Number One Has New Senators!
November elections to the Academic Senate have come and gone. Nevertheless, before we look into future, we should first thank the departing senate and I do it with heartfelt feelings of gratitude, not merely pro forma. This past senate was under the capable leadership of Professor Přemysl Strejc and MUDr. Hana Dittrichová really a source of strength for our faculty. Everyone who is interested in academic life, everyone who perceives it not only emotionally, within their own particular ‘bubble’, but based on knowledge of facts, with their laws, complexity, and implications, surely knows what I mean. Senate is an important part of why our faculty is in many areas truly number one.
Interest in studying at the First Faculty of Medicine is growing
The Senate, both as a whole and via the work of its particular committees, collaborated on finding the optimal form and content of the admissions tests and participated in the development of curricula and rules of study. In this area, the work of legislative committee led by Doctor Martin Vejražka was irreplaceable and extraordinarily important. In the past several years, we have been lowering the number of students and with it also the dropout rate. The senate supervised the financing of various departments according to their factual involvement in teaching and followed the efforts of work groups for preclinical and clinical education, which include both teachers and student senators. Our teaching results are reflected in the fact that for this academic year, we witnessed the highest increase of interest in the study of general medicine at our department (well, on par with the faculty in Brno). It amounted to about 20%, which was about twice more than at other faculties.
When it comes to finances, we are in the best shape since November 1989
The Senate participated in the administration and evaluation of science, cultivation of ‘scientific schools’, their technological facilities, and further development of infrastructures. Development of scientific work can be measured by concrete results in for instance performance, grant success rate, or internationalisation. The Senate also supervised our extensive collaboration with secondary schools from all over the Czech Republic (about one thousand secondary school students passed through the doors of our faculty over the past three terms), communication with the public and with journalists at events which our faculty regularly organises, etc. In terms of economy, we are in the best shape since 1989. In recent years, we have therefore been able to pay 14 salaries a year and to invest many million Czech krones in not only the development of various institutes but also in modelling and simulation teaching.
The Senate, with its concrete official challenges, importantly supported our pressure on the transparency of rules of financing the faculties by the Rectorate of the Charles University or at least their partial remedy. In that area, our particular thanks go to the committee for economy led by Adjunct Professor Dr. Jan Bříza, but also to Professors Stanislav Štípek and Jiří Raboch, who with great expertise – and it is really not easy to learn all those rules – used the authority they have as senators of the Academic Senate of the Charles University. The Senate also supported at our school the launch of governmental programme of support to medical faculties, which had been negotiated by the Association of Deans of Medical Faculties of the Czech Republic and the relevant governmental ministries.
We must work harder of the teaching of clinical subjects
Based on information coming from graduates, we found that our faculty is still not performing optimally in teaching clinical subjects. Identification of causes of this state of affairs, further work on curricula, but especially work on the attitude of teachers will be our shared task in the following period. We should communicate more intensively with head guarantors of particular subjects and help them develop and finalise their visions and conceptions which span between a number of subjects. It is also highly likely that in the subsequent electoral term, we will have to deal again with the issue of financing of faculties by the university.
After this partial list, it would be fair to note that we had been extraordinarily fortunate for quite some time in having senates that work efficiently, productively, and in an atmosphere of collegial friendliness and understanding. Voting results attest to that. This is not the rule at all faculties. In short, we had been choosing well :-)
Demands on senators are considerable …
On late November, we chose the Academic Senate for the subsequent period. Some senators are new, some are old-new, but in all cases, the winners successfully withstood the ‘heat’ of election campaign and attracted the interest of the greatest numbers of voters. Each captured their attention with his or her own mixture of energy, vision, meaningful programme, strength of personality, gravitas of professional reputation, the gift of social communication, and self-presentation. Elections always bring about a degree of excitement and restless energy, but I do not think we saw any unfair attacks or unbearable ‘trolling’.
I was sorry to see the rather poor attendance of the academic community at the pre-election meeting with candidates. Yes, one can find the basic facts about colleagues in various indirect ways, too, but a personal meeting with people who run for senators helps assess how well thought-through their programmes are and how well these candidates can ‘think on their feet’. For instance, by asking why a candidate wants to fight for something that already exists, how they want to achieve their objectives, or how valid are their premises or promises when the facts seem to tell the opposite. Candidates’ awareness of what is happening in our faculty’s life is, after all, of critical importance for being a successful senator. And all senators have quite a lot on their plate.
… must know the legislation, faculty life, seek solutions
Any member of the academic community has the right to think in categories of likes and dislikes, or ‘I’ve heard someone say that...’. Senators, in virtue of their mandate and responsibility to the faculty must, however, seek solutions in terms of what and how, and based on objective facts, they should know which ways and procedures can lead to the desired outcomes. Senators must know what a senate actually does. They must be aware of its rights and duties. Senators must be able to use various sources of information provided by the faculty: by its website, intranet, social networks, the Number One journal, records from the meetings of Dean’s College and other organs of the faculty. Senators must know the relevant legislation. For instance, they should know whether a problem at hand is or is not subject to a higher jurisdiction or decisions by another institution, and they should be aware of links with other activities developed by the faculty or the university. Senators must know the life of the faculty. They must be able to tell whether something is a problem pertaining to a particular institution or the faculty as a whole. They must understand that they do not represent the interest of a particular field, institute, or some other group, but the faculty as a whole. To know what activities we develop with respect to the general public, what is our position in relation to the state administration, what is or should be generally known about us – in short, senators should follow on our web for instance the column ‘What they write about us ...’
The elected personalities and representatives of the English parallel are a good sign
It is great that our new senate once again unites a broad range of representatives from all over the faculty. It means that it can integrate many different perspectives. This is a good starting point for identifying problems all across our institution and offering less one-sided and more neutral opinions of ‘collective wisdom’ from the perspective of ‘academic neighbours’. This kind of perspective lowers the risk of storms in a teacup and often helps solve some less important – and in some cases even non-existent – problems magnified by the lens of personal involvement.
Personally, I am very happy to see this time in the senate a significant representation of students of the English parallel programme. It is a symbolic step that takes us from being merely a ‘course provider’ to being a truly international institution. I believe it represents authentic progress in relations between our students across geographic regions but also a highly positive challenge for us, teachers, and the faculty management. A good sign is also representation of those personalities of the faculty who gained a high level of support in the academic and student part of our community.
I wish the new senate much success and to all of us the best senate possible!
Aleksi Šedo, Dean of the First Faculty od Medicine
It is great that our new senate once again brings together representatives of the entire range of departments and sections of our faculty. This can help us integrate a wide range of perspectives. It is a good starting point for identifying problems across our faculty and for offering a less one-sided and more neutral perspective of ‘collective wisdom’ based on experiences of ‘academic neighbours’.
Photo: Archive of the First Faculty of Medicine of the CU
Elections into the Academic Senate of the 1st Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University in numbers
88 candidates running for senator
654 valid votes by academic staff
– corresponds to election participation of 42.4%
1.747 valid student votes
– corresponds to election participation of 36.5%
15 senators elected by academic staff
– 8 of whom defended their post from the last senate term
15 senators elected by students
– 4 of whom defended their post from the last senate term
– 6 of whom are students of the English parallel programme
– 4 of whom are students of the Czech parallel programme