Northwestern State University recently hosted a statewide Faculty Summit sponsored by the NSU Faculty Senate. The event was an opportunity for the leaders in faculty shared governance from the University of Louisiana System to come together to discuss issues relevant to faculty members in 2022, according to NSU Faculty Senate President Dr. John Dunn.
The guest speaker for the summit was Dr. Eva Baham of Dillard University. Her topic was “The Great Spirit Behind It: Faculty as Integral to University Governance.” Baham is a genealogist and historian, focusing on the Black communities found in southern Louisiana. She also served as a faculty senator and senate president while at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
Dunn said the idea for the summit came out of the pandemic when faculty were teaching from quarantine.
“I saw, in my opinion, a smaller sense of community and less willingness to explore multi-disciplinary projects,” said Dunn. “The Faculty Senate, during the pandemic, existed as one of these communities. I think it did a lot for senator’s mental health to realize they were not alone in these ‘unprecedented times,’ as everyone kept putting it. Once face to face classes resumed on campus, the business of the senate became to expand our footprint within the UL System.”
Dunn met with other UL System Faculty Senate presidents at the annual For Our Future Conference in February after having discussions online for several months. That led to further discussions and Dunn suggested a regular live meeting of senate presidents to discuss higher education news, network and conduct business. NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Greg Handel had the idea of expanding the meeting to invite additional faculty, have a guest speaker and schedule open sessions on topics affecting faculty in higher education. Dunn said UL System President Dr. Jim Henderson was also a major supporter of the meeting.
Faculty from eight of the nine universities in the UL System attended open sessions, each led by a different faculty senate president in the ULS. Topics included the image of faculty in national politics, faculty and library resources, seeing to the needs of our students, working with administration/staff/students, what it means to be “faculty” in 2022 and academic freedom, representation and tenure. Dunn said he hopes the Faculty Summit will be an annual event.