Senate President’s remarks to the Board, November 2016

Posted on January 2, 2017 by

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Senate President Dr. Melissa Miller-Waters:

Good afternoon, Chancellor, Honored Trustees, colleagues, ladies and gentleman.

The Faculty Senate has been busy this month, and I have few key updates. I am proud to report to you that the donations to our Bedichek-Orman fund from our annual auction have continued to grow; the Foundation has informed us that we have gifts totaling $15,595.95 which will be used as professional development grants to our adjunct faculty. Further, the Faculty Senate has confirmed the goals for the year of the Compensation and Benefits Committee’s as the goals of the entire Senate, and I will present them to the Chancellor at our next meeting. Additionally, we are in the process of forming an Adjunct Caucus, and our intention is that that group, led by Faculty Senators who are adjuncts, will be up and running early in the Spring Semester.

I had the privilege to attend several of the Xpresso Yourself events in which the Chancellor, Dr. Brewer, and Chief Cunningham apprised us on the next phase of transformation, one which centers around “the ultimate student experience.” Envisioning the students in this manner–as complex, fully realized humans—is fundamental to our mission. Coincidentally, I also attended the culminating event of the Reading Culture Series: HCC’s Reading Culture grew out of the original national Bridging Cultures initiative which sought to “engage the power of the humanities to promote understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.” Given HCC’s multi-ethnic population, the value of a deliberate exploration of diverse cultures through systematic and guided programing at the college has immense value. Each semester, Reading Culture focuses on a unique culture and offers discussions about the geography, food, culture, history, and art of particular places. In past semesters, programs focused on Columbia, Indonesia, Cuba, and Haiti. This semester, the book selection was The Unquiet Dead, by Ausma Zehanat Kahn; The Unquiet Dead is a detective novel set in in the Bosnian expat community of Toronto, Canada. The country and culture of focus was Bosnia, and we had the author, Dr. Kahn speak at the college last week. Of Indian and Pakistani descent, she speaks movingly as a Canadian Muslim woman and an expert in International Law about immigration, belonging, alienation, and process of othering. These kinds of events are vital to “an ultimate college experience,” and the students found her talk intellectually inspiring and timely. Going forward, we should provide appropriate resources for these types of events, and I hope that, as Student Services transforms, we will create more opportunities for these types of programs.

 

Ausma Khan spoke to a group of 70 students on Wednesday, November 9, and her talk was captured on video so that others may view it. As you well know, HCC ranks as the number one community college in the nation in hosting international students and we consistently serve and graduate students from diverse backgrounds, always striving for inclusive excellence. It’s a point of pride for us. After last week’s election, faculty—as the group who has the most consistent contact with our students—have been fielding questions and listening to students who express authentic and sincere safety concerns. My intention is not to make a political statement or take a partisan stance; rather, I wish to make you aware that some of our students are legitimately worried. Individual faculty have facilitated discussions in their classes. The Philosophy and Humanities division, under the leadership of Dr. Nathan Smith, hosted roundtable discussions where faculty facilitated student conversations about the process and outcomes of the election and also addressed deeper political and philosophical questions. That division saw a unique opportunity for our college community to provide a space for critical reflection and dialogue about significant contemporary events. Faculty have done their best to reassure our students that we welcome them, we support them, we listen to them, and we will defend them. I urge the Chancellor and the Trustees to affirmatively declare your support of our student body, for a fundamental piece of the “ultimate student experience” is a baseline of safety, security, and acceptance.

During last week’s Faculty Senate monthly meeting, we learned that the History faculty conducted a survey of students regarding food insecurity. More than 250 students attending classes at the Katy campus responded: nearly 35% of those students indicated that they did not have enough food at least once a week; 20% said their families did not have enough food at least once a week; almost 28% said their schoolwork suffers because they do not have enough to eat; 85.5% said they would donate to an on campus food pantry; and 80% said they would use an on campus food pantry if they found themselves in need. (If food insecurity is a significant issue at the Katy campus, it’s entirely reasonable to extrapolate those results to our other campuses.) So, the History department started a grassroots food pantry housed in their Chair’s office, and more than 100 students have used it so far. Their efforts inspired other faculty senators to attempt similar grassroots food pantries at their campuses. I know other groups are undertaking similar efforts. (For example, Central’s Student Government Association’s most recent clothes drive—the Pink Elephant Drive:  SGA Central President, Mona Mosley organized a clothes and coat drive.  Over 100 students took advantage of the event to get a warm coat or an outfit for interviewing.  The students who benefited were so grateful.) We have the opportunity, with the transformation of Student Services, to undertake a serious, scalable poverty initiative, and faculty stand ready to partner in any way we can.

On a personal note, I am both honored and blessed to work with faculty colleagues who willingly jump in and help out wherever there’s a need. I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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