Faculty Senate to address issues

Concerns among the faculty about new implementations for Sam Houston State University faculty evaluations will be at the top of the discussion agenda for the Faculty Senate Meeting today at 3:30 p.m. in Austin Hall.

Peter Cooper, the chair of the faculty evaluation committee, will present the Faculty Senate with a proposal to change to online evaluations.

The Faculty Evaluation Committee serves as an advisory committee to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and monitors the faculty evaluation system in order to determine what necessary alterations should be made to the faculty evaluation process.

Valerie Muehsam, president of the Faculty Senate, said the online evaluation system is a sensitive issue among the faculty.

“I don’t know how the students feel about it, but there is some concern among the faculty about going to online evaluations for numerous reasons, and the most important reason is we are concerned about participation,” Muehsam said. “When we have students evaluated in class, whether everyone fills it out or not, we at least give them time in class to fill them out.”

The evaluation system is how the university determines who gets merit; therefore, the faculty is concerned about changing the evaluations since this process is a large part of their evaluation proceedings, she said.

“We are concerned about how they are going to implement going to online evaluations,” Muehsam said. “If we go to online evaluations they will be evaluating us in the computer lab and we are concerned that everyone will not do it, unless they have some specific complaint, or if they really want to say something nice about you it is possible they will get online and do that.”

The Faculty Senate is also concerned about budget cuts with the recent budget deficit in Texas. However, there is only speculation as to what changes might occur next year, since there is no official word from Austin.

“I will bring up the budget just a little bit to get a little interaction among the senate in terms of how they feel about certain issues and so forth about the budget, but right now we do not know too much, so it is hard to up front – say don’t do this and don’t do that -when right now we don’t know the number we need to be looking at,” Muehsam said.

The budget cuts for next year will be an important issue although it is unclear what will be cut from next years budget.

“We do not know yet what the cut is going to be, so right now in terms of the budget, there is not much to talk about; we won’t know anything because the legislature could deregulate tuition, they could change the cap on tuition and there is other options available, and of course I do not know what they are going to decide,” she said.

The university is at a stand still until the state clarifies where the budget is.

“We cannot make any plans on our campus until we know what the budget cuts are going to be,” Muehsam said. “We are all just hanging in limbo, and we can’t do anything until we know what we have to start at.”

Muehsam said the legislature could probably solve the university’s problem by deregulating tuition or raising the cap on the amount the university charges.

“Tuition is regulated by the legislature through statue, so right now statutory tuition is at $44 a credit hour in the State of Texas,” she said. “That means that all state universities in the state of Texas charge $44 statutory tuition, and then they have what is called institutional tuition. Institutional tuition can be charged up to $44 a credit hour at any university in the State of Texas.”

Muehsam said the problem is that a lot of universities are already at their maximum status for institutional tuition, and universities want the legislation to raise the cap or to deregulate, thus allowing universities to set their own tuition.

“If the legislature would do that, at Sam Houston, I am not sure what it would be; I would guess maybe $10 a credit hour they would increase it,” she said. “If we had to cut our budget by something like 13 percent we could probably handle it if we had that increase in tuition. But some schools would have to raise it considerably higher than that.”

A coordinating board notifies universities every four years about programs that are at risk, meaning the programs are not producing a certain number of graduates.

“What you have to do is either you cut the program because you do not think it is economically feasible because you are not getting enough students, or you defend it in some way to the coordinating board,” Muehsam said. “There are some concerns that these notifications come at a time when we have a big budget crisis and the concern is that they may close some of the programs.”

Muehsam said the Senate Faculty would probably not be discussing program closings until the topic becomes a reality.

“Probably most of what (today) will be about will be on the faculty evaluation system,” she said. “Probably at our meeting in April we will have David Payne (vice president of Academic Affairs) and probably by that time we will know more about the budget and talk about it in the next meeting.”

The next meeting for the Senate Faculty will be on April 10 at 3:30 p.m. in Austin Hall.

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