,” he said. “You don't do the test, you fail. You don't come to class, you fail. They're both failures, so I don't see why we're adding extra administration or extra details for people to do when the situation is: The student didn't do what they were supposed to do, so they failed.”

John Morgan, associate professor of physics and astronomy, disagreed with that assessment.

“There is a distinct difference between an F, which a student has earned by regularly attending class and taking all the tests but not quite managing to get a passing grade, and a student who has just walked away from classes,” Morgan said.

Morgan said Faculty Senators needed more time to consult with their constituents and proposed that the discussion be postponed until next month. That motion passed, and the resolution will be discussed again in December.

Lou Rossi, dean of the Graduate College and vice provost for Graduate and Professional Education, presented on the accomplishments of the Graduate College.

Further information about the Faculty Senate, including meeting minutes and agendas, can be found on its website.

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