Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 24, 1996

Peters reflects on year as Faculty Senate president

by Linda Charles
There are a lot of people, from deans to secretaries, who are very committed to Iowa State. That's one thing Ron Peters, professor of psychology, said he learned while serving the past year as president of the Faculty Senate.

"There are people at all levels who really want to do a good job. They are committed to the university. They want this place to succeed. They want to make this a good place for people to live. I've been very impressed with that," Peters said.

Peters, who turned the presidency over to William Woodman during the May 7 meeting now has more time to spend on his first love -- teaching. This summer he is teaching a graduate course, "Advanced Physiological Psychology," and an undergraduate course, "Introductory Psychology." Even while serving as senate president, he maintained a heavier-than- usual teaching load, teaching half of the introductory psychology course to 1,200 students each semester.

Looking back over the year, Peters said one of the senate's most significant activities was its examination of ways to improve the educational experience at Iowa State. In January, senators and other interested faculty met in college caucuses to brainstorm and came up with about 300 ideas. Those ideas were boiled down to 62 recommendations that were forwarded to the president, provost, college deans and chairs of senate councils and committees for consideration and possible action.

The recommendations are a starting point for further study, Peters said. "Not all of them will turn out to be good."

Following are other issues and activities tackled by the senate during the past year.

Shared governance. "This is an issue no one anticipated," Peters said. The senate is a young body (not quite a decade old) and its role is continuously evolving, he added. The parameters of shared governance still are being worked out with the administration. For example, when administrators failed to consult with engineering faculty before dissolving the Engineering Fundamentals and Multidisciplinary Design program, the senate took the opportunity to relay how strongly faculty feel about their shared governance role. The issue also was raised during campus discussions on future parking plans and the new ISUCards. Much of the problem, Peters said, could be cleared up through better communication between the administration and faculty.

Faculty conference. "I always regard this as one of the highlights of the year," Peters said. This year's topic of graduate education was a timely one, he added, because the area is going to have to change. "We can't continue doing things exactly as we have done in the past. The academic jobs are not there in adequate quantities," he said.

Special gradepoints. A senate committee spent the past year studying the ramifications of requiring special gradepoints for admission to certain programs. Students whose gradepoints are not high enough to be admitted to their preferred programs may end up as "orphan" students with no place to go. Programs without special gradepoint requirements might end up with a disproportionate number of students who have lower GPAs and couldn't get into other programs. In addition, there are accrediting issues to consider. The committee is expected to continue its study during the next year.

Faculty survey. A senate committee surveyed faculty on attitudes and trends. The survey covered such topics as the administration, retirement options, the senate and items faculty would like to see the senate undertake. It will serve as a source of ideas during the coming year.

Promotion and tenure. Peters established a committee to review the promotion and tenure system. Currently, he said, faculty are rewarded mainly for research and somewhat for teaching. Service to the university is not highly regarded. This is strange, Peters said, because administrators, whose jobs revolve around service to the university, are among the highest paid employees. "But when faculty are asked to serve the university, it's not highly regarded and we don't pay them very well for their efforts," he said. The committee will continue its work during the next year.

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