Faculty members will meet this Thursday to discuss their ideal campus environment and will work throughout the coming months to achieve that climate by implementing goals offered by faculty.
The Task Force for Developing Community Standards for Faculty is a Faculty Council group created in late January to establish values for the faculty community and work to implement those values into University policy.
The protests against faculty sexual misconduct last semester acted as a catalyst to form a task force and develop a higher standard for the campus climate, said Brian Evans, engineering professor and Faculty Council chair.
Evans said faculty want to make campus safer just as much as students do.
“We have widespread concern,” Evans said. “I hear it in my department, I hear it from my students.”
Evans said the task force was formed in response to multiple ethical issues on campus. A goal for Evans is to eliminate sexual misconduct on campus.
“That’s an aspirational goal,” Evans said. “It’s a big one, but it’s a good one to go for.”
Instead of amending policy regarding appropriate punishment, Evans said the task force will analyze whether it is helping the University achieve its aspirational goals.
“Let’s flip this … (and) look at the opposite of this. What would we like to be in a positive sense?” Evans said. “What can we strive to be?”
One of the subcommittees is focusing on restorative justice, which was included in the demands of last semester’s protesters, according to documents the Coalition Against Sexual Misconduct released in December.
Social work professor Noel Busch-Armendariz is leading the restorative justice subcommittee and said its goals would focus on faculty interactions with the University community.
“I look forward to this opportunity to engage in and expand meaningful conversations and to include faculty voices in needed solutions,” Busch-Armendariz said.
Evans said the demand from the Coalition was one part of the decision to include the subcommittee.
“The concept was always of interest to me,” Evans said. “(Busch-Armendariz) has some really nice visions for the future.”
Staff member Melanie Susswein, said restorative justice is a tool to help those hurt by others reach healing and closure.
“Having a task force on (restorative justice) is innovative and filled with possibility,” said Susswein, the Steve Hicks School of Social Work director of marketing and communications.
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, head of the communications subcommittee, will oversee how the task force releases their findings. DeFrancesco Soto, the assistant dean of civic engagement for the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said it is important for the University community to decide its own rules.
“I just personally care deeply about this,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “Civic engagement is having communities that are healthy and … coming together and making their voice heard of what they need and what they prioritize.”
DeFrancesco Soto said her passion for the University community was not unique to just her and applied to a majority of the faculty.
“The overwhelming majority of people who choose university life, it’s because they like teaching, they like students,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “We all have the same mission of cultivating education and safe and positive environments.”