Good morning. I speak to you today for what is probably my last time as Chair of the Faculty Senate. My successor starting June 1 will be Professor Peter Brunjes from our Psychology Department. Peter is a respected neuroscientist who studies the brain, and I am supremely confident that the Senate will continue to prosper under his leadership.
When I first spoke to you on June 9, 2017, I identified several areas in which the Senate wished to be involved during this current academic year. I am pleased to say that now, looking back on the previous nine months, the Senate has made excellent progress toward our goals. Let me speak quite briefly about five of those activities.
First, we invited our Human Resources staff, under the leadership of Kelley Stuck, to explain how faculty benefits work, how benefits are determined, and how they get paid. This was eye-opening information for a lots of us, especially when we learned that UVA’s self-funded health care plan costs about $5,000 per person per year less than the comparable state-administered plan for state employees.
Second, we revisited the last faculty survey, conducted in 2011 with a participation rate of about 75%, to see what issues concerned the faculty then and, more importantly, what progress has been made in responding to those concerns. Compensation is always a top concern, and we acknowledge with thanks the Board’s role in trying to raise compensation levels over time. A second concern was faculty diversity. Given the length of an academic career, that is a slow ship to turn, but again we were very pleased to see statistics showing an improvement in faculty diversity.
Third, I was particularly pleased to be a member of the Deans Working Group that drafted a Fall semester response to the terrible events of August 11th and 12th, and in February released a draft policy on time, place, and manner for non-affiliated speakers and organizations. I think this proposed policy does a great job of protecting first amendment free-speech rights, while curbing the ability of outsiders to degrade our people and damage our facilities. Again, our thanks to the Board for making the lawn an official University facility.
Fourth, I promised the Senate that we would undertake a self-learning effort on the topic of “How to Retire.” We will hold a workshop on March 29 that will present some factual information about how retirement works, and a panel discussion with Faculty Guides, HR staff, and emeriti professors, and a creative opportunity for faculty to discuss how they wish future retirements to be structured.
Fifth, the Senate’s Executive Council met with President-elect Jim Ryan last month. We had an excellent give-and-take session in which he shared some of his upcoming goals, and we shared some of our faculty aspirations. We have already pledged to mutually support one another and we look forward to working with Jim starting in August.
The Senate has now enjoyed several years of joint accomplishments with our University administration. We offer a very special thanks to Terry Sullivan, Tom Katsouleas, Pat Hogan, and their staff members for their desire and enthusiasm to work together.
Finally, I thank all members of this Board for your willingness to serve this great institution which is UVA.