From the Desk: Bloomington Faculty Council President Rebecca Spang discusses importance of diversity, inclusion and civility
Feb. 22, 2017
Two years ago, when I served as secretary to the Bloomington Faculty Council, I had the great pleasure of writing to all faculty members on a regular basis. I found that role especially satisfying because the secretary’s tasks are fundamentally those of a historian (my own discipline). Historians and faculty council secretaries compile information, do research and then shape that material into the most compelling and engaging story possible.
This year, as president of the Bloomington Faculty Council, I have fewer opportunities for addressing the entire faculty. I am grateful to “Inside IU” for allowing me to reach not just academic colleagues but staff as well.
Let me first tell you something about what the council is and how it operates, and then I want to highlight our work around issues of diversity, inclusion and civility. These are core values for our campus -- for, I hope, any public university! -- and the faculty council has an important part to play in ensuring all voices are welcomed, heard and respected.
Who serves on the Bloomington Faculty Council? Faculty representatives are elected for two-year terms. Most represent a particular constituency of faculty members (one of the schools, a set of departments within the College, etc.), though we also have six seats reserved for “at large” members.
All members except those elected to “at large” seats have access to email lists to communicate with constituents. If you are a faculty member and do not regularly hear from your representative, you might want to start the conversation yourself. (You can find your council representative’s name on our website.)
We will soon be starting the elections process for the 2017-18 council, and I will be writing to all faculty members about that shortly. Please note that, in addition to faculty, the council membership also includes students (representatives from the IU Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Government), administrators, the ROTC and professional council.
What does the council do? Our constitution gives the faculty legislative authority over the campus’s academic mission; its academic calendar; the appointment, promotion and tenure of campus faculty; the admission and retention of students; etc. It also says that the exercise of faculty authority is “normally delegated to a body of elected representatives, the BFC.”
The Bloomington Faculty Council’s legislative authority is more limited than you may imagine, however, because while the council is responsible for campus-level policies, it neither has authority for university-wide matters (though we do send representatives to the University Faculty Council) nor can it (or should it) intervene in policies that are specific to a particular school or the College.
Moreover, there are many areas where the constitution gives faculty not a legislative but a consultative role. So while the council makes policy, it is also the body within which administrators consult with faculty members. Much of this consultation happens in our committees. (If you would like to serve on a committee in 2017-18, please indicate so on your ballot. Note that some committees have student and staff members as well.)
How has the Bloomington Faculty Council focused on diversity and inclusion? This academic year, with the country in the throes and aftermath of a bitterly divisive election season, the council has been especially concerned to do whatever it can to make our campus a safe and welcoming place for all students, staff and faculty. To that end, we discussed and adopted a revised Statement on Diversity.
The statement affirms diversity as a central component of our academic mission (“an indispensable principle”) and underlines that teaching our students to “value the inclusion of people from groups that experience discrimination and underrepresentation and, ultimately, to respect, explore and celebrate differences” is central to preparing them for participation in national and international communities.
The council has also passed two important resolutions: one on Campus Climate and Civility and one in Response to the Executive Order of Jan. 27, 2017. After a presentation by the UndocuHoosier Alliance to the Bloomington Faculty Council and further discussions with the Executive Committee, the Diversity and Affirmative Action Committee is drafting policy and devising programming to address problems of diversity, inclusion and sensitivity across campus. At the same time, a taskforce that includes members of our Educational Policies Committee is reviewing how the different units deliver the general education curriculum’s “shared goal” of teaching about “Diversity in the United States.” (This last arises from a resolution passed by the council in April 2016.)
Finally, I want to remind you that the Bloomington Faculty Council, along with numerous co-sponsors, is hosting a Campus Forum -- “Our Community in the Current Political Climate: Facts, Fears, Responses” -- from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall. I will be chairing, and I very much look forward to seeing you there.
I will not have another opportunity to write to the entire campus, but I do address the council at each of its meetings and, as co-chair of the University Faculty Council, I also speak regularly to the trustees. I try to post the text of my comments after each meeting, and you can find links to them on my website. I especially recommend to you my comments to the council on Dec. 6, 2016 and to the Trustees on Feb. 3, 2017.