University Senate President Nathan Tublitz has more to say about the University than he does about [email protected]@ @@

In his Huestis Hall lab, Tublitz, a neurobiology professor and researcher, is tucked away in his office, waiting for things to pick up.

He’s known for being a character and having strong opinions of his own, but today, he’s representing the Senate.

The lab and the Senate are seemingly disparate spheres, but Tublitz says it’s all part of the same endeavor: @@😕@@to improve the University and be part of the community dialogue.

“It’s working to make things better,” Tublitz says.


The Senate, composed of faculty, staff, officers of administration and students, creates policy and takes stances on crucial University matters, and this year has been a busy one, with discussion of the New Partnership and Riverfront Research Park consuming the Senate’s energy.

Tublitz made it his goal to educate the Senate on every aspect of these proposals so they could take an informed stance.

May marks the completion of Tublitz’s second tenure as University Senate president, his first being from 2001 to 2002.

His colleagues appreciate his balanced approach for reaching consensus — making everyone’s point of view a priority and promoting shared governance between the Senate and the administration.


For members of the Senate, the New Partnership and Riverfront Research Park brought up a question of continual debate: Who has the power to make decisions at this University — the faculty or the administration?

Shared governance means the Senate and the administration have joint power to make decisions that affect the University, according to the University’s charter, and Tublitz has fought to keep that relationship balanced.

“Nathan has encouraged more openness from the administration,” says Dave Landrum, director of financial services in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost. “He’s brought a good perspective for the shared governance of the university and kind of pushed it to the forefront.”  @@Dave Landrum:


The New Partnership has been the most complicated and crucial issue the Senate has dealt with this year.

To make sure members of the Senate received a well-rounded view of the issue, Tublitz organized town hall meetings, which future Senate president Robert Kyr says strengthened the Senate’s relationship with the administration because it shows Tublitz believes in respectful dialogue and open discussion in a way many universities never experience. @@Robert Kyr:

The Riverfront issue ended up being more contentious than the New Partnership because the administration went against the Senate’s recommendation, but Tublitz handled [email protected]@I changed this to “both.”@@ the same way: opening up discussion and challenging people to think about multiple perspectives.

Tublitz says the University is like the federal government in that the administration is the executive branch and the Senate is the legislative branch, and sometimes, there may be conflicts.

But because the Senate is the University’s governing body, Tublitz says its views should be listened to because collectively it represents all the various points of view at the University.


Perhaps the most controversial part of Tublitz’s tenure has been his election, University economics professor Bill Harbaugh says. He speculates that it was difficult for Tublitz to get a competitive election, but there hasn’t been much controversy since then. @@goes by bill based on his own website:

Tublitz abruptly announced his candidacy to the surprise of others on the Senate, and he ended up winning by only one vote after the election got postponed.

Carla McNelly, Office of Multicultural Academic Success administrative coordinator, says she nominated Tublitz to be vice president in 2009 because the transition from then-University President Dave Frohnmayer to University President Richard Lariviere needed a strong leader with experience in the position and passion about the Senate’s role in governing the University. @@Carla McNelly: @@Office of Multicultural Academic Success: @@Dave Frohnmayer:

“I’ve known him for a long time, but I don’t know a whole lot about him,” McNelly says. “Most of the time, he’s asking people what they need, and he’s asking them about them.”

After 15 months of doing a job originally scheduled for only a year, Tublitz will hand off presiding over the Senate to the current vice president, Robert Kyr.

The Senate president is elected the year before and serves as vice president for one year, before becoming president in May of the next year.

So when the previous Senate president stepped down in January 2010, Tublitz took over.


Tublitz hasn’t sought out controversy, Harbaugh says, but some controversy has surfaced because of the administration’s resistance to keeping faculty informed.

When Tublitz’s personality shines through, he can be antagonistic and less effective as a diplomat, says Frank Stahl, professor emeritus of biology and regular Senate participant. But he is constantly engaged in a constructive battle with the administration over who has the governing power. @@Frank Stahl:

“When Nathan does battle, he battles,” Stahl says.

Particularly when working with the administration, Tublitz isn’t afraid to speak his mind and fight for the faculty’s interests, says Peter Keyes, associated professor of architecture and member of the Senate budget committee. @@Peter Keyes:

“When he really believes something, he doesn’t just give up because someone has implied that he is being less than gentlemanly,” Keyes said.


ASUO President Amelie Rousseau and ASUO Senate President Zachary Stark-MacMillan appreciate how Tublitz values the student point of view and makes the undergraduate perspective, both in the general Senate and on the Executive Committee, which sets the Senate’s agenda. @@MacMillan:

At the start of University Senate President Nathan Tublitz's first term, he gave a 1,500-word speech at Convocation on Nov. 2, 2001. Fittingly, Tublitz used the words "faculty" and "students" the most when talking about the school's potential. The full text of the speech is available here.

Rousseau says they are even working on a shared governance proposal between the Senate and the students, and Stark-MacMillan hopes this will clarify the relationship.

The ASUO Senate is a parallel to the University Senate, Tublitz says, and the students deserve an input on issues crucial to the University’s future.

When students wanted to discuss the Campus Policing Initiative and the Department of Public Safety, Tublitz made it a priority on the agenda, Rousseau says. He doesn’t just pay lip service to inclusive governance, Rousseau says; he takes action. @@

Harbaugh, also chair of the Senate Transparency Committee, says Tublitz has been passionate and selfless about his belief in the Senate. @@

“Most people know that he’s passionate, hard-working, committed to the importance of the faculty, and he’s a real bulldog for our side,” Harbaugh says.

Harinder Kaur Khalsa, senior instructor of Italian and a member of the Senate, says Tublitz’s collaborative approach ensures the faculty and the administration work together to fulfill the University’s mission of education and service to students. @@Khalsa:

“He sets a good model,” Khalsa says. “It’s easy to get controversial, but it’s more difficult to do the consultation, open communication and collaboration — but more effective.”


But like any good leader — and scientist — Kyr says, Tublitz lets the facts speak for themselves so Senate members can form their own opinions, and he never tries to influence the discussion or insert his own point of view.

In his second tenure as University Senate president, many of his colleagues appreciate his trademark approach to reaching consensus — making everyone’s point of view a priority.


Tublitz researches a complicated topic — how the brain produces, regulates and modifies repeated behaviors and why humans don’t do the same thing — but he always finds a way to make it understandable to anyone.

It’s studying why people aren’t robots, Tublitz says.

He has an analogy for everything.

Questioning, researching and discussing are Tublitz’s trademarks — both in his lab and in University governance.

For him, it’s all about putting things in perspective.

“Tublitz is a fun guy,” Rousseau says. “You’d want to have a beer with him and talk with him about bureaucratic university governance. And that’s a rare person.”@@

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