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Faculty Senate hears updates on Avenue C, graduation and UNT on the Square at first fall semester meeting

Faculty Senate hears updates on Avenue C, graduation and UNT on the Square at first fall semester meeting

Faculty Senate hears updates on Avenue C, graduation and UNT on the Square at first fall semester meeting
September 12
12:19 2019

UNT faculty and administrators gathered in the Union Senate Chamber Wednesday afternoon to discuss policy changes and upcoming plans for the university at the Faculty Senate’s first meeting of the 2019-2020 term.

President Neal Smatresk addressed faculty members early on in the meeting about possible plans for the future of Avenue C, including ideas for a campus-run hotel, grocery store, multiple student dormitories and a restaurant near or on the site of currently occupied properties.

The UNT Board of Regents voted to acquire occupied Avenue C properties like New York Sub Hub and Campus Bookstore by eminent domain in February, but Smatresk said he feels the decision was “moderately insane” for not happening sooner.

“We have been in discussions with the owners [of Avenue C properties], we’ve made what I would call exceptionally generous offers, that anybody who was looking at this from a business perspective would say ‘Wow, that’s a really good deal,'” Smatresk said.

Smatresk withheld some details about the development of what he called “the Gateway Properties,” but said the project would aim to “create a wonderful entrance to our campus.”

A senator asked Smatresk why UNT had not yet obtained an empty lot to the east of Avenue C, either by purchasing directly or using eminent domain, to which Smatresk responded: “… I feel like saying ‘Don’t tempt me.'”

The lot in question, Smatresk said, will be the site of a new multifamily apartment complex and fits the vision of UNT’s plans for Avenue C.

Smatresk also discussed web security and efficiency issues related to UNT’s online presence, stating that university website contained over 100,000 broken or dead links due to organic website growth.

“You need to know that we have more than two million hack attempts a day,” Smatresk said.

UNT will host a web town hall on Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. to assess the university’s online presence, Smatresk said.

Later on in the meeting, Provost Jennifer Cowley delivered remarks about upcoming changes in Spring commencement schedules, which will now cover four days of ceremonies due to rising enrollment rates.

UNT will have two graduate commencement ceremonies on Thursday, full days of commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday and two ceremonies on Sunday.

“It’s a wonderful problem that we’ll have all these graduates,” Cowley said. “We did have to add Sunday as an additional day, as well as adding additional ceremonies and we rotate through who goes when. It’s a very complicated formula all driven by parking and public safety.”

Cowley then elaborated on plans for redesigning UNT on the Square, a performance and gallery space showcasing student and local art in downtown Denton.

The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism will take over the space in October and transition it into a learning laboratory for student-lead business activities, including some types of events currently hosted there, Cowley said. Administrators are currently looking for a director with business experience to oversee student business ideas that would utilize UNT on the Square.

The space currently operates under the Division of Student Affairs. Cowley said Student Affairs employees did not believe UNT on the Square had made enough impact with students to justify their control over the space.

“A lot of what we were doing with UNT on the Square was very outreach-driven, and of course students were engaged in that, but it wasn’t necessarily doing what it could be,” Cowley said. “It seems that Academic Affairs was benefiting most from the types of activities that were happening in UNT on the Square.”

Cowley said the redesigned UNT on the Square may host an event around homecoming week in November.

UNT Title IX coordinator Eve Shatteen Bell explained to faculty how a new Texas law will affect reports of sexual misconduct by university employees.

Texas Senate Bill 212 states that any employee of a public or private university who fails to report instances of sexual misconduct will face termination and eventually criminal charges after Jan. 1, 2020.

Bell outlined the definitions of sexual misconduct described in the law, which covers cases of stalking, sexual assault, dating violence and sexual harassment.

The law does not apply to student employees, but university employees have an obligation to report sexual misconduct perpetrated by at least one person affiliated with the university while they were employed there.

“This obligation has already existed,” Bell said. “Everybody is kind of freaking out about it because it is a state law and it’s got some teeth to it, but UNT policy already required [all faculty] to report any suspected sexual misconduct to [the Title IX] office.”

Other Faculty Senate activities included a report on the current UNT budget, reviews of student retention statistics and the approval of several committee appointments.

The UNT Faculty Senate will convene again on Oct. 9 in the Union, room 332.

Featured ImageUNT Faculty Senate Chair Denise Catalano addresses the Faculty Senate during their meeting on Sept. 11, 2019. Image by Meredith Holser

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Carter Mize

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