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Faculty Link: Notes from the Faculty Senate Chair

October 16, 2020   /   by Shannon Davis

This has been an extraordinary and challenging year for everyone at George Mason University. We have experienced two leadership transitions, a sudden switch to all virtual instruction in the face of a global pandemic, and then a university-wide effort to reopen our campuses.

We have been successful in no small part because we have worked together as a university— faculty and staff alongside administration and students to make sure we are considering all aspects of this crisis. Our success is a testament to shared governance, something the Faculty Senate has pushed for over the last few years. I’m proud to say that this crisis has shown what we can accomplish together.

In the past year, we have seen the power that the Faculty Senate can have in shaping Mason’s future. It started when we insisted on having an active role in the search for our new president. I served as co-chair of last year's presidential search, and the Faculty Senate had an opportunity to meet with all finalists and represent the general faculty in this critical process.

Our influence was also apparent in the Safe Return to Campus Plan. Instructional and research faculty from the Faculty Senate and across the university served on 16 of the 18 working groups to ensure that our faculty expertise and our faculty focus on the educational mission was an integral part of the Safe Return to Campus.

We have multiple seats at the table in the master planning process with three members of the Faculty Senate serving on the Master Plan Steering Committee. Shared governance, through faculty engagement in deliberations and the recommendations to the university administration, continues to shape Mason.

The Faculty Senate is the principal faculty advisory body to the university president and the administration, with 50 elected members representing all colleges and schools at Mason. It is the key body through which shared governance of the institution is performed. I have the honor to be serving my second year as chair of the Faculty Senate.

If you have attended one of this fall's Faculty Senate meetings, you likely noted that our agenda is substantially longer. This is not in response to our virtual format. Instead, it is because I believe that all faculty deserve to know the activities that are happening in all of our committees on which faculty have been asked to serve. All university committees and individuals serving as representatives of the faculty to on administrative committees have been asked to provide regular written updates to the Faculty Senate.

If you have questions about the work that is happening on your behalf, our Faculty Senate meetings should be the place where you can find some of those answers. One of my goals for this academic year is to increase transparency and accountability of how shared governance occurs at the university level. To that end, I will be writing a regular column to update you on some of the ways in which faculty are holding the administration accountable as we partner with them in charting the university’s path forward.

And I will do more to amplify the successes of our amazing faculty in and out of the classroom. Be patient with me as I dust off my Twitter account (@Shannon_NDavis) and use it to share your stories. Please share your stories with me so that I can share with others how the work of our faculty makes Mason a great place to work and a great place for our students to learn.