Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
June 5, 1998

Former Faculty Senate president reflects

Presidential review, groundwork for U club among the highlights

by Linda Charles

Outgoing Faculty Senate president Bill Woodman says he's "encouraged by the possibilities for shared governance on campus and disappointed by the realities."

The university's "organizational culture," more than 100 years old, has been top-down, with no real shared governance, he said.

"That has bred in the faculty a defeatist or alienated mindset that tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy," Woodman said. "People who tell me repeatedly how powerless they are, essentially are repeating the self-fulfilling prophecy -- that is, 'I'm powerless and because of my reaction to that perception, I'm going to stay that way.'

"I have to tell you, I don't have a lot of sympathy. What I said at one point, I still believe. Faculty are capable of having as much influence as they decide they want to have," he said.

Woodman cited the recent proposed promotion and tenure document vote, in which slightly less than half the faculty returned their ballots.

"I think that weakens the faculty's position to make a case for its inclusion in shared governance," he said. "With that said, the truth is, we simply don't turn cultures around overnight. It sometimes takes years and years and sometimes decades.

"Sadly, what happens is every new faculty member who comes to Iowa State and gets taught this lesson by somebody else simply makes the problem that much larger," Woodman said.

The proposed promotion and tenure document took up the lion's share of the senate's time this past year. The general rewrite of the policy was approved by the faculty, but a section on peer review, which included post-tenure reviews, was defeated. However, the promotion and tenure document does not make Woodman's top three list of accomplishments as president.

The sociology professor's highlights are the restructuring of the senate elections and bylaws, evaluation of the university president and laying the groundwork for a university club.

Woodman, who has been president of the senate for two years, said restructuring already has helped the senate's relationship with the administration. Under the new system, the senate vice president has been eliminated in favor of a president-elect, who spends a year preparing to assume the leadership position.

"Fundamentally, it changed our relationship with the administration," he said. "The administration now knows there is continuity in programs because each president-elect serves a year under the president and is brought up to speed regularly on what is going on. And something proposed one year doesn't just die when the president goes out of office."

The evaluation of the university president occurred during Woodman's first year as senate president. It marked the first time a sitting president had been reviewed at Iowa State, he said. A similar review of President Gordon Eaton had been started, but was terminated when he accepted a new position.

Woodman also is pleased with progress on establishing a university club. During its May meeting, the senate endorsed the concept of the club, which could be located in the Cardinal Room and have its own "first-class" kitchen. Initially, lunch and perhaps morning coffee would be served.

Woodman has promoted the club throughout his tenure, saying it would help build community and provide a showcase spot for those hosting campus visitors. To keep the club accessible to all faculty and staff, the membership fee would be kept as low as possible, he said.

One thing Woodman will not miss as ex-Faculty Senate president is what new senate president Denise Vrchota calls "drive-by e-mails." The offensive e-mails were worst during consideration of the promotion and tenure document, Woodman said. Most were sent by those who attacked the individual rather than the issue.

Woodman, never one to let moss grow under his feet, began teaching a summer class shortly after the spring semester ended. He also is starting a survey on food safety with two colleagues and has some papers he intends to ready for publication.

"Being Faculty Senate president was always interesting," he said, smiling.

Iowa State homepage

Inside Iowa State,, University Relations
Copyright © 1998, Iowa State University, all rights reserved
Revised 6/4/98