Fac Senate updated on govt relations

Senate chair said new “fiscal health” committee should have faculty representation

YASMEEN WAFAI, Evergreen assistant editor

A WSU government relations representative spoke at Thursday night’s Faculty Senate meeting to inform senators of the relationship between the government and the university.

Colleen Kerr, vice president of External Affairs and Government Relations, gave the presentation and said her office focuses on communicating with stakeholders and working on legislation.

Kerr explained the priorities of the university’s federal, state and regional offices. The federal relations office represents WSU while engaging Congress members to build federal support for academic research and programs, she said.

The state relations office works with the Legislature, which provides most of the university’s funds, Kerr said. Those in the state office lobby alongside faculty, students and campus leaders to advocate for WSU as a public research institution.

The regional relations office works to connect the university to local governments and businesses, according to the WSU Government Relations website.

Kerr also talked about the public affairs office, which makes sure WSU’s messaging regarding government initiatives is consistent and timely.

Faculty Senate Chair Judi McDonald said there could be an opportunity for a senator to represent faculty on a new committee. She said WSU President Kirk Schulz is forming a “fiscal health advisory committee,” the purpose of which would be to get suggestions from the public and examine current budgetary practices.

The committee is a work in progress, she said, but they are looking to have a Faculty Senate Budget Committee representative join the panel.

Mary Trotter, College of Arts and Sciences senator, mentioned at the meeting that the university still has not released any information about the future of the Jones and Wadleigh Theatre concerns that came up in the last meeting.

WSU Performing Arts operates out of spaces in the theatres, but the program will be eliminated in April. Trotter said at the Senate’s Jan. 11 meeting that she wanted to know what will happen to the theatres once the program is gone. McDonald said the Space Committee is working on a decision.

College of Arts and Sciences Senator Pamela Thoma said the Senate has many questions about financial health, but they are reporting those concerns and working to get answers.

Thoma said she is also looking for answers about the elimination of Performing Arts.

“I think everybody is concerned about that decision,” she said.