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 senate is gearing up for a busy spring term of discussions, passing new legislation and electing its new vice president.

Over winter term, the senate passed a policy forbidding relationships between students and teachers, approved a new doctorate program for ethnic studies and made changes to departmental honors.

In the coming term, the senate aims to accomplish even more, Senate President Bill Harbaugh said.

This term, the senate will vote on the academic continuity plan, discuss ways to help increase the university’s enrollment and finalize changes to course evaluations.

Academic continuity plan

The academic continuity plan, which aims to create an academic procedure in the event of an emergency, is scheduled to be put to a vote at the next senate meeting on April 10.

The senate was set to vote on the academic continuity plan at its last meeting on March 13, but the discussion of the policy took up the rest of the time at the meeting and it was postponed.

Harbaugh said some senators are uncomfortable with the idea of cutting administration out of the process because it makes it less burdensome for them and is a conflict of interest.

However, Harbaugh said the plan should be taken seriously to make sure students don’t face potential issues, like an inability to receive financial aid.

In order to receive financial aid, students have to submit their grades. If an emergency or strike occurs and no grades are given, there is a chance students will not get their aid.

“If [GEs] go on a strike, it should be a big deal,” Harbaugh said.

The new procedure, outlined in the academic continuity policy, awards emergency grades to students to avoid this issue.  

Enrollment Increase

Roger Thompson, vice president for student services and enrollment management, will speak to the senate about how administration is handling the “small budget crisis” the university is experiencing due to low student enrollment, Harbaugh said.

The university is working to grow campus by 3,000 students over the course of eight years to address the crisis and increase tuition revenue.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, the university’s student population decreased by nearly 2,000 students over the past six years. In 2012, there were 24,591 students enrolled at UO, whereas in 2018, there were 22,760 students enrolled.

Harbaugh said Thompson will update the senate on the crisis and discuss ways that the senate can potentially help during this budget crisis.

Course evaluations

The senate will vote on transforming teaching evaluations to be text-based in order to better measure the instructor’s success.

The topic of teaching evaluations entered the senate in spring 2017 after a study surfaced that showed the structure of the evaluations was sexist and racist. The senate has been working with the administration to create a new form of evaluating teachers to combat this bias.

After piloting new evaluations in select classes at UO and working with a representative from the University of Southern California, the senate will be making the final changes to the new form of evaluation and voting on it sometime this term, Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh also said he hopes to pass the new evaluations through the senate this term to be in place by fall 2020.

New Vice President

The senate elects its new vice president each spring term. The vice president serves for one year and then becomes the senate president the following year.

Current senate Vice President Elizabeth Skowron will become the senate president next academic year.

Harbaugh said the senate will elect its new vice president by the end of the term.

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