The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Office space, downward expansion addressed at Faculty Senate

By Alma Linda Manzanares

Office space in the new Central Academic Building, scheduled to open July 2014, was discussed Friday during the Faculty Senate meeting at Texas A&M-San Antonio’s Brooks City-Base Campus.

President Brian Brantley said he learned during a meeting Oct. 29 with Provost Brent Snow, that offices in the Central Academic Building are being built to potentially accommodate two faculty members per office.

A 15-minute conversation on the topic ensued weighing the importance of faculty input on the office space issue. Members were in favor of the administration communicating such decisions to the senate prior to a decision being made to increase faculty input.

Seven out of 13 senate members, and Brantley who serves as non-voting president, were present at the meeting.

Although space is limited on both of the university’s campuses, Brantley said student and faculty population will continue to grow.

“We’re not going to have another building on campus for at least another four years,” Brantley said. “We’re not going to stop trying to grow our student population. We’re not going to stop growing our faculty population to try and teach that student population.”

Tuition revenue bonds were rejected for all Texas public higher education institutions during the third special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature. A&M-San Antonio requested $79 million in the form of tuition revenue bonds for two buildings: the science and technology building and central and physical plant.

Melissa Jozwiak, assistant professor of early childhood education, said she thinks the senate needs representation on planning committees.

“It may be an imbalance of whose voices are being heard. Maybe spaces would be used for things that could in fact provide more faculty offices and they may be designated for other purposes,” she said.

Brantley said the senate is represented on the university’s Space Management Committee, which oversees effective space utilization.

Jozwiak said while the university will grow in student population, faculty quality and the talent attracted to the university may be affected.

“Office space seems very trivial, but the fact is if you have the choice of two offers between two universities, and one you’re going to share an office with another faculty member: That would be a deal breaker for me,” she said. “I think it’s really going to have a long-term consequence for this university in terms of our ability to function.”

Office sharing affects the quality and services faculty give students, said Claire Nolasco, assistant professor of criminology.

Vice President Ed Westermann agreed and said conflicting office hours, student privacy and faculty work spaces will have to be addressed if two faculty members will share a single office. He said administration should have considered faculty input before the decision was made.

Secretary Vicky Elias said the broader issue is the senate is not kept up to date on decisions made by administration, as it is at other universities. “It’s a check and balance on the administration that prevents them from working in the dark. That’s not a relationship that faculty have in any way,” she said.

Brantley asked the senate to email their concerns to him so he can discuss them with Snow at their next meeting to show the importance of the issue. “This is not anything that we’re taking lightly,” he said. “We can be upset about this and we can try and change this going forward, but this is just the reality of us growing.”

A survey conducted by the senate, ranking faculty priorities and presented at the meeting, revealed office space was ranked as the least important issue among 59 faculty members surveyed. The two most important issues were faculty merit increases and annual teaching, scholarships and service awards.

The forming of standing committees to work on issues presented by the survey was tabled until the senate had better representation.

In other news, Brantley said he received an email Oct. 31 from Snow saying the university is not ready to formalize a Faculty Senate committee for downward expansion because approval to teach freshman and sophomore courses, and funding from the Legislature, is needed.

“Any committee formed would certainly include some members of the Faculty Senate, as well as additional members,” Brantley said, reading from the email.

Jozwiak asked if the senate is to understand from the email that “no discussion, no plans in any way shape or form, regarding downward expansion will happen prior to the funding being approved?”

Westermann said since the university must justify to the Legislature what the downward expansion funding would be used for, “That can’t be logically correct. That requires a specific planning that is associated with numbers of faculty members that’s based on numbers and variables of students, so this cannot be correct.”

Elias said she is uncomfortable with waiting for the administration to ask the senate for input on downward expansion. “We have a track record that kind of indicates that we get brought in at the last minute after a lot of the decisions have already been made,” she said. “Our response to the provost should be, ‘We understand that you’re not ready, but it’s our opinion that this is the time to begin to get ready.’”

The senate could not make a motion on the issue because they did not have a quorum after Nolasco left the meeting early.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in Room 353 at Main Campus Building.

About the Author

Alma Linda Manzanares
Alma Linda Manzanares is the Editor-in-Chief for The Mesquite. She is a communications major with a passion for journalism. Alma Linda attended San Antonio College and held four editor positions: Opinion/Calendar Editor, Managing Editor, Editor and Web Editor at The Ranger, the award winning newspaper at SAC. She received her A.A. in Journalism from SAC in May 2013.

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