The new year is upon us. In the United States, a new set of elected officials are going to work on behalf of Americans. Being so close to the nation's capital, I often think about what it means to serve as an elected representative, albeit the faculty at this institution.
The Faculty Senate represents the General Faculty as defined by the Faculty Handbook. While individual senators are representative of their college or school, they are asked to serve the full General Faculty through the lens of their unit.
What this means is that all members of the General Faculty have the opportunity to have their voice heard through someone sitting on the Senate. The job of the Faculty Senate is to not focus on any one college or school, but instead to do our best to ensure that faculty members’ experiences are represented to the administration.
Representing the faculty requires that the Faculty Senate know the concerns opinions and experiences of the General Faculty. In some colleges and schools, it is easy for the senators to hear from their constituents because they are a small unit and are co-located. In other cases, where the college or school is large or spread across multiple buildings or campuses, the senators—pre-COVID-19—had a more difficult time regularly connecting with the General Faculty in their college or school. In addition, the Faculty Senate as a body does not have a regular mechanism through which to hear from the faculty.
The governing bodies in the colleges and schools have their own individual mechanisms for hearing from the General Faculty in their units. For example, in my home unit, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the chair of our faculty assembly created a Teams group for our senators. This provides us with a space to meet as senators and discuss senate issues. It also means we have an email address through which any faculty member in the college can contact us.
Beginning this semester, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee will hold a virtual coffee chat each Friday after a regularly scheduled Faculty Senate meeting. This coffee chat will be open to all General Faculty members. This time will allow any General Faculty member, including senators, to meet with members of the Senate Executive Committee and let us hear from you. As there are more than 1,400 full-time faculty members, plus many part-time faculty currently employed at Mason, it is difficult for the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to know all of the issues that are important to the faculty. This coffee chat time will provide an opportunity for General Faculty members to connect with current Faculty Senate leadership.
I also strongly encourage all General Faculty members to reach out to the senators who represent them from their college or school with questions or concerns. This will help senators know the issues that are important and can begin working to address them through the appropriate governance mechanisms.
I know that I miss walking across campus and running into people and having spontaneous conversations under the trees. I look forward to the time when we can do that again en masse. Until then, let's use the virtual space that we have in front of us to connect with each other in ways that are focused on the benefit of the public good that is the general faculty of George Mason University. I wish each of you the best as we begin this new semester.