On Tuesday, March 23, Stan State’s Academic Senate held its fifth meeting of the spring 2021 semester. During the meeting, senators discussed various topics and addressed ongoing issues.
The meeting consisted of conversations about student mental health, a message regarding Asian hate on behalf of Stan State’s Ethnic Studies program, plans of a safe campus transition, issues regarding facial recognition technology, and the process of searching for a graduate dean.
Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) Steven Wood discussed how the committee met last week and spent most of the meeting talking with campus experts on mental health about the growing concern for the emotional well-being of the campus community.
“Mental health is something that is attracting more and more of our attention to the emotional well-being, and the physiological well-being of the campus community including faculty, students, staff and administrators,” Wood stated.
As the FAC met with campus experts to discuss the seriousness regarding mental health, Wood is hopeful in continuing the pursuit of this topic due to the growing concern.
Wood also included that the FAC spent most of their time looking at hiring faculty and developing a diverse body of faculty at Stan State. “We will be having guests come talk to us about their work on diversity and faculty hiring,” Wood said.
Words From Behalf of Ethnic Studies Regarding Asian Hate
In regards to the relentless waves of hate and attack against Asian Americans that have risen across the country this year, senator Mary Roaf spoke on behalf of the ethnic studies department here at Stan State.
Roaf highlighted the fact that Stan State’s ethnic studies program has the most potentially impactful opportunity in the 52 years since students created ethnic studies as a discipline in the CSU system to combat racially charged hate.
Roaf said, “We need to address systemic, law standing white supremacy in very strategic and intentional ways. I am here to speak on behalf of the ethnic studies program here at Stan State in solidarity and alignment with the CSU’s Ethnic Studies entire council. Any proposal that does not clearly state that AB1460 is the law, that it not only mandates the creation and implementation of the stand alone ethnic studies graduation requirements means it is not to be conflated with other disciplines it is not to be double counted.”
Ensuring Safe Campus Repopulation
Continuing the conversation of a safe campus transition that was previously discussed in past Academic Senate meetings, Senator Cathlin Davis, Chair of the University Education Policy Committee (UEPC) shared an update on the matter.
"We are asking the chancellor's office to be a little more thoughtful about the way that we are transitioning back to campus. We are striving to ensure that we have effective collaboration between faculty, the unions, administration, students, and staff to make sure our population plans are safe and effective for everyone involve,” Davis said.
Moreover, the plans of reopening campus are still being discussed and now the UEPC are working on involving people from all areas of the Stan State campus community.
Issues Surrounding Facial Recognition Software
Senator Cathlin Davis continued the conversation with concerns the UEPC has regarding algorithmic image recognition or facial recognition software.
A concern UEPC expressed dealt with asking the CSU to cease any use of facial recognition technology unless it is for academic research. Davis stated that the problem with facial recognition has to do with privacy issues such as biometric data and mentions that much of the algorithms around the issue are often quite racist.
When asked by Senator Steven Wood on whether the CSU is currently using the facial recognition software and if Stan State is using it, Davis replied, “It is used on different campuses and I’m unsure if Stan State is using it. Basically, a lot of it is used in very sensitive areas of different campuses. We are asking that it recognizes darker skin tones and it is not invasive.”
Furthermore, the UEPC wants to tackle the phenomenon of facial recognition before it poses a genuine problem.
Anysia Mayer of the Stan State Graduate Council explained that the Council was very busy the last time they met, but for good reasons as they are in the process of searching for a graduate dean.
They spent time discussing the position description in their vision for a Graduate Dean and what exactly a graduate school would look like on campus and the role of current graduate programs.
However, questions were not asked during this time of the meeting due to uncertainty surrounding the search.
“I don't think I can answer specific questions about the committee quite yet but it is essentially going to be restarting the committee because we were in the process of the search last year when we all shut down for Covid-19,” Mayer stated.
The Graduate Council has hope in finishing the search soon.
The next Academic Senate meeting will be held on April 20.