Faculty Senate creates channels for improved dialogue

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Irvin

English professor said urgencies should be taken to board of trustees directly.

By Sergio Medina

smedina104@student.alamo.edu

The Faculty Senate is following up on its plan to set up a system of communication to ease dialogue between itself and faculty by assigning representatives and liaisons to the college’s academic departments.

Previously, Lennie Irvin, English professor and president of the senate, had proposed having an avenue for faculty to effectively pass on comments and concerns to the senate.

The representative and liaison system is Irvin’s strategy to do so.

Irvin said in an interview Sept. 24 that the ideal function is to have someone at department meetings notify members about what is going on with the senate.

“Likewise, if there’s a discussion going on in the department or some issue, then that can come back to the senate,” he said.

Currently, senators have been assigned a department to represent and communicate with on behalf of the senate.

Irvin said that if a department found itself without a representative who was already a senator, then a liaison would be assigned to that department.

Liaisons, as opposed to representatives, who are senators, are not bound to attend senate meetings.

The responsibility of the liaison would simply be to exchange communication between departments and senate, he said.

Irvin said that while the option to use email to communicate with faculty exists, it may not be as effective because of lack of engagement. It is not guaranteed all faculty will read that email.

“What I’m trying to do is get the senators, who are working as the representatives and/or liaisons, to make contact with the department, make contact with the faculty at a departmental level, and introduce themselves,” he said.

Alex Bernal, English professor and member of the senate, shared his views on the communication system and its challenges in an interview Sept. 20.

“As far as communicating with the entire faculty, we want to make sure that the senate indeed represents the faculty’s concerns,” Bernal said.

“So if all faculty members do not get the message and now everybody has a representative on the senate, then it’s up to us to share information with the various departments.

“Sounds great in theory; in practice, I hope that we do that. It’s not easy,” he said.

The reason behind Bernal’s concern is the members of the senate, who number 25, have their responsibility spread throughout the college.

Keeping everyone in the loop could prove a challenge, he said.

For comparison, there are 239 full-time faculty and 385 adjunct faculty members at this college.

“So we just need to make sure that they’re getting the message,” he said.

He favorably sees the ability for faculty to send their concerns through this channel of communication.

“That part is fantastic,” Bernal said.

During the Sept. 14 senate meeting, Irvin encouraged senate members to accompany him to meetings with administrators to foster varied dialogue, cycling senators at each meeting.

Bernal approved of senate officials meeting with administrators, using that chance to share faculty concerns with President Robert Vela.

“The senate leadership can take the concerns to college administration,” Bernal said.

“So whatever is discussed here (in senate meetings), some of them are informal motions; some are just concerns. Some of that can be taken to administration.”

Bernal’s main concern, however, is that the representative system is not suitable for matters that require urgent attention.

“If it hasn’t been talked about, and it’s sprung suddenly, that’s what I call an urgency,” he said.

In the Sept. 14 senate meeting, Bernal said faculty should know they could communicate urgent concerns directly to the board of trustees without having to go through the system.

“All of this works for something that doesn’t require immediate action,” he said.

“If there’s an urgency that cannot go through this slow process — it can be a slow process — then that person should have the right to go to citizens to be heard.”

Citizens to be heard is a segment during the board of trustees meetings where citizens can make proposals or voice concerns directly to the board for three allotted minutes per individual.

However, the board does not allow complaints from students or employees “without determining that the speaker has exhausted available administrative remedies,” B.8.1.1 (policy) reads.

Before resorting to citizens to be heard, faculty must go through the faculty’s respective department heads “for presentation to the college administration with recourse to the college Faculty Senate and the District United Faculty Senates,” the policy reads.

Eduardo “Eddie” Cruz, district ethics and compliance officer, said in an interview Sept. 26 that if complaints from faculty have gone through respective college resources — college administration and senates — then faculty are “more than welcome” to come before the board during citizens to be heard.

Citizens can sign up an hour ahead of board and committee meetings, which start at 6 p.m. on the second and third Tuesdays of the month, except for June and November, at Killen Center, 201 W. Sheridan St.

Irvin said the list of representatives and liaisons for departments has not been uploaded to the senate website at sites.google.com/view/sac-faculty-senate.

Irvin could not provide a date of when the list will be ready.

However, faculty can call Irvin for more information about representatives and liaisons at 210-486-0672, email at lirvin@alamo.edu or go to Room 223B of Gonzales Hall.

Irvin expressed the importance of having this type of communication system for faculty’s concerns.

“I want two things: to value faculty views and faculty concerns,” he said.

He said faculty should have the means to work out issues and concerns to facilitate their jobs because they are the ones on “the front lines,” working with students.

“I think that’s important,” Irvin said. “I want that faculty role to be valued.

“The second thing is that I want the faculty to see that the senate is relevant, that we’re doing something about things as best as we can,” he said.

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