Sept. 10, 2009

Senate hears about issues facing new academic year

by Erin Rosacker

Faculty Senate president Arnold van der Valk added a twist to the start of a new academic year. The senate enjoyed a meet-and-greet reception, followed by a short meeting with more announcements than business items. Next month's meeting also will prove unique, with most of the time set aside for discussions on budget issues and development of the new strategic plan.

The good news

Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman told senators that July and August proved to be record-breaking months for research funding, topping the previous mark of $28 million. July saw $48 million in funds, and August pulled in $39 million.

"There is a changing face of the university as a result of the entrepreneurial activities of our faculty," she said.

Hoffman said ISU has added approximately 94 new faculty members and expects a "significantly positive" net change in numbers, which will be finalized in October.

"In a difficult economic environment, we are seeing new faculty joining us, we are seeing more research grants, we are seeing more students here -- all of which is very positive," Hoffman said.

The not-so-good news

In a similar message she delivered to the Professional and Scientific Council Sept. 3, Hoffman told the senate that administrators are preparing for a 5 to 10 percent mid-year reversion, and another state budget cut for FY2011.

"We are preparing for the possibility of another state budget cut, at least as large if not larger, than the one we experienced this past year," she said. "It's really only with the December revenue estimating conference that we will have a clearer idea of the extent of the problem. We are really guessing at this point."

Although Iowa has experienced relatively few cases of the H1N1 pandemic flu, Hoffman said to expect them. She urged faculty to "be kind to students who might miss class" and stay home if they feel sick.

"So far we have been spared," she said, "but don't expect to be spared. Expect that we will actually experience it, because it seems to be moving across the country and around the world."

Other business

Senators unanimously approved a name change for the music department, to the Department of Music and Theatre.