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University of Kentucky Board Dissolves Century-Old University Senate; Faculty Voices Dissent

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In a surprising move, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees voted to dissolve the century-old University Senate, fundamentally altering the institution's governance structure.

The University Senate, composed of faculty members with the authority to approve or reject new academic programs and courses, will now shift to an advisory role. This decision transfers significant policy-setting power to President Eli Capilouto and other administrators, a change aimed at making the university more "nimble" and streamlining the decision-making process, according to Capilouto.

University of Kentucky Board Dissolves Century-Old University Senate; Faculty Voices Dissent

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Mhuy222)

Reasons for the Change

President Capilouto and supporters of the decision argue that the changes are necessary to modernize the university's governance and improve efficiency. Capilouto emphasized that the new structure would allow the university to respond more quickly to changing academic and administrative needs. Capilouto recognized that not all individuals endorse the current process or the resulting recommendations and revisions, showing respect for dissenting views.

Despite this acknowledgment, the decision has been met with significant opposition from faculty members. Hollie Swanson, the only dissenting vote on the Board of Trustees, pointed to the "absence of any compelling evidence" for the change. Faculty members have expressed concerns that the dissolution of the Senate undermines their role in shaping the academic direction of the university. Philipp Rosemann, president of the University of Kentucky's American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter, emphasized that faculty should have ultimate authority on curriculum decisions "because they are the experts."

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Faculty and Student Reactions

The reaction among the university community has been mixed. While the plan has support from some student and staff representatives who believe it will diversify perspectives in decision-making, faculty members have voiced strong opposition for months. In a vote of no confidence last month, the University Senate expressed its dissatisfaction with President Capilouto's leadership. DeShana Collett, former chair of the University Senate, voiced her disappointment following the board's decision, stating, "They orchestrated this significant change without involving the faculty who have extensive knowledge of and passion for UK. I fear that the consequences will be deeply felt over the next several years until there is a change in leadership."

The Path Forward

With the dissolution of the current University Senate, a provisional faculty senate executive committee has been established. This 22-member committee, chaired by UK Provost Robert DiPaola, will oversee the transition until a new faculty Senate is selected by October 31, according to the guidelines approved by the Board of Trustees. The process for determining the new Senate's rules and its creation is already underway, with the aim of maintaining some level of faculty involvement in university governance.

The choice to disband the University Senate marks a notable change in how the University of Kentucky is governed. As the university navigates this transition, the administration and faculty will need to find ways to collaborate effectively to ensure that the academic integrity and reputation of the institution are upheld. The coming months will be crucial in determining how this new governance structure impacts the university's operations and its ability to fulfill its educational mission.

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