May 11, 2009


After saying that he felt service on the Faculty Council was “extremely important,” Chair Hillis thanked all the nominees, who had agreed to stand for election and to serve as officers of next year’s Council if elected. He reported that the results of the election held at the special meeting convened just prior to the current meeting were now available and indicated that each candidate had received a large vote count. He announced the newly elected officers for 2009-10 would be:

  • Professor Dean Neikirk (electrical and computer engineering) – chair elect
  • Professor Thomas G. Palaima (classics) – Executive Committee representative for the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets
  • Professor Cynthia J. Buckley (sociology) – Executive Committee representative for the Educational Policy Committee
  • Professor Andrea C. Gore (pharmacy) – Executive Committee representative for the Faculty Welfare Committee

Chair Hillis said he had been invited, along with Executive Vice President and Provost Steve Leslie and Dean Mary Ann Rankin (natural sciences), by the consultants from Cooper, Robertson & Partners LLP to tour a possible alternative site for relocation of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory. He reported that he thought the site they visited had “problems that probably preclude it from being used,” and the consultants were continuing to look for other alternative sites. He expected the consultants’ June report to the University of Texas Board of Regents would provide additional information regarding the future of the entire Brackenridge Tract.

President Powers commented on the procedure being followed. He said the consultants will report to the Board of Regents, and then the Board will consider their recommendations. He said it was his understanding that the consultants’ report would initiate “further discussion with the board and with the campus as whether those recommendations are acceptable to the campus.” Chair Hillis thanked President Powers for his clarification; he added that in his interactions with administrators, he was pleased to see they were focused “first and foremost” on academic programs and issues of importance to the University.

Chair Hillis said he had been honored to serve as chair of the Faculty Council. One of the primary reasons he had agreed to run was he wanted to focus on streamlining Council operations and decision-making. He said he thought the efforts to handle the details of legislation by individuals and committees prior to meetings or on a no-protest basis had been effective and had freed up time for discussion of larger issues at the Council meetings. He expressed concern that the streamlining approach might have been overzealously pursued to the extent that members may have perceived there was an effort to rush through Council meetings, which had certainly not been the intent. During the coming year, Chair Hillis expressed hope that members would feel free to discuss larger, important issues affecting the University. He said the single reading/action approach had been adopted to prevent long delays in decision-making and to minimize redundant discussions from occurring at two Council meetings; however, he emphasized that a provision was included that allows Council members to request that action be delayed on an agenda item where more time was needed for discussion to occur across campus.

Chair Hillis said he was pleased with the results that had been achieved by the pre-meeting efforts to identify conflicts or disagreements that might exist about legislation and to broker discussion and agreement between the involved parties. He felt the success of this effort was evident in the lack of dissenting votes on legislative proposals and the shorter duration of meetings in comparison to those experienced in previous years, a trend he hoped would continue. Chair Hillis encouraged Council members to send any suggestions they have for improving the functioning of the Council and its meetings to next year’s chair, Professor Staiger, or to any member of the Faculty Council Executive Committee.

After saying what an honor it had been to serve the Council, Chair Hillis said he had been very impressed with the high level of commitment he observed in his interactions with the entire University community, including student leaders, student representatives on the Council, Council members and officers, committee members, staff leaders, and the UT administration. He said it had been a real pleasure to work with President Powers and Provost Leslie and their respective staffs and to see first-hand their commitment to the academic programs across campus. He also reported that the new UT System administration had been receptive to meeting with the Faculty Council Executive Committee members and he thought the administrators clearly recognized “the prominence and greatness of our academic programs at UT.” He encouraged Council members to serve as officers, saying he had found it to be “a very rewarding experience.”

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