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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Faculty member discusses shared governance

Nithin Reddy Nagapur
Chase Billingham, an at-large senator, speaks to the Faculty Senate at the meeting on Nov. 14, 2023.

During informal statements at the Faculty Senate on Feb. 26, Chase Billingham expressed his feelings about the Faculty Senate’s role in policymaking on campus.

Billingham spoke about shared governance, which the university defines as “the transparent and inclusive process by which administrative leaders and constituents contribute to university policies, procedures, and initiatives for Wichita State University.”

“I’ve been considering proactive measures that the Senate might implement to strengthen the Senate hands in university-shared governance, and I’d welcome anyone in the Senate to come and join me in that effort,” Billingham, an at-large senator, said.

Campus senates are a way that campus constituents can communicate their opinions and issues to administration by either talking to their representatives or becoming one.

“In these, and too many other cases, the university administration is not fulfilling its commitment to that policy of shared governance,” Billingham said.

Billingham pointed to two recent incidents where he felt the Faculty Senate should have been consulted but said that these are not two lone incidents: the enactment of an inclement weather procedure and the implementation of E-Verify, a government service that verifies employment eligibility.

At the beginning of the spring semester, WSU administration implemented an inclement weather guideline that Billingham said was presented as policy.

“(The guidelines are) written in a document drafted by general counsel that looks identical to changes to policies and procedures, except that the header reads ‘guidelines and procedures,’ which is a category that I’m not familiar with,” Billingham said.

George Dehner, a senator from LAS, brought up this issue at the Feb. 12 Faculty Senate meeting. He said that the language used in the guidelines didn’t sound like a suggestion, citing language choices like “shall” and “expected.”

“That does not sound like a suggestion,” Dehner said. “That sounds like you are dictating to the faculty how they will handle what they teach in their classes based upon those circumstances.”

Both senators expressed that these guidelines should have been brought before the Faculty Senate because they impact faculty and their students.

During their most recent legislative session, the Kansas Senate passed an appropriations bill that requires any state agency receiving funds from the state to use E-Verify.

In 2020, the university had plans to implement E-Verify, but the Faculty Senate members expressed concerns about how it would impact faculty, staff and students.

Even though the current implementation of E-Verify is a state mandate — not a university mandate — Billingham said that the Faculty Senate should have been informed by administration.

“I do believe that it still should have come back to the Faculty Senate for clarification about why it was necessary,” Billingham said.

This is common practice with both state legislature and university policy that the Faculty Senate is not required to vote on to enact.

Jolynn Dowling, Faculty Senate president, reminded the room that “shared governance doesn’t equal shared decision making” and that universities occasionally have to make emergency decisions, which can make practicing shared governance more complicated.

“I do believe that our administration, although not perfect, does try to make every effort to include the Senate bodies, whether that’s Staff Senate or SGA, in the decisions that they do make on campus,” Dowling said. 

Ombudsperson charter approval

The Faculty Senate passed an official charter for an ombuds program for faculty at the university. An ombudsperson is a representative who can help faculty talk through problems they are experiencing at the university or point out systemic issues to the administration.

Carolyn Shaw, a political science professor, created the charter to legitimize the program and make it compliant with the United States Ombudsman Association. She is currently overhauling the program so that any interested faculty can participate in the program.

The Faculty Senate will meet again on March 26 at 3:30 p.m. in Woolsey Hall 110A.

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About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Nithin Reddy Nagapur
Nithin Reddy Nagapur, Former photographer
Nithin Reddy Nagapur was a photographer for The Sunflower. Nagapur graduated in Fall 2023.

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