Senate Executive Committee discusses Salaita controversy, online courses

By Josh Winters

In a meeting Monday, the Senate Executive Committee discussed the recent controversy surrounding the University’s decision to reject Steven Salaita’s appointment to a tenured position in the American Indian Studies Program. Members of the SEC discussed departmental votes of no confidence issued towards Chancellor Phyllis Wise, the University’s image following the withdrawal of Salaita’s job offer and the division that has emerged within the University over Salaita.

“We are a community and we have our differences, but we shouldn’t let these differences split us and prevent us from doing our business,” said Roy Campbell, chairman of the SEC.

Campbell believes there should be a clearer way for faculty to disagree with administrators.

Wise attended the meeting and expressed regret in how the withdrawal of Salaita’s appointment was handled by the University, voicing support for a more efficient hiring process.

The senate will discuss the addition of a hiring ad hoc committee at its next meeting. The committee would review the current process for when a chancellor or provost decides not to proceed with a tenure-track hire.

The SEC also deliberated the compensation for faculty members who are developing the University’s new Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCs. This program offers free online courses to participants from around the world. The University joined Coursera, a website which hosts MOOCs from universities across the nation, in 2012 and launched the first MOOC on Aug. 27, 2012.

Most of the proposed MOOC’s involve one faculty member, but there are three that potentially could require more staff.

The SEC voted to forward the compensation levels for MOOC faculty to the Senate Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits Committee.

Josh can be reached at [email protected]