Faculty senators represent more than just faculty


A member of faculty senate voices his concern over proposed changes to Blackboard Feb. 14, 2017.

Robert Roberson

Faculty senators represent much more than just the faculty at Iowa State, although faculty is an important part of that representation.

Iowa State employs a lot of faculty, and the people who represent that faculty in our shared governance are faculty senators. There are a lot of faculty senators as well, more than 50, and they have to represent all faculty members of the university.

Steven Freeman, professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering, said this representation is carried out in a multitude of different ways.

“Every department has a faculty senator, and for every one hundred faculty members in a college, that college gets an at-large senator … so they don’t necessarily have a direct constituency,” Freeman said.

Cullen Padgett Walsh, senior lecturer in philosophy and religious studies, shared a similar sentiment as an at-large senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I try to help organize all the senators within the college to be more active and informed about what’s going on in the Senate,” Walsh said.

As a department faculty senator, Freeman makes it clear that there is room for dissent between faculty members that may take place. But input really depends on the topic for Freeman and Walsh. 

“Some issues are a very broad concern of faculty members,” Walsh said. “There are also a lot of issues that come up before Senate, like approving a new minor that are relatively non-controversial.”

For Freeman, a lot of this input comes from faculty meetings. For Walsh, however, his main communication is between the senators in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Walsh’s main line of communication with his senators is through email, but they also have meetings with the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The college also has the Representative Assembly, which was formed before Faculty Senate, and is another line of communication for Walsh.

Faculty Senate’s impact on students depends on perspective, Freeman said.

“For one thing, the Faculty Senate approves the graduation list each semester,” Freeman said. “Curriculum gets approved by the Faculty Senate and curriculum issues impact students all the time. Now what is taught in the class is not under purview of the faculty senate.”

Freeman also touched on new curriculum, elimination of curriculum and policies that may affect students. He also mentioned that the intention of Faculty Senate is proactive and student centered, and he hopes that the majority of issues that arrive on the Senate floor are seen as non-controversial.

Freeman’s goal as a faculty senator is to make Iowa State a better place to work and a better place to learn. Walsh wants to get more engagement out of senators and encourages faculty members to embrace shared governance.