During its May 5 meeting, Texas State’s Faculty Senate held its last monthly President's Academic Advisory Group (PAAG) of the semester and discussed budgets, considered confidentiality in hiring processes and filled internal Senate roles for the next term.
President Denise Trauth opened the meeting by addressing Faculty Senate inquiries as to whether an incentive could be set for students who get vaccinated. Trauth believes any sort of incentive results in the withholding of benefits from those not receiving a vaccination, and according to the university’s general counsel, this action would likely contradict Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order making vaccine passports illegal.
Trauth clarified that despite this lack of incentive, the university’s efforts to raise awareness over vaccinations would continue, aiming to ramp up educational communications with students about the various vaccines. She also encouraged faculty to explain to students the benefits of vaccinations.
Trauth told the Faculty Senate the university will “safely” host more in-person celebratory events for newly tenured faculty from both 2020 and 2021. She also addressed a faculty request for a salary bonus, discussing the potentially permanent possibility of a 3% bonus added to the base faculty salary.
Trauth says this change is “an extremely high priority for the university,” however, she clarified that the finances would be dependent on student enrollment numbers for fall 2020.
“That's how we're funded, we're funded based on enrollment,” Trauth says. “[Provost] Gene [Bourgeois] tells me the freshmen class looks good. It's a little slower, coming together. That is understandable given COVID, and graduate registrations are way up. So, that is another really good thing because that gets cranked into our weighted student credit hours. We are hoping that we can make that 3% part of the base, but again, it's going to come down to enrollment.”
Trauth also addressed potential plans for a faculty-specific dining area.
Concerning a possible contingency plan for COVID-19 in the fall semester, Trauth and Bourgeois clarified that decisions would be made soon. They concluded that given the evolving nature of the information and guidance provided by health officials regarding COVID-19, making a suitable and current contingency plan for four months into the future is difficult.
Senate Chair Janet Bezner asked Trauth if children of faculty and staff would be able to receive vaccinations from the university once the age for vaccinations drops. Trauth says this will likely be a possibility, aside from potentially unforeseen complications in vaccinating children such as scheduling or dosage issues.
Interim Chief Diversity Officer and Assistant Vice President for Institutional Inclusive Excellence and Faculty & Staff Initiatives Stella Silva spoke with the Faculty Senate over confidentiality in the faculty hiring process at Texas State. Silva says Texas State made a “business decision” to implement national standards of confidentiality regarding hiring faculty, securing the information of faculty candidates applying for positions at the university.
Silva says there is a multitude of reasons why confidentiality matters for candidates when applying to an institution, arguing candidates may seek out confidentiality in potential employers based on possible prejudices toward candidates from underrepresented populations. Silva adds confidentiality could lessen the university’s likelihood to be embroiled in legal matters.
“[If] I was applying for a position someplace else, and I'm currently in a position, I really would not want that institution sharing my information with anyone outside of the hiring process,” Silva says."[I] want to be ensured that my information is kept confidential. Not just my sensitive information, which could be shared to violate laws: [My personal] information, my scholarship, my name. [If] that gets out and people start calling each other and say, 'Hey, did you know so and so's over here and they're trying to find a position,' that can greatly impact their current position.”
The Faculty Senate also re-nominated Bezner and Vice-Chair Lynn Ledbetter to their respective positions, while Sens. Dale Blasingame and Benjamin Martin took on the roles of Faculty Senate co-secretaries for Jennifer Jensen, who steps down from her role as secretary.
The body then paid tribute and thanked Sen. Vincent Luizzi, who is stepping down from the Senate after six years of service. Testimonies from other senators were read by Ledbetter, which complimented Luizzi as a calm voice in the Senate room and praised Luizzi's “fearlessness as an advocate for faculty and supportive faculty."
Luizzi thanked his fellow senators for their words and the experiences gained while serving on the Senate.
“It's been a real treat working with all of you for a couple of terms, and it's always a highlight of the week to come to Senate for that collaboration,” Luizzi says. “Looking forward also to continuing on the Academic Freedom community and other ways we can collaborate. So, I'll say farewell, too.”