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Faculty Senate gears up for busy year

The Faculty Senate will meet for its inaugural session on Thursday, Oct. 10, kicking off a year of meetings that promise to raise a host of curricular and academic issues, says incoming chair Michael Bratman.

The professor of philosophy who has served a total of 11 years on the senate says he looks forward to hearing his peers debate a wide range of issues. According to Bratman, some of the more interesting ideas raised during the meetings aren't on the agenda but arise during general discussions among senators.

"One of the striking things about the senate is that it brings together people from different parts of the university community who otherwise might not talk together about general issues that really matter across all the schools," he said.

In the upcoming year, several faculty and staff who are analyzing important curriculum or policy issues will be invited to discuss their work, Bratman said. Frequently, these presentations will coincide with a regular item on the senate's agenda.

Jim Montoya, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, for example, is scheduled to make a presentation to the senate at its first meeting. Montoya's presentation will follow an annual report from the senate's Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (CUAFA).

"This will give the dean a chance to place our undergraduate admissions process in the context of its role at Stanford and how that fits into the larger issues of our place in society," Bratman said. "How we admit undergraduates is a very basic feature of the institution, so this is a good opportunity to have a discussion between the faculty and the dean of undergraduate admissions, and the faculty and CUAFA."

Provost Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to talk about departmental reviews at Thursday's meeting in response to last year's senate mandate that departments conduct reviews on a regular basis. "The provost is going to report on where that is and how it's working out in the trenches," Bratman said.

Later this fall, the senate will hear a report from the Cultures, Ideas and Values Design and Review Committee. "We are going to try to get the whole discussion about CIV into this academic year and get closure," Bratman said.

The senate also will hear reports on the language center and the new language requirement, the Stanford Introductory Studies and Graduate Fellowships Program initiatives announced by Presdent Gerhard Casper last spring, and a recommendation for a new interdisciplinary program in comparative studies in race and ethnicity.

Although the Faculty Senate doesn't have to approve the creation of 20 new faculty slots to support Stanford Introductory Studies, or the process by which those faculty slots will be allocated to departments, Bratman said any proposals to make freshman seminars mandatory would inevitably have to go through the senate.

"I honestly don't know to what extent the thinking is moving toward making it part of the requirements system, but my sense is we will get a good discussion going about this in the senate," he said.

In the case of the Graduate Fellowships Program, Bratman said there will be no action at the senate level. Nonetheless, he said, it's important for senators to be briefed on how the program is being implemented.

"This is a terrific infusion of resources into the graduate program," Bratman said. "But it would be good to have a clear public understanding of how it is being done."

Bratman says he is a great believer in feedback loops.

"When I think about earlier senate discussions of hard things over the years, they have usually worked out best when preliminary proposals got vetted before they were set in concrete," he said.

The senate was created in 1968 as the representative body of the Academic Council, which includes more than 1,400 members of the Stanford professoriate. The 55 members of the senate approve student's degrees and set university policy on curriculum and academic programs.

Bratman's election as senate chair was announced last May. Serving with him on the senate's steering committee will be Professors David Abernethy, political science; John Brauman, chemistry; Pat Jones, biological sciences; Ken Melmon, medicine; Elisabeth Paté-Cornell, industrial engineering; and Rob Polhemus, English.



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