Faculty Senate votes to create two new departments in semester’s first meeting

Developments on smoking policy, grad student enrollment discussed

The Department of Global Gender Studies will break away from the Transnational Studies Department and return to its former stand-alone status, after a unanimous Faculty Senate vote on Tuesday to create the new Department of Global Gender and Sexual Studies.

The Senate passed two other resolutions at its first general meeting of the spring semester on Tuesday. The first resolution called for a new Department of Engineering Education and the other supported a UBreathe Free Resolution, the latest development in a two-year long battle to enforce UB’s no-smoking policy on campus. Provost Charles Zukoski and President Satish Tripathi attended the meeting and reported to faculty members on a range of issues, from declining graduate student enrollment to updates on the Downtown Medical Campus move.

Dean Robin Schulze spoke in favor of the new Global Gender Studies department before the vote, emphasizing the growing need for interdisciplinary studies at UB in order to compete with peer institutions.

Gender studies faculty began pushing to break away from the Transnational Studies umbrella when Schulze took over the College of Arts and Sciences in 2016.

“There’s a tremendous amount of research expertise in this area that is not being leveraged at this point,” Schulze said. “This department has tremendous non-academic outcomes for students. That’s one of the things I’m most interested in –– finding places where our students can go who are not going to just be Ph.Ds in academia but are going off to other places and working all over the place. For me, that’s absolutely vital.”

Zukoski presented the latest enrollment information, which showed graduate and professional student enrollment dropped significantly this year, despite a steady increase in undergraduate applicants over the last three years.

Graduate applications declined 9 percent in the last year, master’s applications declined 12 percent and international master’s applications have declined 16 percent, according to Zukoski. The declines have been across the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Management, Pharmacy, Engineering and the dental school.

Much of the shift is in international student enrollment, according to Zukoski.

“I get concerned about the drops in the number of graduate students we’re seeing because the graduate students are sort of what defines us as a research university. … I worry that we aren’t sort of protecting that research university mission,” Zukoski said.

The decline in graduate and professional student enrollment, which provides significantly more revenue than undergraduates through tuition, also means less money per student. This comes at a time where there are record numbers of students on-campus.

“Historically, graduate school applications peak in mid-March, so the advice we’re giving to units is to encourage completion of applications and accept students as rapidly as possible,” Zukoski said.

Jonathan Katz, a Ph.D director in the Visual Studies Department, asked Zukoski if he thought decline in graduate students might correlate with faculty cuts, particularly across the humanities over the last five years.

“I entered a department that had eight ladder track faculty; we are now three,” Katz said. “Clearly, excellence is the driver for grad education and we are missing the boat on that because we’re not getting the faculty we need.”

Zukoski said he wasn’t sure if there is a correlation between decline in faculty and decline in graduate students because enrollment issues vary across departments.

“But wouldn’t you agree that at minimum, logically speaking, a constriction in the number of faculty would produce a drop off in graduate enrollment?” Katz asked.

The correlation is possible, but there are other examples that wouldn’t work for this explanation, Zukoski said.

The amount of tenure-track faculty on campus has decreased nearly 8 percent since 2007, according to data from the Office of the Provost’s website.

Tripathi addressed the move to the downtown medical campus, saying he expects construction for a bridge connecting the school to the rest of the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus to be finished by next winter.

The UBreathe Free committee sent its final report to Tripathi before winter break, a resolution that proposed exacting fines and community service to people caught smoking on campus. Tripathi did not agree with the recommendations, and instead asked the committee to identify where the most smoking is done on campus and to increase signage and smoking education around those areas.

“As much as Phil thinks I can impose a fine on you, I really can’t,” Tripathi said. “There are issues of collective bargaining and so on. If Phil can find a law that can be implemented to impose a fine on you, I’ll do that. In the meantime, I think it’s in the best interest of all of us to have more education and communication.”

Ezra Zubrow, president of the university’s United University Professions labor chapter said the smoking issue is contractual in nature. It can’t be enforced without negotiating with UUP, something the university has not yet done, he said.

Glick said the UBreathe Free committee is looking for a group of volunteers to help spread non-smoking education, which will probably be rolled out in the fall. The committee also plans on meeting with local unions, UB’s Student Life department and the Human Resources department to come up with ways to enforce the non-smoking policy.

“What we learned from the year the committee was together was that simple culture change and trying to teach people how bad smoking is just doesn’t work and there needs to be some sort of stick besides just the carrot,” Glick said. “So we’ll see how that goes.”

Glick will meet with Erie County legislator Patrick Burke later this week to discuss the possibility of a county ordinance to make it unlawful to smoke on campus, he said.

Glick also announced the creation of an ad-hoc committee charged with assessing and filling potential gaps for the needs of student veterans, active duty students and ROTC students.

In the coming weeks, the Senate will hear the reports from a committee established last fall to analyze UB’s gender-salary equity. It will also celebrate its third annual shared governance day on March 6.

The next Senate meeting is March 13.

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com.