Professor Mark Bee, chair, Senate and Faculty Consultative Committees

Professor Mark Bee pictured in the field

The University Senate – and its constituent senates and committees – took up a number of big issues this spring semester. From departmental statements to the arrests of student protestors, I encourage you to read more about these issues below. In this segment, I want to provide an update on arguably the most significant action taken by the University Senate in recent years: the Workforce Reinvestment Resolution (WRR), which was unanimously approved by the University Senate in April of last year.

The administration presented its response to the WRR and the task force report on which it is based to the University Senate at its April 2024 meeting (video). After the meeting, senators were surveyed to gather input on their perspectives concerning the administration's response. (The survey response rates were high, at ~100% for both civil service and P&A senators and ~70% for faculty senators!) I presented results from this survey to the Board of Regents at its May 2024 meeting. The survey results were clear: the University Senate leans toward dissatisfied with the current response and looks to the Board and our next president for greater investments in the workforce as part of our next strategic plan.

When senators were asked how satisfied they were with the administration's response to the Workforce Reinvestment Resolution, just 21% of respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied. Nearly twice as many were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. And when asked how important it is to see greater investment in the workforce in the University's next strategic plan, an overwhelming majority of senators indicated it is very important.

Graphs showing survey results as explained in text

I offer the following interpretation of these results based on the April 2024 senate meeting and the written survey responses received. Many senators concede the administration’s response may have gone as far as it could go in a year when we are transitioning to a new president and the legislature provided no new funding for the U’s core mission. But the senate is also clearly saying the response does not go far enough. Senators seek a new and aspirational vision for the institution that is rooted in the common sense notion that it's the University’s workforce – not our buildings, not our IT infrastructure – that ultimately brings our mission to life. To achieve that vision, we’ll need a strategic plan that outlines concrete actions aimed at doing the hard stuff that needs to be done. These are the messages I conveyed to the Board of Regents last week. And these are the messages we in University Senate leadership are committed to carrying forward into the next academic year.

I wish you all a rejuvenating and productive summer!

Vickie R. Courtney Award

The Vickie R. Courtney Award for Outstanding Service to University Senate Governance honors faculty, students, academic professional and administrative staff, and civil service staff systemwide who have made a significant impact on University Senate governance. This year’s recipients are Katherine Dowd, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, and Jessica Grittner.

Katherine Dowd headshot

Katherine Dowd began her University career as an NIH postdoctoral fellow, followed by more than 10 years as a P&A lecturer in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Science and Engineering. In 2011, she moved to an administrative leadership role in the School of Mathematics, where she is currently the administrative director and chief of staff.

Elected to the P&A Senate in 2012, Katherine was quickly recruited to serve as chair-elect of the P&A Senate and P&A Consultative Committee (PACC) in 2013, and went on to serve as chair. In this capacity, she was also a member of the Senate Consultative Committee and the University Senate. She also served on the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs (SCFA) from 2016-22, and was selected to chair the newly established Term Faculty & Academic Professionals Subcommittee (TFAPS) in 2022. In this role, Katherine has worked steadfastly to assemble the membership of the subcommittee, establish its charge, and identify and implement goals to benefit term and P&A faculty.

One of her nominators writes, “Katherine is an indefatigable advocate for shared governance, and for P&As at the University of Minnesota. She has the courage to put her values into action in her work toward helping to achieve the University’s mission and goals.”

Photo of Colleen Flaherty Manchester

Colleen Flaherty Manchester, professor, Department of Work and Organizations, Carlson School of Management, has served on the Faculty and Senate Consultative Committees (FCC and SCC, respectively) since 2018. She served as vice chair of both committees in 2021-22, and chair in 2022-23. During this time, she also served on the Faculty and University Senates, and twice chaired the FCC Nominating Subcommittee. As vice chair and then chair of the SCC, Colleen was instrumental in the development, socialization, and completion of the Workforce Reinvestment: Rebuilding a Better U for Employees resolution (WRR). This resolution, co-sponsored by the leaders of all four constituent senates, was unanimously supported by the University Senate and represented the largest collaborative effort between the four groups in recent memory. Colleen then served as one of three advisors to the task force that was charged to make recommendations to the administration regarding its response to the resolution.

Colleen’s tenure on and leadership of the FCC and SCC coincided with the post-pandemic reopening and gradual transition to the “new normal.” Her nominators wrote, “one of the most impressive aspects of Colleen’s leadership during COVID and the post-COVID transition was how she seamlessly integrated her research expertise with her work in governance… Her data and presentations around the impact COVID had on faculty were critical to helping the Board of Regents and administration understand the complexities of faculty burnout and engagement."

Jessica Grittner head shot

Jessica Grittner is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Rehabilitation Sciences Program in the Medical School, and has served for the past four years on the University Senate Disabilities Issues Committee. Jessica has been an active participant in cimmittee meetings and has made remarkable contributions to the committee. Notably, as a member of the Recovery Working Group, Jessica researched quantitative data and peer-reviewed papers from similarly sized campuses in the Midwest to create a worksheet that calculated the University of Minnesota’s estimated cost of unenrollment due to substance use disorders. She also researched recovery community support at peer institutions. This data was incorporated into the committee’s Resolution Supporting a Substance Misuse Recovery Community on Campus, and contributed greatly to making a compelling case for endorsement. The University Senate approved the resolution in April 2024. Jessica also volunteered to serve on a subcommittee advocating for a “Faces of Disability” campaign, which would be a collaborative, system-wide campaign to highlight the abilities and experiences of disabled faculty, staff, and students and to work toward dismantling ableism at the University of Minnesota. While the work of this group just started, Jessica has already volunteered to take on several tasks to support this effort.

Jessica also advanced the committee’s work through active participation in interviews for the current vice president for equity and diversity; as well as extensive fostering of relationships between the committee and other groups at the University, including but not limited to the Council of Graduate Students (COGS), the graduate assistant union (GLU-UE) organizing committee, and the Critical Disabilities Studies Collective.

The Big Issues

Israel/Gaza Position Statement

The University Senate recently approved a position statement on the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip, brought to the senate by a group of students. The statement condemns the suffering and loss of life as a result of the conflict, as well as addressing worldwide implications, including increased Islamophobia and Anti-semitism around the world. The statement was originally brought to the November 2023 University Senate meeting as a resolution under New Business, but the motion failed to achieve the 2⁄3 majority needed for immediate consideration. The resolution was therefore referred to the Senate Consultative Committee (SCC). The student authors worked in collaboration with SCC leadership, the University Senate Office, and other campus partners to bring the successful statement to the University and Student Senates in February 2024.

PELRA Reform

The Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) was passed by the Minnesota State Legislature in the 1970s to expand collective bargaining rights and provide procedures for unionization among Minnesota’s public sector employees. Earlier this year, two bills were introduced at the MN State Legislature seeking to modify the definition of a public employee. Initially standalone bills (SF 4597 and HF 4508), each bill was incorporated with other items to create omnibus bills in both the House (HF 5217) and the Senate (SF 5266). All articles in the omnibus bills will be voted on together, rather than each article having a separate vote. (Summaries of the proposed PELRA amendments are included in the omnibus bills: For the House summary, scroll to Article 6; for the Senate summary, scroll to Article 8.)

Both bills are still in committee and the session runs until May 20, 2024. Leaders of the Faculty, P&A, Civil Service, and Student Senates have been watching the bills carefully and keeping constituents up to date, as well as providing input to the administration. They also submitted an op-ed to the Star Tribune on the subject of PELRA reform and state financial support for the University (published on April 2, 2024). The administration has responded to the legislation by providing a fiscal note showing the bill’s possible economic impact on the University; testifying at the Capitol regarding the bill; and asking for the vote to be held over until the administration can consult with those on campus whom this bill would impact.

Unit Statements

After the incidents in Israel/Gaza on October 7, 2023, a number of units posted statements responding to the situation. University officials, like higher education administrators across the country, are struggling with how to balance academic freedom and freedom of speech with external pressure from the state legislature and donors with regard to such statements. As an interim measure, those posting statements have been required to include a disclaimer at the top and identify the authors and signatories. In December 2023, Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson met with the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T) to continue discussions (initiated in December 2022) to create a policy around departmental/unit statements on controversial subjects.

After much discussion, AF&T– and subsequently the Faculty Senate – passed a resolution calling on the administration to slow down the work to allow AF&T time to study the issue and make recommendations. AF&T also felt strongly that faculty should lead the conversation. The administration agreed to give AF&T until the end of May 2024 to provide recommendations, and the committee is working diligently to meet that deadline. Meanwhile, the administration is in the process of establishing a task force, made up of representatives from faculty governance as well as other faculty and additional University personnel. This task force is expected to consider AF&T’s guidelines as well as consult broadly within the University community to develop a proposed policy for consultation and action during the fall shared governance season. The hope is for the policy to be in place in December 2024.

Response to Arrest of Protestors

A group of 20 faculty senators, led by Teri Caraway, professor of political science, called a special meeting of the Faculty Senate to discuss and vote on a resolution regarding the arrest of nine student protestors on April 23, 2024. Senate leadership and the University Senate Office worked with the faculty senators to schedule the meeting for May 6, 2024. Between the first draft of the resolution and the special meeting, University leaders met with leaders of the student organizations who organized the protests and worked out a plan to move forward. The faculty senators amended the resolution to incorporate information from this agreement. At the special meeting, several amendments were offered, but ultimately voted down. The body voted to endorse the resolution with 63 in favor and 29 against.

Spotlight On: Jessie Barnett

By Erin Heath, director, University Senate Office

Jessie Barnett Headshot

Jessie Barnett’s professional journey reflects a steadfast dedication to student success. 

A native of Atlanta, GA, Barnett attended graduate school at the University of Georgia. While there, she realized she wanted to live and work in a tight-knit community that promoted work-life balance. While interviewing for teaching positions, Barnett gravitated towards the innovative teaching and learning environment of the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR). She has been an integral part of the campus community since 2014. 

At UMR, Barnett wears multiple hats, primarily focusing on teaching and service. As an instructional P&A employee, Barnett deeply connects to the University's academic mission. Her teaching portfolio spans diverse topics, from health policy and systems to engaging explorations of historical epidemics. Barnett cultivates a dynamic learning environment that fosters curiosity and critical thinking among her students, and her dedication garnered recognition with the prestigious Horace T. Morse Teaching Award in 2022, honoring her significant contributions to undergraduate education.

Barnett is a contributing member of the P&A Senate, the P&A Benefits and Compensation Subcommittee, and the Faculty Advisory Committee on the Health Sciences. She has also served on numerous committees local to UMR. When asked which service opportunity has been her favorite to be a part of, Barnett mentioned that she particularly enjoys being a part of the annual UMR Research and Education Symposium, which was “designed to provide a space for students to present their research in a supportive and dynamic environment,” which is often from “, internships, research programs, or student research opportunities alongside UMR faculty.” For Barnett, engaging in service provides opportunities to positively impact meaningful change while working with and on behalf of her students and colleagues.

Outside of the classroom, Barnett and her family (which includes her wife and two children under two!) enjoy exploring the natural beauty of their adopted state. Whether on the tranquil shores of Lake Superior or mentoring students in immersive field experiences, Barnett seamlessly integrates her passions with her professional pursuits. As she continues to promote personal and professional balance, I am thankful for her continued service—whether to her students, campus colleagues, or University Senate Governance.

A Message from the Director

Erin Heath, director, University Senate Office

Erin Heath headshot

As I prepare to step away from my role as director of the University Senate Office and University Awards and Honors, I find myself contemplating this saying: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.” During this season, I have had the chance to grow, learn, and positively contribute to the University’s rich history of shared governance. It has been an honor to serve the University in this capacity.

The past 2.5 years within University Senate Governance have been quite eventful. Some highlights include the University Senate-endorsed Resolution on Workforce Reinvestment, the institution’s efforts on namings and renamings, and hosting the Fall 2023 Big Ten Academic Alliance Faculty Senate Leadership Conference.

Shared governance is a collaborative endeavor. This work would not have been achievable without the active engagement of faculty, P&A, civil service, and students serving across 26 committees and five senates. It also relies on partnerships with the University administration and the Board of Regents. Most importantly, the invaluable contributions of the University Senate Office staff made it all possible. They are some of the most conscientious and genuine individuals I have worked with, and I will forever cherish our time together.

As a valued colleague says, the University has been open since 1851—an assuring constant in a time of what seems to be constant change. Summer will bring new opportunities. A new director will soon be appointed, and president-designate Rebecca Cunningham will begin on July 1. I wish the new director, the incoming president, and each of you nothing but success as the University continues to evolve.

With best wishes—


University Senate Governance Working 4 U

The University Senate and Senate Consultative Committee have general legislative authority over administrative matters concerning more than one campus or the University as a whole. In addition, each constituency (student, faculty, civil service, and P&A) has a separate senate, as well as an executive—or "consultative"—committee. Members of the consultative committees are elected to represent the respective bodies.