By Carol Bredemeyer, Assistant Director for Patron Services, Chase College of Law Library, Northern Kentucky University
Librarians have argued for years about the benefits and drawbacks of having faculty
status. I'd like to tell you about an experience I have had as a librarian with faculty status.
I have served as a Faculty Senator at Northern Kentucky University for several years (The
College of Law has three seats in the Senate; one is reserved traditionally for the Law
Library.). I served on the Executive Committee three times and I serve on it this year as
Chair of the Professional Concerns Committee. I have served also as one of NKU's
representatives to COSFL (the Coalition of Senate and Faculty Leadership), a group of
faculty leaders from the state universities of Kentucky.
Many of the early COSFL meetings I attended were devoted to sharing information from our campuses. Very often the problems at one campus turn up at another. Staff from the Council on Higher Education (CHE - the state coordinating agency) were always willing to come and talk with us, but their leadership didn't seem interested in working with us. One of our interests was to gain a faculty seat on the Council; there was already a student representative. We had little success working with legislators on this issue and, of course, the university presidents were not particularly interested.
In 1995, Paul Patton was elected Governor of Kentucky. He said that he wanted to be the "Higher Education Governor" - doing for higher education what the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act did for elementary and secondary education. COSFL asked for a meeting with the Governor, which took place in April 1996 at his office. Although Patton said he was not willing to appoint a faculty member to the Task Force on Post Secondary Education, he was forming (He said he wanted to keep it free of interest groups - we felt we were more than an interest group, but that's another story.), he did encourage us to provide information to the Task Force. Over the next few months, our members wrote six papers on a variety of topics to present to the Task Force.
One of the recommendations of the Task Force was to revamp the CHE and give it more authority. COSFL saw this as an opportunity. The Governor called a special session of the legislature in May 1997. We drafted an amendment calling for the CHE to include a faculty representative in the legislation and were able to secure a sponsor to introduce it. Luckily, the legislative session took place after spring semester and COSFL members were able to be in Frankfort daily to monitor the status of our amendment - and it changed often (Bismarck's observation that "no man should see how laws or sausages are made" was accurate.). Our amendment was one of the few that stayed in the bill.
Faculty now have a voting representative on the new Council on Post Secondary Education (CPE). We were fortunate that one of the original co-sponsors of the bill was a former NKU faculty member, who was sympathetic to our assertion that faculty should have a voice on the Council. Other parts of the bill provided for additional general funding, as well as special program trust funds for universities.
The CPE faculty representative meets regularly with COSFL. We have been one of several groups invited to submit ideas and feedback for CPE's Strategic Agenda and Strategic Implementation Plan. The Strategic Agenda has been adopted and some of our ideas are in it. In November 1997, COSFL members were invited to a lunch meeting by Governor Patton to discuss higher education issues. To our knowledge, it was the first time a Kentucky governor had ever invited faculty to discuss issues. We also had a day-long meeting this past June with CPE staff to discuss the final draft of the Strategic Agenda, the process for the Strategic Implementation Plan, and special funds available to universities. COSFL looks forward to continuing this working relationship. By the time you read this, we will have met with the newly appointed CPE President.
Librarians might be particularly interested in the way COSFL meets. Even though we meet in Lexington or Louisville, this is still a long distance for our colleagues from Western Kentucky and Murray State Universities. During the past year, those members have been connecting with us via satellite from their own campuses. There are some minor drawbacks - for example, the time delay on laughter when something humorous is said. We also tease our distant colleagues about eating virtual donuts. They also miss the conversations that take place after the meeting adjourns (We can get only two hours of satellite time.). However, we have greater participation from those distant campuses as a result of the link - the most important issue, after all. We also communicate via email and a listserv.
All too often, library issues are lost or forgotten in academia. COSFL has been a rewarding experience for me because I know that my presence plays an important role in giving voice to "the library point of view."