A new academic year can instill hope and optimism on college campuses. Feelings like these are heightened for DePaul’s Faculty Council this year with the arrival of the university’s new president.
On May 10, DePaul named Dr. Robert L. Manuel to be its next president. President Manuel has held office since Aug. 1, but in this short period, Faculty Council leadership already has a positive outlook for the new relationship between the two parties.
“There is a palpable sense of excitement. . . and hope across campus,” Faculty Council president Sonia Soltero said.
Soltero, who was re-elected to serve as the body’s president for the second consecutive year last spring, cited the extensive ovation for President Manuel at DePaul’s academic convocation ceremony on Sept. 1 as evidence of the community’s support and excitement for the new leader.
“I don’t remember ever seeing standing ovations for a president at convocation,” Soltero said. “It was rather remarkable.”
Communication between parties like Faculty Council and an institution’s presidential cabinet in university governance is crucial for a functional system. Soltero said that the new president has already met with council leadership multiple times during the summer to discuss immediate and long-term issues. Soltero sees this as not only a sincere effort to work with faculty but also an essential step in restoring trust and morale amongst DePaul’s educators and administration.
“He is both listening and hearing, and also asking for input on a number of proposed actions that align well with faculty concern,” Soltero said.
At convocation last week, Manuel spoke publicly on the importance of legislation, showing an understanding of its role in significant change at an institution like DePaul. He says that legislation cannot come without healthy, regular communication between Faculty Council and his office.
“It’s about what’s on the written paper,” Manuel said, referring to the legislative motions regularly brought forth by Faculty Council. “But it’s also about how [administration and Faculty Council] engage each other through that legislation.”
While communication is vital between the two parties of Faculty Council and DePaul’s president, it’s also key within a complex body like Faculty Council. Last spring, the council decided there was a need to improve correspondence within the group. To address this need, Faculty Council has added the new position of Communications Officer this year.
Christine Binder, chair of design and technology in DePaul’s theatre school, is taking on this new role. Before the change, communication largely fell on the shoulders of the Faculty Council secretary.
Council Secretary Toy Deiorio says Binder has already begun to ease some of the load that comes with corresponding between faculty leadership and faculty as a whole.
“We are still figuring out the logistics as we go,” Deiorio said. “But so far, it has helped to delegate and have another set of eyes and ears. . . focused on communication.”
Deiorio said the need for the new position was obvious to her, as engagement between faculty and Faculty Council hasn’t always come easy.
“I’ve been at DePaul for 15 years and have always thought that communication to and from Faculty Council has been something you had to actively seek out to understand [the] processes of shared governance,” Deiorio said.
As Faculty Council readies for its first meeting next week, several key items are at the top of the body’s mind to focus on for the upcoming year. Soltero says that addressing the recent climate survey is at the top of their list, along with creating a faculty academic strategic plan. She also says they have set their sights on working with Manuel, University Provost Salma Ghanem and Executive Vice President Sherri Sidler on several budget issues.
While there is much buzz and optimism to begin the academic year, Soltero conveyed that financially, times are tough everywhere. With a potentially looming enrollment cliff, rising inflation, and the cost of living at an all-time high, Soltero understands that obstacles lie ahead. Still, she believes the right leaders are in place at DePaul to get through this period.
“The only way to face these challenges. . . is with a leader who understands our potential and can envision the possibilities,” Soltero said. “Dr. Manuel is the right person for the right time.”
Connect with Patrick Sloan-Turner: @PatSloanTurner | [email protected]