Faculty Council: The Essence of Collaboration

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At Spelman, students know that nurturing will be a part of their academic experience. The faculty’s care for students is evident in some of the responsibilities of the Spelman College Faculty Council, a body that primarily represents the interests of the faculty.

In a recent monthly meeting, the council invited members of the Spelman’s counseling and disability staff to get a better understanding of some of the personal challenges students face while attending Spelman. “They can tell us about the kinds of issues the students are dealing with economically, personally and emotionally, even if they have disabilities,” said Soraya Mekerta, Ph.D., president of the council. “Faculty is always concerned about how it can best assist students and provide them with the best curriculum. The council is very student centered.”

Created in the late ’80s, the purpose of the faculty council is for faculty to be empowered to have a voice in decisions that are made at the College.

“The council provides a channel to communicate with the administrators all the way to the president and the ability to effectively negotiate, if need be, on behalf of faculty needs,” said Dr. Mekerta, who is director of the African Diaspora and the World Program and associate professor of French and Francophone Studies.

Eleven people serve on the council, including the president, president-elect, representatives from each of the major divisions, and five at-large members. Nominated and elected by other full-time faculty, each person is appointed for a three-year term.

There are a plethora of other faculty committees upon which council members serve, but aren’t allowed voting privileges because they are on the council. Other committees are focused on faculty welfare, curriculum, technology, tenure and promotion, library, grievance, development and junior faculty. These committees work on such issues as retirement, salaries, and conference travel.. Members of the council also serve on college-wide groups like the student affairs council and the resource and allocation and admissions and retentions committees.

As council president, Dr. Mekerta serves as the liaison between the faculty council, board of trustees, president, provost, administrators and the deans. She presides over the council meetings and invites administrators to present reports to the council including those of the president and the provost. The council president also represents the faculty at the board of trustees meetings. “My leadership model is one that is transparent and very inclusive,” said Dr. Mekerta, adding that collaboration is paramount to providing the best experience for students and the rest of the Spelman community.

“If, as we say, Academic Affairs is the heart of the College, then shared governance is the life-blood,” said Johnnella Butler, Ed.D., provost. “It means bringing together innovative ideas, often disparate goals, and solving problems collaboratively as we strive to provide the highest quality education for our students and a productive and enjoyable work environment for faculty, staff and administrators. While on some campuses some see shared governance as a myth; here at Spelman, I see it as a constant work-in-progress, undertaken with seriousness, dedication, and an eager patience.”

As president-elect of the council, Romie Tribble, Ph.D., chair and professor of the economics department, will focus on teamwork and encouraging understanding of the role of faculty collegewide. “There has to be collaboration with other major stakeholders, staff, administrators and students,” he said. “We have to help the faculty articulate when something is strictly a faculty matter and when it is a shared governance matter.”

“There are certain things that the College expects faculty to make decisions about. When it comes to the curriculum, this College expects us to make decisions about that. When it comes to other matters, such as whether Read Hall is going to be renovated, that is a collegewide decision,” continued Dr. Tribble, adding that the council appreciates President Tatum soliciting their opinion of the renovation options presented to the board of trustees. “I think the College wants all affected stakeholders to feel that they have input and their perspective has been considered.” — Joyce E. Davis is editor of Inside Spelman and associate director of Publications for the Office of Communications.

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