Senate continues effort to diversify membership

Faculty Senate president Jon Perkins spoke at a recent meeting about diversifying senate membership to more closely match the overall campus makeup. Perkins shared some progress and stressed the need to continue those efforts.

The percentage of Hispanic and Asian faculty in the senate increased over the past four years while the percentage of White faculty has decreased, Perkins said. Asian faculty continue to be underrepresented in the senate, making up 15.45% of the faculty but only 8.33% of the senate. Race and ethnicities in the "other" category are 5.17% of the faculty and 1.19% of the senate.

"If we value diversity, equity and inclusion as well as shared governance, the body that represents the faculty in shared governance efforts should try to include as many faculty from underrepresented groups as possible," Perkins said.

Senate leaders encouraged faculty interested in joining to seek out senators in their college, unit or department and have conversations now to be prepared for spring elections. 

An opportunity

President-elect Sarah Bennett-George, apparel, events and hospitality management associate teaching professor, draws from her own experience to underscore the need to inform the faculty of the opportunity to serve.

"I didn't realize until several years into my employment at the university that I was even eligible to be part of the Faculty Senate," she said. "I think there are a lot of faculty in a very similar situation that may have an interest in exploring how ISU works outside of their own unit or department and just don't know."

Each academic department has one senator elected by the department's faculty and each college has one at-large senator elected by the college's faculty. A college adds another at-large senator for each additional 100 faculty members.

Perkins urges faculty leaving the senate to recruit others from underrepresented groups to run for their seats, and senators from underrepresented groups already in the senate to consider running for leadership positions on committees and caucuses. Bennett-George also encourages any faculty member with questions about or those thinking of running for the senate to email her.

"We can talk about being in the senate or what the process is like to join the senate," she said. "Progress is always the goal and you never reach an endpoint."

Term faculty are part of a balanced senate

Achieving a better balance of tenured, tenure-track and term faculty in the senate also is a goal.

"Close to a third of our faculty at the university are term faculty, so their repersentation is an important piece of the conversation," associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince said.

Bennett-George will become the second term faculty president of the senate when the gavel is passed in May. Denise Vrchota served as senate president during the 1998-1999 academic year as a journalism adjunct assistant professor. Bennett-George said her lens as a term faculty member helps her understand the value of electing diverse voices to help ensure the senate addresses a broad range of topics.