Peter Knuepfer elected president of University Faculty SenateTweet
Peter Knuepfer, associate professor of geological sciences and director of the Environmental Studies Program, has been elected to a two-year term as president of the University Faculty Senate – a full-time commitment that also places him on the SUNY Board of Trustees as a non-voting member.
In his new role, Knuepfer will have to step aside from advocacy for Binghamton University and the University Centers and become an advocate for all 32 SUNY campuses. “In the final analysis, I have to do my best to represent the broadest interests of the group,” he said. “For example, in cases where there are differences of opinion, like in the recent budget allocation decision, balancing out the need to protect as much as possible the campuses that would lose funding would override the need to rationalize the model that currently exists.”
Knuepfer expects times of tension as he serves as a faculty voice on the SUNY Board of Trustees. “Though I’ll not be responsible for being a voting member, sometimes the desires of faculty will conflict with what the board decides is in the best interest of SUNY,” he said. “I will be in a position to explain why, but will have to sit back when the board votes.”
Knuepfer put out a statement of intent when he ran for the post. “I emphasized that I think there are three critical things faculty need to worry about. First, what I call disruptions to academia and the move toward MOOCs (massive open online courses) and other online mechanisms, and the importance that the faculty maintain control of the curriculum,” he said. “They can come into conflict and faculty must make decisions on how we provide credit for courses.”
Along the same lines, Knuepfer said that as SUNY moves forward with its broader plan for collaborating on online degrees and guaranteed transfer mobility, the system needs to ensure that the campuses maintain their individuality.
His third item also relates to technology. “The potential for technology and technology-based access to change the nature of higher education makes it incumbent on faculty to work together with administrations to figure out how to retain the need for and the integrity of brick and mortar campuses,” he said.
Undergraduate research across SUNY is also becoming increasingly important, Knuepfer said, and he hopes to continue to support efforts to make undergraduate research more integrated into undergraduate education across the SUNY system and to figure out ways to facilitate funding to do so.
“I’m personally just delighted that Binghamton has moved that forward and it’s not unique to here, but some campuses are dealing with it more successfully than others,” he said. “It’s a big challenge and opportunity for SUNY as a system to figure out ways to support that, particularly outside of the sciences.”
Knuepfer’s primary focus for the next two years will be in Albany, spending a lot of time in meetings with people in the SUNY System Administration and a number of system-wide committees in addition to the SUNY Board of Trustees.
With his daughter off to college in the fall, personal timing works, as well as professional. “I’ve gained a lot of experience over the last 12 years and have had a lot of support from people who feel I do a good job at it and encouraged me to consider this,” he said. “This is an opportunity, while not pursuing a personal agenda, to help faculty across the SUNY system continue to make a difference.”