Faculty Senate Chair Melissa Broeckelman-Post could point to several senate successes from her first year as chair, including academic policy and teaching evaluation form revisions, realigning the Mason Core and progress toward more equitable recognition for faculty.
Her main takeaway, however, might be something more meaningful than any single senate accomplishment.
“One thing I appreciated a lot is the way faculty and staff and the administration have been able to come together and collaborate and communicate about things that are critical to institutional success,” said Broeckelman-Post, professor and basic course director in the Department of Communication in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “I’m really hoping we can continue to see that collaboration moving forward.”
Broeckelman-Post ran unopposed this spring for a second one-year term as senate chair.
The senate last fall formed the Task Force on Reimagining Faculty Roles and Rewards to better recognize ways that faculty contribute to the university through teaching, research, advising, community service, and other actions. The task force’s work will continue over the summer with an implementation proposal planned for fall.
“It will probably be a three- to five-year process, if not longer, of gradually implementing changes,” said Broeckelman-Post, a Faculty Senate member since 2014, the year after she arrived at Mason. “So far, this has been a good chance to understand our own institutional processes and where we vary college to college and unit to unit, and where we have best practices in place we could use more broadly, as well as where we can learn from and build upon innovations at other institutions.”
Another key senate action was approving a new Course Evaluation Form for more equitable assessment of teaching performance and more constructive feedback. Prior evaluation forms have been more like student satisfaction surveys that can reinforce biases, Broeckelman-Post said. The new form measures teaching practices that support better learning and can be used to continuously improve courses.
The senate’s Academic Policies Committee proposed several changes to support struggling students, including designating incompletes as “no credit” instead of failing grades that can drop GPAs and hinder retention.
“Incompletes usually occur when there is some sort of crisis or emergency,” Broeckelman-Post said. “We want to make sure academic grades don’t reflect non-academic behavior.”
The senate also approved an enhanced Mason Core to better align the university’s general education curriculum with Mason’s goal to prepare students to live and work in a global society.
What’s on tap for 2022-23? Hard to say. Broeckelman-Post said she went into her first year as senate chair with no real agenda.
“We’re not the same university that we were before COVID,” she said. “The world is not the same world we lived in. People’s lives are not the same as before. I hope we can be thoughtful about what we’ve learned and think creatively about what the future of the institution may look like.”