Volunteers work the drive-thru COVID-19 testing
Volunteers work the drive-thru COVID-19 testing

Faculty Senate met virtually November 4 via Microsoft Teams and they were joined by President Neeli Bendapudi.

President Bendapudi reviewed the university’s commitment to anti-racism. Updates were provided to senators on the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equity (CODRE), current progress on commitments made in the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, and the financial benefits of healthcare expansion.

CODRE has been tasked with developing a plan to implement the university’s anti-racism agenda. CODRE is considering reforms and actions needed within five key groups in the university community: faculty, staff, students, administrators and trainees, which was identified as a subcategory of students. A representative from the Office of Diversity and Equity will be assigned to each broad area and will assist in future implementation of anti-racist policies and practices.  

Updates were also given about the university’s Strategic Plan. The plan outlines a commitment to increase need-based aid for first-time freshmen to 20% by the year 2022. Bendapudi was proud of the progress made on this commitment, reporting an increase from 8% to 17% as of this year. 

Bendapudi added that efforts toward diversity and equity are also related to the university’s healthcare enterprise expansion, which included UofL Health-Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, the only hospital in Louisville located west of Interstate 65. Last year’s healthcare acquisitions as well as partnerships made with Norton pediatrics have proven to be strong financial assets for the university.

“In my third year, we are much stronger financially than we were, and we are making investment in things that we think matter,” she said. 

Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm addressed a student petition for a pass/fail option for the fall 2020 semester. Both the Academic Scenario Planning Committee and the Coordinating Committee determined that this would not be in the best interest of students or the university for many reasons, including accreditation for future semesters.

The Academic Scenario Planning Committee is reviewing the use of proctoring software, specifically Respondus, which depends on facial detection. Concerns about racial bias within the software were brought before the committee over the summer. Faculty members and students are contributing to the committee and they are working diligently to prepare recommendations for the future. The provost emailed all faculty on Nov.6 with a warning about this bias.   

Both Bendapudi and Boehm gave remarks on the importance of flu vaccines in the coming months. TAll faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to take advantage of the free flu shots administered through Campus Health Services, even if they will not be physically attending courses in the coming semester.

Senators were provided updates on COVID-19 testing by the executive director of Campus Health Services, Phillip Bressoud.

Bressoud announced that Campus Health Services will be adding molecular Helicase Chain Reaction (HCR) testing for COVID-19. This new testing option is approximately half the cost of traditional Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. Hundreds of the new HCR tests can be processed daily in office. It is expected that the new testing option will be available in December.

A winter break schedule is being developed so that COVID-19 testing can continue being available on campus. The testing site at Cardinal Station Health Center will be open between Dec. 18 and Jan. 4 in order to accommodate health care employees and the campus community. 

Senators received an update on a PeopleSoft HR software replacement from M. Rehan Khan, vice president of Information Technology Services and chief information officer. The system, initially developed in the 1990s, has inherent inefficiencies that can contribute to increasing costs and negatively impacting user experience.

The ITS team diligently worked within the campus community over the last year by engaging stakeholders across 20 departments for participation and feedback, conducting interviews with 14 higher education institutions using other software, and price negotiation among vendors. The result of their efforts showed overwhelming support for Workday HR Software.

Kahn reported that a recommendation to the provost and chief financial officer has been made in favor of selecting Workday as the replacement for PeopleSoft. The cloud-based HR software will be introduced to the university gradually in two-year phases, the first of which is set to begin in January 2021.

Committee reports and a video recording of the virtual meeting can be accessed on the Faculty Senate meetings webpage. The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2 via Microsoft Teams.