Faculty Senate met using a hybrid format on Sept. 1. Remote attendees participated via Microsoft Teams and in-person attendees met in Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium. Senators received a new recommendation from the COVID-19 Coordinating Committee, updated enrollment figures, COVID-19 vaccination rates and information on Open Educational Resources.

Faculty Senate Chair David Schultz presented senators with a recent recommendation made by UofL’s COVID-19 Coordinating Committee. Faculty are encouraged to develop student seating charts for in-person courses and provide this information to Campus Health and the Contact Tracing team. Accurate seating charts will make the contact tracing process faster and more efficient and can limit the number of unvaccinated students required to quarantine in the event a classmate tests positive for the virus.

Executive Vice President and University Provost Lori Gonzalez updated senators on the status of student enrollment. Gonzalez reported a decline of 194 undergraduate students and 16 professional students, as well as an increase of 232 graduate students.

“Overall, we are down 194 [undergraduate] students. The issue with that is our budget was built on being over by 200 students,” Gonzalez stated. “The data that we’re looking at right now is how many of those students are out-of-state or non-residents. The budget is still fluid until we know that.”

Gonzalez also reported that data on the vaccination status of students, faculty and staff are currently being analyzed to provide accurate vaccination rates for individual colleges and programs. As of Sept. 3, roughly 67% of UofL students had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Gonzalez encouraged Cardinals to take advantage of the 28 pop-up vaccine clinics that are being offered across the university by Campus Health.

Lidiya Grote, a social sciences librarian with UofL Libraries, presented senators with information on Open Educational Resources and the benefits of their use in college academia. High textbook prices lead many college students to forgo purchasing required course materials, and the quality of their education suffers as a result. Expensive textbooks also disproportionally affect students from historically underserved and financially disadvantaged backgrounds. One alternative to high-priced textbooks are OERs, freely available materials that reside in the public domain or are licensed for free use and repurposing.

“A 2016 review of all the published literature found that OERs are comparable to commercial course material in quality and save students, on average, about $1,000 per year. Research also shows that ‘D,’ ‘F’ and ‘W’ grades decrease when a regular textbook is substituted for an open textbook – there’s improved learning performance,” Grote stated.

Faculty were encouraged to identify and incorporate high-quality OER material into their courses when possible. Individuals can also contribute to the initiative by creating or revising existing OERs. Additional information and guides to Affordable Learning Resources and Open Education Resources are available on the Ekstrom Library webpage.

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 Oct. 6 via a hybrid format with the option of remote attendance via Teams, or in-person attendance at Ekstrom Library’s Chao Auditorium.