North Texas Daily

Provost updates faculty senate in first meeting of the semester

Provost updates faculty senate in first meeting of the semester

Provost updates faculty senate in first meeting of the semester
September 13
18:57 2023

Provost Michael McPherson gave updates concerning diversity, equity and inclusion, faculty and graduate student compensation and current recruitment and retention issues during the first faculty senate meeting of the semester Wednesday afternoon.

In an email sent to university faculty and staff on Aug. 1, President Neal Smatresk announced the closing of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Office on Oct. 1 in order to comply with Senate Bill 17, which bans higher education institutions from having DEI offices. In an interview with the North Texas Daily last month, Smatresk confirmed the administration was in the process of helping IDEA office employees find employment. McPherson confirmed that everyone from the IDEA office will have jobs when the office closes.

“They may be a different job in some cases, but they’re all going to be taken care of,” McPherson said.

The retirement of Joanne Woodard, the current Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access, coincides with the closing of the IDEA office. The faculty senate thanked her and awarded her with a certificate of appreciation.

“It’s been an enjoyable experience as I’ve finished my course as vice president,” Woodard said as she accepted the certificate. “I think I’ve left UNT a little better than I found it, but I go with the profound hope that you all will continue the work of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The Equal Opportunity and Title IX office will be moved to Finance and Administration, and the Multicultural Center and the Pride Alliance will be moved to the Division of Student Affairs, McPherson said. The Provost also confirmed that despite current “hiccups in the construction process,” the university still plans to build the new Multicultural Center.

McPherson informed the faculty senate that the Office of General Counsel is currently confirming if other committees and groups “run afoul of the law,” including DEI committees in the different colleges and faculty and employee resource groups, but that he believes they “will continue exactly as they have.”

The other main update McPherson gave to the faculty senate was compensation for faculty and graduate students. McPherson said the size of the raise for faculty depends on whether the Texas University Fund, which gives the university access to a $20 million fund, passes the vote in November. 

“[The TUF] is a game-changer for us in many ways including allowing the president to make good on his promise of getting us closer to market value,” McPherson said.

In terms of graduate students, McPherson said the administration is looking into improving the tuition benefit program, offering healthcare to graduate students and improving stipends.

“If we get some money from TUF, it hasn’t been decided which of those three levels we’re going to pull first, but my sense is it probably will be a modest increase in stipends,” McPherson said.

McPherson said he recognized that due to certain laws that passed the last state legislative session, members of faculty have left and other prospective faculty members that rejected job offers. McPherson asked the faculty senate to “do the best we can to make this community” one that people want to be in. 

“It’s very easy for us to get very upset — and I do myself — about things that happen in Austin. But what helps me — might help you too — is to remind myself of the reason that I’m here, the reason that all of us are here. We still have the same mission, we still are doing the same stuff, we still have the power to change lives. 

McPherson informed the faculty senate that the Office of Disability Access is moving from Sage Hall to Chestnut Hall, in order to increase the amount of testing spaces they can accommodate. Currently, there are 16 testing spaces in Sage Hall, but the new space in Chestnut Hall will have between 26 and 31 spaces, according to the Provost. 

The next faculty senate meeting will be on Oct. 11, and more information can be found on their website.

Featured Image: University provost Michael McPherson speaks to the faculty senate on Sept. 13, 2023. John Anderson

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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