Dordt College News

Dordt elects its first senators

January 11, 2009

Provost Erik Hoekstra refers to “water cooler” conversations and faculty member James Schaap talks about learning to dance together as they describe the meetings of the new Academic Senate.

Both agree that the Senate has provided a way to have good conversations between faculty and academic administrators about how Dordt College should practice its mission and move into the future.

The Academic Senate began this year, putting in place another piece of the administrative restructuring that also changed the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs to Provost.

Members of the Academic Senate are from back and across: Duane Bajema, Hubert Krygsman, Art Attema, Bob De Smith, James Schaap, Jim Bos, Sherri Lantinga, Ethan Brue, Pat Kornelis, Charles Veenstra, Wayne Kobes, John Kok, Carl Zylstra, Bethany Schuttinga, and Erik Hoekstra.“Our primary responsibility is to talk about issues that relate to our academic mission,” says Senate Chair Hubert Krygsman, who has played a crucial role in helping the new body find its proper role in campus life.

Developing serviceable insight happens chiefly through the faculty, but faculty cannot teach and navigate all of the relationships, influences, and changes in society that have an impact on education, says Provost Erik Hoekstra. The Senate is a place for discussion in a smaller setting for people who see different parts of the educational picture.

The Senate is made up of sixteen members, fourteen of whom can vote. The college president and provost are nonvoting members. Other members include the Associate Provost for Co-Curricular Programs, the chair and secretary of the faculty, the three division deans, one faculty member from each division, and three atlarge faculty members.

“There’s an intimacy that’s started to develop between the members,” says Hoekstra, who is pleased with the collaborative spirit, understanding, and wisdom that has characterized the early meetings. He adds, “We didn’t have a good venue for this kind of sharing of ideas before.” Three large faculty meetings per year were neither frequent enough nor small enough to function in this way. The smaller Senate allows participants to explore and constructively challenge ideas that relate to the academic program.

Hoekstra, who often refers to one of his favorite resources for working together effectively, Stephan Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, notes that for people to work together they need to trust one another’s intent.

“People tend to judge themselves by their intent and judge others by their behavior,” says Hoekstra. He has urged all members of the Senate to assume the best of intentions from each other as they wrestle with what it means to be Christians in this organization.

“God does bless us when we are faithful,” says Hoekstra.

“It feels like we are moving forward,” said Dr. Pat Kornelis, the faculty secretary of the Senate, noting that productive discussions have been held. She believes that discussions about enrollment management that were recently on the table of the Senate would not have happened before the Senate was formed. Yet enrollment issues directly affect faculty. Faculty and administrators share their insights, discuss with integrity, and call each other to accountability in ways that Kornelis believes will make the institution stronger.

Schaap, too, believes that the creation of the Senate has been good for the college. “The atmosphere has been very open,” he says. Administrators listen to faculty contributions and faculty respond to administrative ideas and proposals for the academic program.

Faculty representatives on the Senate are elected by their colleagues, and they take their responsibility to their peers seriously. Kornelis says she feels responsible for getting input from other faculty. Schaap, convinced that it provides a good way for faculty to hear administrative ideas, believes that as this new institutional entity grows, the transparent conversations will benefit the institution.

Senate meeting agendas are sent to all faculty members and anyone may attend. Minutes are distributed after the meetings in a timely manner. The faculty assembly that has been in existence will continue to meet three times each year and still will be primarily a place to report on policy and curricular issues facing the institution. But now those reports and discussions will have had significantly more team development because of the work of the Senate.

“The Senate is giving faculty more opportunity to participate in decision making, enabling us to work together more effectively and function more collegially,” adds Senate Chair Hubert Krygsman.

"We’re still learning how to do this,” adds Schaap, noting that the dance likely will
continue for some time.


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