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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M Faculty Senate shares fears, discusses new opportunities

Photo by Chris Swann/The Battalion
Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp speaks to President Mark A. Welsh III during a Board of Regents meeting appointing Welsh as President of Texas A&M University on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

Texas A&M’s Faculty Senate held its first meeting of the spring semester on Monday, Jan. 22. The meeting addressed many faculty concerns and highlighted victories from the previous Texas legislative session.

The meeting opened with a statement from the Chancellor of the Texas A&M System, John Sharp.

“Last legislative session [authorized] … $1.19 billion in new money for the Texas A&M System,” Sharp said. 

This record package, approved by Gov. Greg Abbott in June 2023, was the first time the A&M System received more than a billion in new funding from Texas. A&M was allocated money to freeze tuition and fees for Texas residents and fund A&M’s healthcare insurance, research facilities at NASA and new courses. In regards to the new research facilities, Sharp said many of the existing plans for expansion can now be funded. 

“Two hundred million dollars for [A&M] to build next to NASA a replica of the lunar surface … 200 million dollars for a semiconductor institute … at RELLIS,” Sharp said. 

According to Sharp, the research facilities are of high interest to over 100 companies across the nation and aim to provide students with industry experience.

Sharp also expanded on the impact of Senate Bill 17, legislation that would require universities to shut down their diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

“[In regards to] Senate bill 17, the DEI bill … our board … is committed to hiring the very best people, in a diverse way … We have to, in order to continue funding all of the university, produce a letter stating that we are in compliance with Senate Bill 17,” Sharp said. 

Sharp said that the recruitment of new faculty would be more proactive and aimed at retaining high-achieving professionals within the state of Texas.

Chancellor Sharp reiterated his support for federal student aid. 

“We continue to advocate for programs slated for funding reductions that impact our students, for instance, the proposed elimination of the federal work student program,” Sharp said. “… These account for about 13.9 million in aid for our neediest students.”

In the consent agenda for the meeting, over 50 new graduate courses and over 150 new undergraduate courses were approved, which could enroll students as soon as next year. Additionally, many undergraduate and graduate courses and degree plans were slated for course inactivation, which would remove or consolidate that course with another listing.

Some courses and degrees proposed for inactivation include PBSI 101, MARR 101, Master of Agriculture in Agricultural Economics and the 5-Year Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Performance Studies. 

The Faculty Senate also discussed recommended changes in the complaints process guide in light of the academic discipline of Joy Alonzo, Ph.D., who was suspended after being accused of criticizing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a lecture.

Professor Tracy Hammond, joint faculty in computer engineering, outlined new guidelines from a task force formed to protect faculty academic freedom. The guidelines included a complaints guide and process as well as media guidelines for professors.

“There’s going to be a new committee on academic freedom … to have faculty look at what the complaint was and make sure there’s a fair process,” Hammond said.

Sharp said that the goal of A&M in the upcoming academic year would be to protect and invest in their academic assets.

“Despite the turmoil you see in the news, the A&M system has received several victories at the federal level … We’re in good shape,” Sharp said.

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