Academic senate discusses updates to University statutes

By Abigale Svoboda

The Academic Senate met Monday afternoon to discuss updating University statutes and award honorary degrees. The last meeting of the semester began with remarks from Senate Chair Roy Campbell, who was particularly excited for a report on current benefits issues, including ongoing pension issues with state legislature, given by John Kindt, chair of faculty and academic staff benefits,

“I think you’re going to hear in the future quite a bit about money and budgets, and so on,” Campbell said. “How this all turns out, I don’t know.” 

Following Campbell’s remarks, Chancellor Phyllis Wise spoke, before moving on to questions and discussions. 

“It’s been a challenging semester in many ways,” Wise said, particularly noting issues of academic freedom that have arisen over the past few months due to the rejected appointment of Steven Salaita. She said University Provost Ilesanmi Adesida and her have been meeting with members of the faculty to “listen and learn” in an effort to find ways to bring the campus back together.

“I want you to know we have both learned a great deal over the issue of Steven Salaita and we continue to look forward to doing that with you,” she stated. 

Debate sparked when George Friedman, professor in computer science, proposed to table voting on updated University statutes. 

A committee set by the Board of Trustees has edited the entire University Statutes, a 50 page document, over the past couple of years. The senate’s committee on University States and Senate Procedures, USSP, is currently reviewing the updated statues and Friedman feared the committee would not meet the Board’s current deadline. 

“It is a phenomenal amount of material, and it needs to be studied very, very carefully,” Friedman said. 

There was also discussion about certain terminology within the newly edited document, which included removing the written statue that the University’s president was a member of each unit on campus.  

Friedman, on behalf of the USSP, said although the notion is only symbolic, the USSP believes it should remain.

Professor and senate member, Nick Burbules disagreed.

“It represents an image of the presidency which is outmoted and which doesn’t reflect the current conception of the president’s responsibilities,” he said.

Anna Marshall, a member of the USSP, rebutted it is beneficial to everyone if the president is a member of the faculty.

“We thought the president ought to be a member of the faculty,” Marshall said. “Our colleagues at Purdue have a president who is not a member of their faculty and I think that’s causing problems for them, their faculty, at Purdue.”

It was agreed the statement will be reworded to assert that the President is a member of the faculty in a way that is more agreeable to all.

Two recommendations for amendments to the University Statutes were made during the meeting. The first recommendation included two parts – revisions to the non-discrimination statement in the Statutes and the retainment of the provision requiring that the President be a member of the faculty of each unit of the University. The first part of the first recommendation was approved, however the second was not.

The second recommendation considered proposed revisions to the Statutes with two exceptions. After much discussion, one new modification was made to reword a section regarding the senate’s representative role in shared governance discussions.

The senate also approved proposals to revise the requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education as well as the Certificate in Accountancy program.   

The senate also approved awarding honorary degrees to Ralph J. Cicerone, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and Timothy J. Nugent. All three nominees are highly distinguished in their industries and have greatly contributed to society. University students and faculty may be most familiar with Nugent, who founded the University’s Disability Resources and Educational Services in 1948.

Following the approval of honorary degrees, Professor John Kindt, chair of faculty and academic staff benefits, shared his excitement over recent proceedings regarding pensions.

“Plantiffs have prevailed in their motion to take their current challenge of SB 1 to the Illinois supreme court,” Kindt announced. 

He said this is an important and favorable development in the challenge of Senate Bill 1, a comprehensive plan to overhaul the Illinois Pension Code. The bill was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn in December 2013 and would reduce pension benefits for state employees.

The hearing, which has not been scheduled yet, will take place in the new year. 

Abigale can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: In a previous print version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that updates to the University Status were postponed when in fact two recommendations for amendments were made during the meeting. The Daily Illini regrets this error.