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Faculty Committee on Committees

Committee Members
Appointed members: Lawrence D. Abraham, Efraim P. Armendariz, Sue A. Greninger, Joni L. Jones, Glenn Y. Masada, Joan A. Mullin, Alba A. Ortiz, Elizabeth Richmond-Garza, Marilla D. Svinicki, Robert H. Wilson
Faculty Council Appointees: Dominic L. Lasorsa, Kenneth M. Ralls
Administrative Adviser: David M. Hillis

The Faculty Committee on Committees (CoC) had an organizational meeting on Tuesday, September 11, 2007, in Main 212, and Nick Lasorsa was elected vice chair of the committee.

In October, the committee chair received an enquiry from Jeff Brumfeld concerning the lack of representation of the College of Natural Sciences on the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC), which is not a standing committee of the General Faculty, but an advisory committee created by the previous provost several years ago. This committee determines the distribution of information technology fee money to various colleges and schools within UT. The amount of IT fee money distributed is much less than it once was because all fees have been folded into the flat-rate tuition and are no longer identifiable as separate fees. The chair responded to Jeff Brumfield by recommending that faculty in the College of Natural Sciences nominate one-another for ITAC membership during the nomination period.

In November, Karrol Kitt, chair of the Committee on Student Affairs (B-3), notified Chair Ralls that there was a proposal to eliminate that committee. This had been discussed during the prior year (2006-07) by members that committee.

The second meeting of the CoC was held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28, 2007, in ETC 5.210. The following agenda was distributed:
1. FUNCTION: To advise the president on personnel for standing committees of the General Faculty and the uses to be made of the committee system; to make recommendations to the Faculty Council regarding changes in responsibilities of standing committees
2. Nomination of panels for the various standing committees of the General Faculty and for the Information Technology Advisory Committee
3. The nomination process
4. Student membership on Type B (Student Services and Activities) and Type C (Institutional Policy or Governance) standing committees
(a) Senate of College Councils
(b) Student Government
(c) Graduate Student Assembly
5. B-3 Committee on Student Affairs

In addition, the following from last year's (2006-07) annual report was distributed to committee members.

  • The nomination process and deadline need to be reconsidered next year. A longer time period should be used. More than one message must be sent out.
  • Standing committees need to evaluate whether or not they serve a useful purpose. They also need to decide if they have too many members.
  • Student membership needs to be considered again.
  • The balance between then number of replacement members from year to year needs to be considered again.
  • Some mechanism for determining if faculty members are willing to serve on General Faculty standing committees is needed.
  • The CoC needs to start consideration of the faculty panels earlier, and then make adjustments when the Faculty Council chair elect make Faculty Council member appointments to the committees.
  • A scribe is needed to record the minutes of the meetings.
Agenda item 4 elicited comments that the various student groups need to apportion student representation on type B and C standing committees by working with each other, and that the CoC should have no direct involvement. (As committee chair, Ken Ralls disagreed, but accepted the sentiment of the committee.) No action was taken on any other agenda item or on any recommendation from the annual report of 2006-07.

As a side comment, Doodle Mailer was used to determine when the committee meetings should be. This is a free service.

Doug Burger, chair of the Faculty Council, stated early in the fall 2007 that he wanted to improve the standing committees of the General Faculty. He subsequently sent a message to the Faculty Council Advisory Committee that included, “… in parallel with planning a retreat, we should challenge the committees to do a self-assessment, and make suggestions about whether they are fine (some committees will be fine as-are) or how they can be made more effective.” In December, Chair Burger contacted the CoC to see if a summary of the responses from the previous years standing committee chairs existed regarding the questionnaire the CoC sent out that addressed such questions as the needs and workload of the committee, if the committee function or composition should be modified, or if the committee should be eliminated.

Committee chair Ken Ralls proposed that the third meeting of the CoC be with Terri Givens, the vice provost who has the actual responsibility of selecting faculty members (and staff members and students) who will serve on committees of the General Faculty. It was necessary to have two meetings because committee members' schedules were in conflict. They were held in MAI 210—one at 10:00-11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 11, 2008, and the other at 1:00-2:00 p.m. on Friday, January 18, 2008. (I had a preliminary meeting with Terri Givens in her office on Tuesday, December 18, 2007, at 2:30 p.m., in order to set loose parameters for the two meetings.) Kevin Carney, assistant to Terri Givens, attended the second meeting. Both meetings involved spirited discussions of faculty governance, faculty service on committees, and leadership qualities needed for committee chairs. Many ideas were proposed. Joan Mullin (who has since left the University) suggested that our committee look into the possibility of college or school councils, to be made up of faculty members elected within each college or school. It was also suggested by others that leadership development for committee chairs should be encouraged, perhaps by having a retreat sponsored by the provost's office and involving outgoing chairs and vice chairs, and chairs elect.

The committee chair gave a brief report of the committee's actions at the Faculty Council meeting on February 18, 2008. In early May, Nick Lasorsa was selected chair elect via an e-mail ballot. He will serve as committee chair in 2008-09.

The current committee chair decided to defer the panel selection process of faculty for the various standing committees of the General Faculty until David Hillis, chair elect of the Faculty Council, had appointed two members of the new Faculty Council (2008-09) to each standing committee. This was delayed because of difficulties with the faculty election system. The college and school elections to the Faculty Council for 2008-09 had to be completed before David Hillis could make his appointments. The deadline for Faculty Council members to specify their preferences for appointment to standing committees was set as May 2, 2008.

The final committee meeting once again actually consisted of two meetings, because of members' schedule conflicts—Ken Ralls hosted lunch meetings at the University of Texas Club on Wednesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 15. Most members were able to attend one of these two meetings. Instructions for the selection process, which had been discussed in the second meeting in November 2007, were given again by the committee chair at the final meeting of the committee: Faculty nominated for each standing committee (during the nomination period that ended February 15, 2008) were to be listed in rank-order by each member of the CoC and then submitted to the committee chair. (Committee members were also reminded that the could include a few names of faculty who were not nominated.)

I thank Debbie Roberts and Jen Morgan for their dedication and help in many ways, including keeping the committee chair informed about everything that is pertinent to the CoC and preparing the lists of nominees for the various standing committees of the General Faculty.

Finally, I suggest that the CoC revisit issues such as college councils, faculty service on committees, faculty leadership, and committee chair training during 2008-09.

Ken Ralls, chair