The Senate Executive Committee's first meeting of the academic year was light on business - but don't expect that to become a trend, said new chair Roy Campbell after the Aug. 26 meeting.
Campbell said he expects the 2013-14 year to bring a heavy workload for the Urbana Academic Senate, SEC and its 18 committees, as several important campus issues likely will come before them for consideration.
He said the recent submission of the campus Strategic Plan to university administrators and the speed at which those strategies are implemented will likely lead to an increase in senate business, as will the current internal review of senate operations and procedures.
"I think all of that activity will lead to quite an agenda because in some form or fashion, all of those things will come back to us," he said. "I think we'll have many tasks set aside for us to consider. A year is very short and it would be nice to make a lot of progress."
Outside of affecting administrative and academic direction, Campbell said the discussion and implementation of the strategic plan represents an opportunity for the senate to directly affect funding decisions.
"Good budgeting comes from careful planning, and being at the table for these larger discussions is important," he said. "You'd like to give everyone the same amount, but funding will continue to be a difficult issue. It will be about identifying campus priorities."
Other issues of import include the ongoing discussion of how massive open online courses fit into the land-grant university structure; how open-access initiatives can be balanced against the call for increased economic return in the face of funding pressures; and how far proposed changes in federal standards will go to address student access and cost, to rank university performance, and the distribution of funding in the future.
He said an ad hoc senate committee had been working over the summer to address salary, benefit and pension issues, the budget and campus renovation priorities, and how the senate can affect them.
Kim Graber, the SEC's new vice chair, said the difficulties in deciding some issues will be compounded by a need to act "nimbly" as Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise has put it, when they come up for consideration.
Graber said SEC members are encouraged by recommendations made in the Strategic Plan, as well as by the importance Wise and Ilesanmi Adesida, the vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, have indicated they place on the concept of shared governance.
"I think everyone understands the need to focus our energies for the future, and the work of the ad hoc task force this summer was informed by both faculty members and the administration," she said. "It was shared governance at its best, and it's a good sign."
Campbell said that the senate's review of its own role within the shared governance structure is important as well, considering the convergence of so many future-focused academic issues. And it's especially prescient considering the university administration is simultaneously conducting its own internal review.
He said he sees one of his main roles as improving and increasing communication between all of the interested parties, "because we're all dedicated to making this university better." He said he would emphasize the need to make senate meetings and correspondence transparent and meet the criteria of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"We'd like to make our (senate) decision-making more effective and timely, but at the same time we want to encourage debate," he said. "I think the senate structure, as it is, is strong, but are there ways we can improve? The answer is always 'yes.' "