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Campus News
     
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: October 14, 2002
Volume 38, Number 7

Faculty Senate president Burris studies academic workplace

By Carolyn Gonzales

Professor Beverly BurrisAs a sociologist, Professor Beverly Burris studies the academic workplace. As president of Faculty Senate, she’s trying to improve it.

“Universities have experienced dramatic and rapid change. Nationally, they receive less from state government and more from tuition increases. Public institutions have experienced fiscal crises,” says Burris.

One result, she says, has been a decline in the number of tenure-track faculty positions. “Fully 75 percent of university faculties were tenure track in 1970. In 2002 it’s only about 50 percent. When you factor in graduate instructors, then it is less than half,” she says.

Another result is that faculty are less inclined to be involved in faculty governance.

“I want to revitalize the Faculty Senate and get more people involved. I’m convinced that with the dramatic and rapid changes in higher education, it’s necessary for them to get involved. I want faculty to want to be on the Faculty Senate,” says Burris.

She sees the corporatization of universities and the reliance of institutions on corporate dollars as helping to create a shift toward corporate style management in higher education.

“Universities nationally are seeing more of a top-down, CEO style of management rather than shared governance. We want to move back toward shared governance,” she says.

Burris believes faculty should be integrally involved in the search process for UNM’s next president. “We forwarded 12 names to the President’s Office. They selected three names at the October 8 Regents meeting,” she says.

A resolution passed in September’s Faculty Senate meeting calls for a candidates’ forum where all the UNM presidential finalists will be invited to speak and answer questions to an audience of individuals from the campus and the community.

Faculty Senate is also calling for a faculty regent. “I recently attended a meeting of Faculty Senate presidents from all of New Mexico’s four-year institutions. The resolution put forth by our faculty has passed that group as well,” says Burris. Ultimately, adding an additional regent to the other institutions and replacing a community regent with a faculty regent at UNM, must go to the state legislature and then to the voters to decide.

“The faculty is the heart of the university,” says Burris, “and a university cannot be strong without a strong faculty. Many faculty remain at an institution 20 to 30 years. Students, administrators and regents are more transient populations. The faculty tend to stay and as a result, they know and understand the institution.”

The Faculty Senate Government Relations Committee will be involved in lobbying on the compensation issue for faculty and staff.

“We lose our best faculty as we fall further and further behind our peer institutions. Those who leave are productive and mobile and have offers out there. This could result in a decline in the institution,” she says.

Burris adds that losing valuable faculty has a deleterious effect on graduate programs at UNM.

“Many good graduate students come because they want to work with specific faculty members who are well known in their field,” she says.

Burris, a full professor, has been at UNM since 1986. A native of Houston, she earned her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in sociology at Rice. She earned both her master’s and doctorate at New York University.

At home in Albuquerque with 13-year-old daughter Julia, Burris recently was invited to apply at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

“I thought about it for about 30 seconds and decided I didn’t want to live in Texas again,” she said.

Burris also served as president elect.

“Serving two years has real advantages. You can accomplish much more,” she says.