UofL’s Faculty Senate held its latest meeting Dec. 1, with updates provided on final candidates in the search for vice president for diversity and equity, COVID-19 vaccination rates and recent changes to vaccine mandates due to a federal injunction. Faculty senators also unanimously approved a new academic program — a master of science in accountancy and analytics offered through the College of Business.

Michael Wade Smith, vice president for university relations and chief of staff, provided senators with information on the vice president for diversity and equity search. The search committee evaluating candidates for this role include Wade Smith and 18 other university leaders, faculty and staff, with representation from UofL’s Black Faculty and Staff Association, AAPI Employee Resource Group, Hispanic Latin@ Faculty and Staff Association and LGBTQ+ Faculty and Staff Association.

“We are now at the stage where the committee will be meeting to take in the feedback from those folks who met with the candidates and make a recommendation on the candidates that the committee believes are viable based on our experience, feedback and a provided unranked list of the strengths and weakness of those viable candidates,” stated Wade Smith.

The VP of diversity and equity will report directly to the university president, serving as a member of the president’s cabinet, senior leadership team and other key institutional committees. This position serves to create and maintain a campus environment that reflects UofL’s mission, vision and values as a premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.

“We brought in five candidates, and I think was an incredibly strong pool; two of the individuals are in associate deans for diversity roles at significant institutions, one candidate has been an experienced chief diversity officer in the government sector and two of the candidates are sitting vice presidents of diversity at large top-tier research one, division one athletic institutions,” Wade Smith said.

Interim University President Lori Gonzalez, then serving in her capacity as executive vice president and university provost, provided senators with COVID-19 vaccination rates and an update on the status of university-wide vaccine mandates. Gonzalez reported that UofL’s vaccination rate remains at 91% campus wide.

“We have been transitioning data collection for the health records from public health, so there has been a delay in tracking,” Gonzalez said. “We were talking about the vaccine mandate and to be ready for that, the COVID-19 call center has been contacting the 633 staff, faculty and student employees that we had no records on, and they whittled that number down.”

Gonzalez reported that as of Dec. 1, 2021, a total of 162 university employees were unvaccinated and that the Business Operations COVID Support Team is in the process of confirming vaccination status for 146 other employees. Additionally, senators were informed that vaccines will not be mandated by the university at this time due to a recent federal court order.

“On Nov. 30, we received information about the injunction from the 5th Circuit Court that blocks the contractor COVID-19 mandate. Because of that, we’re pausing our vaccine mandate,” said Gonzalez. “We are still highly encouraging [vaccination], we are still keeping up with our masking, we’re not pausing in the requirement for testing and we will see that’s the mandate for unvaccinated people.”

Senators were presented with a proposal for the addition of a new program in the School of Business, a master of science in accountancy and analytics (MSAA). The proposal included revisions addressing concerns voiced during last month’s senate meeting and received approval from the academic programs committee. UofL’s Faculty Senate unanimously passed the proposal, and the 34-hour master’s program has proposed implementation in fall 2022.

Committee reports and a video recording of the meeting can be accessed on the Faculty Senate meetings webpage. The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12 via a hybrid format with the option of remote attendance via Teams, or in-person attendance at Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium.