Faculty Senate discusses creating ‘vitalization’ group


Brooke Schwartz | The Daily Eastern News

Joshua Awalt is the interim associate V.P for Information Technology Services. He said his department is working hard to prepare for the campus-wide switch from Banner 8 to Banner 9, dealing with academic partnership, the WiFi on campus and more.

Brooke Schwartz, Administration Reporter

The Faculty Senate looked at the possibility of creating another “vitalization” group at its Tuesday meeting.

Institutional repository librarian Todd Bruns, who is currently on the Workgroup Review Committee, brought up the idea of making a group that could create its own recommendations for the university.

The idea appealed to many, with economics professor Teshome Abebe citing the appeal of a visionary group that could work without a pressing time constraint and could therefore discuss the future of Eastern, and not necessarily just how to improve the present-day campus.

“I think, either because of the shortage of time or perhaps the environment does not allow (the current Workgroup Review Committee) as a group to do this, but I don’t feel that there has been discussion about imagining the future in a thorough, deliberate, careful way. We talk in general,” Abebe said. “The idea of (the current Workgroup Review Committee) came up because people felt threatened. We see transformations taking place all around us, but transformation does not necessarily mean that jobs are going to completely disappear. The two are separate because jobs are likely to change.”

During the vitalization project, originally proposed by Eastern President David Glassman in 2016, different workgroups made recommendations for programs in various areas around campus.

These recommendations included programs that could be outsourced, consolidated or deleted, ways programs could reduce costs and inefficiencies and improvement plans to develop other programs. A common criticism of these workgroups was that many of these recommendations were made in the span of one semester.

A Workgroup Review Committee was then created, which looked at the recommendations Workgroups no. 8 and 9 made during the vitalization project.

Biological sciences professor Billy Hung said a new committee could ensure recommendations from past workgroups are being implemented as Eastern’s financial feasibility changes.

The discussion of the current administration’s follow-through with faculty recommendations brought up the idea of potentially drawing up a new shared governance system on campus which would put the Faculty Senate in the center of implementing and OK-ing plans.

Music professor Stefan Eckert said although the pressure of adding more big-picture items to the Faculty Senate’s agenda made him nervous, it might be more beneficial for the campus as a whole.

“I think the interesting part is we’d find out more as faculty,” Eckert said. “(Governance on campus currently) is really decentralized, and we do rely on our administrators giving out little morsels of information; we barely ever see the big picture.”

Teshome Abebe is an economics professor and is also a member of the Faculty Senate. He said he was in support of a continuing, faculty-driven committee that was focused on looking at the future of Eastern.
Brooke Schwartz | The Daily Eastern News
Teshome Abebe is an economics professor and is also a member of the Faculty Senate. He said he was in support of a continuing, faculty-driven committee that was focused on looking at the future of Eastern.

A longer discussion on a potential faculty-driven continuing vitalization committee and the idea of making Faculty Senate more central in passing ideas was added to the senate’s Jan. 23 meeting.

Provost Jay Gatrell has staffed a search committee for the position of a permanent library dean, a search that he said will hopefully lead to a list of potential candidates after spring break.

Eastern’s various committees have been working on improving the campus for a while, and it is now time to start on bigger improvement projects, Gatrell said.

“As President Glassman had just said the other day, we’ve done a lot of low-hanging fruit, and now it’s time to start doing some heavy lifting to make this into an environment where all students can thrive and where our mission really is to serve our students in the region and the state,” Gatrell said.

Joshua Awalt, the interim associate vice president for Information Technology Services, visited the Faculty Senate at the meeting to update it on technology.

Awalt said winter break allowed ITS to update Wi-Fi around campus, with eight buildings being changed from 1.8 gigs to 10 gigs and an order being signed for the rest of the academic and administrative buildings to also receive this update.

ITS is currently prioritizing two projects, Awalt said. These are a switch from Banner 8 to Banner 9 and an academic partnership designed to help simplify enrolling a student, making the process more technologically efficient.

“How can we take maybe a process that takes two days and skinny it down to a couple hours (for staff) but still have the integrity that we have here on campus, as far as having that high academic standard that we’re not just pushing everything, (while) still allowing us to operate efficiently?” Awalt said.

Awalt said the other priority, the switch to Banner 9, will be campus-wide and will have to be implemented by the end of this calendar year.

The switch includes background changes that most users might not notice, but it will be more user-friendly and will not require the use of Java, allowing for more updates, he said.

ITS is also beginning to work on a plan to refresh all campus technology within the next eight years, something that has not been done as frequently because of the recent fiscal hardships Eastern has faced.

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].