University Senate appoints new VP, hands out awards at last meeting of the year

The University Senate unanimously elected Elizabeth Skowron as its new vice president and awarded faculty, staff and students for serving the university community at its last meeting of the academic year. Skowron is new VP Elizabeth Skowron, a professor in the College of Education, ran unopposed for vice president of …

The University of Oregon Faculty Senate spent fall term preparing for its busy winter and spring quarters.

On the senate’s agenda, changes to teaching evaluations are being finalized, a new program for student success is in the works and Core Education is creating more general education-satisfying courses.

Teaching Evaluations

For the past year, teaching evaluations have been in the process of being redesigned and tested to make them a less biased, more accurate tool to rate professors.

Senate president Bill Harbaugh, who spearheaded the initiative in fall 2017, said the senate has been working to finalize the changes they’ve made over the past few months.

Changes include eliminating the numeric rating system, implementing a midterm review for students and asking students more relevant questions.

“Last year, we did a few pilots with faculty on the committee. They would try out new student evaluation surveys,” Harbaugh said. “This fall, we expanded that. We have five departments trying out the new surveys.”

Harbaugh says the new system could be approved in spring and implemented by fall term.

Student success initiative

The senate is working to support the student success initiative to improve university retention rates and give students access to more tools for success.

The student success initiative aims to provide students with academic counseling, career advising and on-campus resources.

The program is inspired by the success of the PathwayOregon program, which provides scholarships and resources to low-income and first-generation students. With more than 800 students enrolled in the program, 2018 saw the highest enrollment in PathwayOregon.

The retention and graduation rates for low-income students in the PathwayOregon program and high-income students are the same, Harbaugh said.

“That's very unusual for most universities,” Harbaugh said. “That shows us that that kind of effort and resources directed at students can really make a difference.”

Doneka Scott, assistant professor and associate vice provost for student success, oversees the program. The senate will be doing their part to inform faculty so things run smoothly, Harbaugh said.

Core Education

The next task on the road to finalizing Core Education, which is commonly known as general education, is making living and learning groups like Academic Residential Communities or Freshman Interest Groups more appealing to students.

The senate is focused on making the classes associated with living and learning groups satisfy general education requirements.

“We want to encourage students to get involved in those,” Harbaugh said. “There’s evidence that they are successful at improving retention and graduation rates.” He also said that students in these groups tend to have a better idea of what they want their major to be.

Core education has been an ongoing item on the senate’s agenda. Last year, it approved specific changes to core education, such as redefining learning objectives, so they better align with the university’s mission statement.

The goal is to simplify the general education requirements for students. You can read more about it here.

Votes to watch this January

Jan. 16 - The senate will be voting on the conflict of interest, conflict of commitment policy, aimed at addressing the effects of faculty being involved in outside jobs and research.

Jan. 30 - The senate will vote on the sexual and romantic relationships policy. This policy forbids relationships between faculty and students because of the conflict of interest.

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