Why I Serve in the Academic Senate

School of Medicine Faculty

As part of a series highlighting the importance of shared governance, the Academic Senate has asked faculty who have been active on Senate committees why it’s important for them to be involved in the Academic Senate. In previous Slice of Pie newsletters, we heard from the faculty from the School of Dentistry and from Senate Chair David Teitel, who spoke passionately about his reasons for serving and how UC’s unique model of shared governance has evolved.

Given the diversity of UCSF’s schools and departments, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all with respect to shared governance. With this in mind, we have approached faculty from the School of Medicine (SOM), asking them why they choose to serve in the Academic Senate, and how shared governance contributes to their professional lives.

Why I Serve

The motivations to serve within the SOM are very similar to those put forward by SOD faculty. Incoming Academic Senate Chair (2019-2021) Sharmila Majumdar, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair, Radiology spoke about the unique opportunity in having a direct role in shaping UCSF into the “perfect place”. “The Academic Senate is a unique way that the UC campuses enable the faculty and administration to have a joint governance model,” she says. “In many cases it enables faculty to have a direct role in decisions made, in others it may be advisory. Regardless, in a place like UCSF with basic science, translational science and clinical faculty, the diversity of issues are immense. If I want to play a role in making UCSF the perfect place, I felt when I joined UCSF in 1989, I should be well informed and participate. With this in mind, and the desire to meet the exciting faculty working here, I volunteered for Senate Service. I serve on the Senate to work as a team with the administration and faculty alike and make a positive difference to my workplace and for others at UCSF.”

Since joining UCSF, Dr. Majumdar has participated in numerous Senate committees including Academic Freedom, Academic Planning and Budget, Equal Opportunity, Graduate Council, Clinical Affairs Committee, and has represented the division at the UC Systemwide level with the systemwide Academic Senate.

Incoming Academic Senate Vice Chair (Vice Chair 2019-2021 and Chair 2021-2023) Steven W. Cheung, MD, Professor, Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery, spoke about the importance of shared governance, hearing from a diversity of voices, and the ability to shape policy. “Shared governance, the essential partnership between faculty and administration, has been critical to the success of the University of California,” he says.  “I serve in the Academic Senate to advance the missions of UCSF.  I enjoy hearing diverse viewpoints from the faculty, cherish representing opinions that advance the common good, and value working with administrative leaders to realize goals and aspirations of the collective.  Through systemwide Academic Senate service, I have an active voice to shape policy decisions that impact our great ten campus University.”

There are significant implications of this shared governance in action. For example, the Faculty Family-Friendly Initiative (3FI), which aims to support faculty in their efforts to balance the needs of their career and family, identified access and affordability of childcare as a major issue facing our campus community.  The planned closure of Laurel Heights Childcare in fall 2020 disadvantages faculty primarily based at the west campuses (Parnassus, Mount Zion, and VAMC).  While the expanded Mission Bay Childcare facility remains an option for west campuses faculty, cross-town travel for drop-off and pickup will likely be infeasible.  

The Committee on Faculty Welfare, which Cheung currently serves as chair, responded to this problem by working with Vice Provost-Academic Affairs Brian Alldredge to find a solution.  VPAA Alldredge and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor-Campus Life Services Clare Shinnerl were quick to identify suitable replacement childcare seats by summer 2019.

The Chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunity (EQOP) Jae Sevelius, PhD, Associate Professor in Residence, Medicine spoke about the meaningful impact participating with the Senate provides. “I have served on EQOP for several years now and currently have the honor of chairing this committee. This has been an invaluable learning opportunity, as I am passionate about our committee’s mission to advance campus- and UC-wide initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Serving on this committee has not only allowed me to contribute meaningfully to upholding this commitment, but also to build connections and solidarity within UCSF and across UC campuses with others who share our mission,” she says.

Most recently, EQOP partnered with the Committee on Academic Personnel, the Academic Affairs Office, and the Schools’ Associate Deans of Academic Affairs to develop a Guidance Document for Faculty Advancement Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This document will be shared with faculty so they can better include their own DEI contributions within personnel packets.

Because of the nature of UCSF as a health sciences campus, the Senate Division has several committees and faculty councils that have no counterpart at the systemwide Academic Senate. One such committee, Clinical Affairs, occupies the niche between the intersection of UCSF’s clinical and academic missions.

Steven Hays, MD, Professor, Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy and Sleep Medicine and the Chair of the Clinical Affairs Committee spoke about how rewarding work on such a Senate committee can be. “Why be a passenger on the ship, when you can grab an oar and help guide its direction?,” he says. “I first joined the Academic Senate four years ago when I became a member of the Clinical Affairs Committee. I had responded to a call to serve after I had started to feel established in my career. I reached a point where I not only wanted to participate, but I felt that I needed to participate in our self-governance.

“As the director of a clinical program, I was very interested in joining a committee that provided an interface between the operations of the Medical Center and the academic mission of the University - the Clinical Affairs Committee was right up my alley. It has been extremely rewarding to be actively involved in some important UCSF developments that impact directly on the careers, livelihood and success of the faculty. Most importantly, participating in the Academic Senate has made me feel like a member of this amazing crew, and not just a passenger on the ship.”

Finally the Senate spoke to Steven Hetts, MD, Professor in Residence, Radiology, systemwide Senate Representative to the Regents Health Service Committee and Chair of the Clinical Affairs Committee. “I serve to meet people beyond my own specialty and department, gaining a better sense of who works at the university and the good work they do. I also want to have a say in the direction the university is taking and how it fulfills its academic mission. Shared governance is an important part of fulfilling this mission and the Senate is the body that allows us to have this input,” he says.

For more information on serving on an Academic Senate committee, please click here to provide us with committees you’re interested in serving on

Continuous Faculty Engagement – Critical for Shared Governance

In addition to regular committee meetings, throughout the year, the Senate hosts town hall meetings designed to give faculty a platform to voice their concerns and provide direct feedback on how best to handle current issues affecting the University. In 2018-2019, the Senate hosted a record of five town halls to address pressing faculty concerns. In addition to town halls and email notifications, we are exploring new ways to engage faculty in an effort to stay on top of issues in this fast-paced environment. Future town hall topics will be cultivated from discussions that arise during Senate Committees and Council meetings.

In addition to being engaged in moving the academic and clinical missions forward, the Academic Senate also hands out a total of $500,000 in small individual and group grants each year. It also participates separately bi-annually in the RAP Research Award process.

The Senate Awards from Chancellor’s Funds were created in 2014 to support faculty life. The UCSF Senate is the only Senate office in the system with these types of funds. It aims to support faculty with seed funding to build initiatives within their respective units to benefit faculty life. The Senate also supports, at faculty request, the following campuswide programs: Open Science/Open Access, Childcare, plus Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion matters. It also sources conference travel grants. The funds are distributed by Academic Senate committees and school faculty councils. Keep your eyes open for 2020 submission deadlines at https://senate.ucsf.edu/chancellors-fund.

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