Why I Serve in the Academic Senate

In our last issue of Slice of Pie, Senate Chair David Teitel spoke passionately about why he serves in the Academic Senate, and particularly how UC’s unique model of “shared governance” has evolved. Over time, shared governance has allowed the various committees, task forces and councils of the Senate to achieve remarkable gains for the faculty and the University.

The UCSF Senate is currently in the middle of its annual Call to Service, which asks faculty members to indicate their interest in standing committees, for appointments beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. The UCSF Senate is very inclusive, and includes all faculty series – Adjunct, Clinical X, Health Sciences Clinical, Ladder-Rank, and In-Residence.

As part of the series highlighting the importance of shared governance, the Senate approached faculty who have been active within the Senate, focusing on faculty within the School of Dentistry for this article. They spoke on the critical need for each School to contribute to discussions on long range planning and the implementation of campus-wide and systemwide initiatives.

Effective Collaboration: UCSF’s Partnership Model of Shared Governance
Effective shared governance represents a true partnership. In his “Overview of Shared Governance,” Daniel L. Simmons, two-time Chair of the systemwide UC Senate remarked:

The relationship between the Academic Senate and the administration, both systemwide and on the campuses, has evolved over the past few years into a partnership that works to bring the faculty into decision making processes at the formulation stage. The faculty becomes a partner with the administration in working out common ground from which to face the challenges of the times. Standing on that common ground, it becomes difficult for one side or the other to pull the rug out from under a policy direction.

This “partnership” that Professor Simmons describes is alive and well at UCSF. In recent years the Senate Office has transformed itself into a professional services group that partners with the faculty and the UCSF Administration, facilitating effective collaboration for the good of the University.

The School of Dentistry’s Arthur Miller, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Division of Orthodontics, Department of Orofacial Sciences, is a faculty member who has served on numerous committees during his tenure at UCSF. He stresses the value of service to the institution. “In the Academic Senate, you meet faculty across all of the schools and programs, and you begin to realize why UCSF achieves so much. It is this diverse group of faculty, in multiple programs, who also give time through committees in the Academic Senate and complement the many who grow beyond their original work and responsibilities to leadership and collaborative interaction that drives much of UCSF.”

Open & Transparent Dialogue on Complex Issues
Above all else, the Senate’s commitment to a transparent dialogue, encouraging open discourse on complicated and challenging issues from a variety of viewpoints, helps to build a comprehensive plan addressing a number of grand challenges.

“With so many complex challenges facing University faculty both in our disciplinary fields and across the institution, I serve because I want to be part of the solution,” said Elizabeth Mertz, Professor, PRDS and Vice Chair, SOD Faculty Council. “These problems aren’t going to solve themselves, and you need to know how the system works to drive toward improvements.”

Participation in the Senate also affords early-career faculty members the opportunity to better acquaint themselves with their colleagues and their University as a whole. “Personally, as someone relatively new to UCSF, I see serving on the SOD Faculty Council as a way to learn about the different aspects of School of Dentistry and to meet other faculty members whom I would otherwise not intersect with,” says Frederick Chang, SOD Professor in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology

Service within the Senate also gives faculty the opportunity to serve at the systemwide level, as many of the local committees have systemwide counterparts. As a recent example, Roberta Rehm (SON) and Henry Sanchez (SOM) served as the respective systemwide Chairs of the University Committee of Faculty Welfare (UCFW) and the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS). Both committees have made important contributions to UC policy over the years. Most recently, past UCFW Chair Rehm led the effort for a multi-year salary plan, as well as the creation of a Senate-Administration task force to make recommendations to ensure the sustainability of Retiree Health, which is a vital component of UCSF faculty’s total retirement benefit.

Professor Rehm remarked: “Serving in the Senate at the campus and system-wide levels has helped me to see how UC works locally and as a system. I’ve had the opportunity to work with other Senate members from UCSF and across the system to take an active role in faculty governance. […]The Senate is a powerful entity when members work towards a common goal.”

Issues Important to UCSF Faculty
The dedicated participation of the faculty within the Senate’s committees can lead to significant changes at UCSF. In the past decade, the decision to pursue furloughs rather than salary cuts during the 2010 financial crisis was discussed in Senate committees and councils. Many faculty advancements and promotions are processed through the Committee on Academic Personnel annually, as are intramural research grants, through the Committee on Research.

In more recent years, the Senate and its committees and councils have been particularly engaged on space issues at UCSF, including the creation of two separate task forces to focus on Academic Space and Education Space in spring 2018, and of a Senate Committee on Space. During the past year, representatives from the Senate’s Committee on Space played a key role in the formulation of new metrics associated with research space on the UCSF Research & Administrative Space Policy Working Group (RASP), which are currently being considered by UCSF leadership.

The UCSF Senate has also been at the vanguard of the Open Access movement. Beginning in 2010, UCSF led the call for a boycott of the Nature Publishing Group, when it insisted on increasing the price of UC’s license for its affiliated journals by 400 percent. Just a few years later, in 2012, UCSF faculty voted for the first open access policy, making it the first UC campus to do so, and paving the way for an eventual Open Access Presidential Policy in 2015. The Senate was most recently active in the Elsevier negotiations, with University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communications Chair, and UCSF faculty member, Rich Schneider, taking a leadership role on UC’s negotiating team. Characteristic of the faculty’s central role in University affairs, UC’s progress in this area has been through a faculty-led, bottom-up approach.

Indeed, many prominent senior Senate leaders view their Senate service as an important aspect of their academic life, as echoed by former UCSF Senate Divisional Chair Deborah Greenspan.

“At first, I was surprised to realize how little I knew about how the University worked. I also quickly came to understand how powerful the Academic Senate could be in influencing and facilitating major decisions. I learned to appreciate the opportunity to work with colleagues from other departments, Schools and Campuses as well as with campus leadership. I have so many warm memories of friendships and collaborations built. Together we met and surmounted many challenges. I will always treasure my Senate service.”

At all levels, the Senate empowers the faculty to exercise their right to participate in governance and the management of their University. In doing so, the Senate relies upon UCSF’s high quality faculty to work on its diverse committees to achieve long-lasting gains for the faculty and the institution as a whole. This is a model that has served UCSF well, and will become even more important given the ever-changing academic landscape.

< Back to February 2019 Newsletter