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Senate self-study under way

February 25, 2000

Nick Marinello

As if embracing the credo, No representation without observation, the University Senate has launched a self-study aimed at forming a more-perfect council. The study, which was commissioned by the senate last spring at the recommendation of President Scott Cowen, is being conducted by the ad hoc Governance Review Committee, chaired by Amy Koritz, associate professor of English and vice chair of the senate.

"The senate has never been reviewed in a systematic way," said Koritz, who suggests the lack of such scrutiny is not endemic to Tulane but rather a common deficiency throughout academia. "I called the AAUP [American Association of University Professors] and they had little experience with such studies," said Koritz. "Universities don't do this, and this is an extraordinary opportunity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the shared governance structures on campus."

The senate charged the ad hoc committee to examine the purpose, role and responsibilities of the senate, as well as look at the senate's size and composition, committee structure, and constitution and bylaws. One of the most important aspects of the study, said Koritz, is to evaluate the senate's credibility and ability to effectively communicate with the university community.

Koritz said the committee will deliver the senate a report identifying any problems and concerns in each of the above-mentioned areas, as well as make suggestions that will improve the senate's effectiveness. That report should be ready in April, Koritz said.

Committee members include Kimberly Bridges, a senior in the engineering school; Steven Darwin, senator and professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology; Maury Duplantis, senator and medical research technician; Graeme Forbes, professor of philosophy and secretary of the senate; Robert Garry, senator and professor of microbiology and immunology; Ann Klein, chief of staff; James McFarland, dean of the business school; Janet Rice, associate professor of biostatistics; and Keith Werhan, professor of law.

The ad hoc committee is receiving support from the Houston office of Towers Perrin, a international management-consulting firm that is lending its services on a pro bono basis.

"It's a way to give something back," said Jim Sowers, an adjunct professor in the Freeman School of Business who is a principal with Towers Perrin.

Sowers, who has taught Executive Perspectives and Organizational Analysis in the business school's Professional Master of Business Administration (PMBA) program for the last five years, is leading a team comprising himself, one associate from the firm, Sarah Larson, and two of his PMBA students, David McDonough and Justin Oliver. Sowers' group has been gathering relevant documents about Tulane's senate and governmental bodies of other institutions.

"We hope to have a lot of benchmark and survey data to present to the committee," said Sowers.

An important portion of that information will be collected during a series of meetings with focus groups representing the university's key constituencies. These focus groups, which will be conducted on Feb. 23 and 24, will include a representative sample of students, staff, junior faculty, senior faculty, past and present senate committee chairs, former vice chairs of the senate, clinical research faculty and administrators.

"We will ask participants in those sessions how they feel about the senate and their recommendations on how to improve it," said Sowers. "That, in addition with the other information we've collected, will be rolled together and used to make our assessment of the current state of the senate."

In addition to the focus groups, two forums open to the entire Tulane community will be held on Feb. 29 and March 1. The first will take place in the medical school auditorium and the second in the Kendall Cram Room in the University Center. Both are slated from 4 p.m to 5:30 p.m.

"Because we are not going to get every perspective in the focus groups," said Koritz, "we felt it was important for everyone to have an opportunity to have their voices heard." Koritz said she expects a finished report to be delivered to the governance committee by early April. "We then hope to be able to give a series of recommendations to the senate," she said. "The senate will then decide what to do with them."

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