Professor Danaya Wright Sees UF From Different Altitude as Faculty Senate Chair
Professor Danaya C. Wright is seeing the university from a different altitude: from the President’s Suite in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and from the Board of Governors for the State University System, all in her role as chair of the University of Florida Faculty Senate.
As chair for one year, Wright presides at the senate meetings, serves as a member of the University Board of Trustees and the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates (a council made up of all 11 Florida university Senate Chairs), and chairs the Senate Steering Committee. She meets weekly with President Machen and Provost Fouke, and she can ride in the Homecoming Parade (which she declined to do).
Wright spent the summer meeting with every dean, vp, each college cohort of senators, many of the faculties of the 12-month colleges, and the student senate. This fall she is meeting with the 9-month faculty, all aimed at facilitating dialogue between faculty, students, and administration in the restructuring of governance mechanisms within their respective units. She wants every college, department, center, and academic unit to put in place appropriate procedures for insuring that the appropriate voices are all heard when important decisions are being made.
“I think most of the problems in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences could have been avoided if there had been more faculty and student participation in governance in that college,” she says.
Shared governance doesn’t mean faculty get to dictate what will happen. Rather, it recognizes that faculty should have the key voice in developing policies around the academic mission of the university. “It’s my job as faculty representative to remind the Board of Trustees that we should have a say in the long-range plan for this university.”
The Faculty Senate is the legislative body for the university, and as such it makes decisions regarding a wide range of issues. “We can’t hire and fire the president, but we can certainly make his life miserable if we feel we are being directed down the wrong path. At the same time, when we all work toward the same goal there is really no stopping us,” she says.
When she’s not busy telling the president how to run the university, she is teaching, writing, serving on student committees, and fulfilling the rest of her law school duties. “The workload is phenomenal,” she said. “Fortunately, Dean Jerry was the chair of his Faculty Senate at the University of Kansas, so he understands and has given me a lighter teaching load this year.”
Specializing in property law, Wright teaches classes in Property, Estates and Trusts, History of Women and the Law, and English Legal History. Wright is also a strong advocate for Rails to Trail Conservancy, a group dedicated to converting abandoned railroad corridors into recreational trails, and her research on property law has been cited in numerous cases involving rail corridor conversion.