Senate meets to vote on non-tenured track faculty

By MaryCate Most

The Urbana-Champaign Senate met Monday to discuss changes to employment guidelines for non-tenure track faculty to address concerns about campus safety and to hear about recent staff benefits issues.

Campus safety concerns were brought up in a Senate Executive Committee meeting on Jan. 27, shortly after a shooting at Purdue University on Jan. 21.

University Police officer Lt. Todd Short of the Office of Campus Emergency Planning, delivered a presentation about the necessity of enforcing security procedures.

“It seems like there is an increasing frequency of negative activity,” Short said. “I look at CNN, I look at MSN.com and I hear stories of shootings and kids who have actually set themselves on fire during the last three weeks.”

Short added that the Office of Campus Emergency Planning employs only three people. 

“Does that raise the hair on the back of your neck?” He asked. “It should.”

Short referenced professors at Purdue University who did not follow safety procedures during the shooting, emphasizing that in order to keep the campus safe, participation from faculty and staff is critical.

“My biggest concern for our campus is that the faculty, staff and students need to understand some basic emergency responses,” Short said. “When we do emergency access training, I need you (faculty) to attend that training.”

Short asked specifically for two things: that faculty read the mass emails sent out to them and take a minute to read safety precautions to each of their students. He also said the Office of Campus Emergency Planning is working on a video to educate faculty, staff and students about safety precautions.

The faculty senate also discussed a draft of the Provost’s Communication for Specialized Faculty, which would revise the process of hiring, evaluating and promoting non-tenured faculty at the University. The communication is a response to a senate task force, which called for more protections for non-tenured, “specialized,” faculty who made up 33.67 percent of the total faculty in 2012-13, said associate provost Katherine Galvin. The list of non-tenured faculty includes lecturers, instructors, adjunct professors and about 40 other titles for non-tenured faculty.

“The task force that looked at these issues (titling, promotions, hiring) in 2011 and 2010 found that there are elements that do very well,” Galvin said. “This is not an implication that these things don’t happen, but we wanted to have a document that we had better uniformity around these things. This document seeks to bring great consistency and clarity for the use of specialized faculty titles.”

Following senatorial discussion, Senate Chair Roy Campbell made a movement to vote in support of the draft; however, the senate did not reach quorum, so the vote was postponed.

Currently, departments can only hire specialized faculty members on a semester-to-semester or year-to-year basis and no formal promotion system is established for these faculty members. This communication would allow non-tenured faculty members to be signed to three-year contracts and promoted to senior positions when recommended by their respective departments.

Chuck Tucker, vice provost of undergraduate education and innovation, spoke to the senate about the progress that has been made in the realm of massive open online courses, free courses developed by University faculty that are available to tens of thousands of people around the world. Tucker described an idea that would enable the production of more MOOCs at a quicker rate.

“The same people that do the production — video, audio, production design — are the same people who produce our traditional online courses, and that production pipeline has been very full,” Tucker said. “There has been a recommendation to increase the staffing so we can move courses through the pipeline and not inhibit traditional courses.”

John Kindt, professor of business and legal policy in the College of Business, concluded the meeting with a presentation on current benefits issues. Kindt explained that there are three cases that have been filed challenging the pension reform act. He also offered advice to faculty who are approaching retirement, explaining that the State Universities Retirement System will be waiving its usual one-consultation-per-year rule so that they might help clear up any confusion that may have resulted from the pension reform act.

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]