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Faculty discuss professionalism

In a forum held yesterday afternoon, faculty and administrators met to define and discuss their functions outside of the classroom, including roles as advisors and balance between individual and institutional responsibilities.

The two hour event, “Faculty Professionalism: A Forum for Discussion and Engagement” was held in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. While primarily for faculty, it was also open to students. After brief speeches by four panelists, faculty formed round table discussion groups to address questions regarding topics posed by the panelists.

The event was sponsored by the Faculty Senate Committee on Professional Affairs.

“We have never talked about this as a campus community, as educators and students,” said Sara Bushong, head librarian in the curriculum resource center at Jerome Library and moderator for the forum. “Hopefully we will have a chance to discuss issues openly and honestly and bring further discussion to issues. We’re hoping to gather some additional information and get faculty and students together and talk together. We don’t get time to do this often.”

The panel was made up of four faculty and staff members; Robert DeBard, associate professor in the department of higher education and student affairs, Kristine Blair, associate professor in the English department, Patrick Pauken, associate professor in the department of educational administration and supervision and Linda Brown, coordinator of collections for University Libraries.

DeBard discussed what draws professionals into the academic field and what influences their environment can have, as well as what defines a professional and the role of administrators.

“Specialized preparation then gives you the right to be a specialist in your profession,” he said.

“The reason for administration is to allow you to be the professionals you are in the classroom,” DeBard added.

Blair mentioned how professors are viewed by their students and how their involvement at the University outside the classroom can have an impact.

“I’m concerned about how this perspective of what we do and how it trickles down to our students,” she said. “I’m very conscious of my role as a mentor, particularly to grad students who want to become faculty.”

Faculty should be encouraged to define engagement from the bottom up rather than the top down, Blair said.

Pauken mentioned the balance between the individual and the institution and how law has balanced our rights. Brown spoke about issues of scholarly communication, especially regarding the rising cost of journals and the option of open access to combat costs.

It was in response to charges to the committee from faculty senate that the plan for a forum came about, Pauken said.

Faculty Senate Chair, Radhika Gajjala’s initiative on building community and other important university initiatives like Scholarship for Engagement and the Academic Plan had a role in promoting this forum, Bushong said.

In addition, the overall state of affairs in higher education today is key in the forum, Bushong said.

“We’re supposed to advise the faculty senate and we also have an educational role related to professional issues,” Bushong said. “Holding a forum on this would help with the building community issue and scholarship of engagement.”

The committee has held other events, such as a forum on the Patriot Act last year. But this is the first discussion regarding the role of faculty, Pauken said.

“We want to get faculty and students together to talk about first, in general, what it means to be a faculty member and then hopefully through discussion present some findings to faculty senate and the administration,” Pauken said. “I’m hoping for just an opportunity to reflect on what our larger role is beyond teaching at the University.”

The responsibilities of faculty are not limited to those in the classroom, Pauken said.

“To talk about what it means to live in a global society and a reminder to faculty of what their role in the larger dialogue is,” Pauken said.

The committee hopes to compile a report from each of the tables at the forum and then give recommendations to Faculty Senate, Bushong said.

“I’m hoping overall it’s just an opportunity to join and talk as faculty members about the other roles in the University,” Pauken said. “There are a lot of issues that cross all faculty lines regardless of what department you come from. The activity alone should be fruitful for those who attend.”

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