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Marvin J. LaHood, Ph.D.
On June 17, 2003, Chancellor King presented a resolution at the SUNY Board of Trustees meeting on systemwide assessment that called for the following:
A University-wide process that will periodically assess, using common measures, State University students' attainment in the general education learning outcomes in Mathematics, Basic Communication, Critical Thinking (Reasoning), Information Management, and the understanding of the methods scientists and social scientists use to explore phenomena; and be it further resolved that the Provost of the State University begin the process leading to implementation of University-wide Assessment by meeting with faculty and campus leadership and representatives to develop the initial procedures and timeline to be followed as well as a formal Memorandum of Understanding, to be endorsed by faculty governance which will address faculty concerns.
This resolution was a surprise to the leadership of the University Faculty Senate for two reasons: Through a series of resolutions over the past three years, the Faculty Senate had opposed any form of systemwide assessment and, despite that, had been at the table with System Administration in a good-faith effort to explore the faculty concerns that had been expressed across the system.
The University Faculty Senate is an elected body with representatives from 34 state-operated campuses that represents 13,000 faculty in academic matters.
After the Board of Trustees passed the chancellor's resolution, the group that was involved in the initial dialogue that included system and faculty representatives resumed meeting to try to agree to a proposal that would address faculty concerns. Because everyone involved wanted this to be successful, both sides made a concerted effort to be flexible.
The University Faculty Senate queried each of the campus governance units in December and January as to whether, in the light of concessions made by the administration, the discussion group should continue to dialogue. At the Senate's January Plenary at Oneonta, the body voted, with only two negative votes, to continue.
The reasoning was that if the faculty stopped negotiating, systemwide assessment would be implemented without faculty input. In addition, if the faculty stayed at the table, perhaps a method of assessment could be agreed upon that would address the concerns of the Board of Trustees, System Administration, and the faculty.
As a result of this renewed dialogue, a proposal on campus-based systemwide assessment will be developed by a committee composed of members of the Board of Trustees, System Administration, the University Faculty Senate, the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, and the Student Assembly. The proposal will be completed at the end of April and voted on at the University Faculty Senate Spring Plenary at Upstate Medical University on April 24.
Marvin J. LaHood, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of English, has been a member of the University Faculty Senate since 1991 and has chaired three of its standing committees. He has been a faculty member at Buffalo State College for 33 years.