Strategic Plan met with criticism from faculty

By Samantha Jones Toal

The University’s draft of its System Strategic Plan was met with criticism at the Senate meeting Monday afternoon.

The plan sets goals that the University hopes to meet in upcoming years, such as “prepare a next generation workforce” and “enable powerful research and development partnerships across the state.”

Calvin Lear, graduate student representative in the senate executive committee, said the comments surrounding the discussion were universally negative and many professors and faculty spoke up about their concerns.

“This is confirming the worry that the orientation of the University is going to be pointed toward economic development and partnerships,” said Teresa Barnes, professor of gender and women’s studies.

Barnes said there was little mention of the humanities departments or research in the document.

“This is very much a product of January and February of 2016,” said William Maher, University Statutes and Senate Procedures Chair, referring to the period in which the lack of a state budget became an increasingly prominent issue.

Maher said the strategic plan draft seems to “sell the University to the state” or show legislators why the University deserves funding and how it contributes to the state of Illinois.

However, multiple faculty members said that while the document was only concerned with training a local workforce, a world-class institution needs to have worldly contributions.

Update in Discrimination Statement

The senate voted to introduce three amendments to the University’s Nondiscrimination Statement led by Kathryn Oberdeck, Equal Opportunity and Inclusion Chair.

The motion recommends the phrase “sexual orientation including gender identity” is changed to “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

While some faculty said the statement became further muddled with the additional language, there was a majority support for the change.

“I don’t think it at all goes against federal laws or state laws but it’s just a stronger expression that we want to be inclusive,” said Sara Benson, lecturer in the College of Law.

A second amendment to introduce clarification on the University’s policy of hiring former convicts was also addressed.

The new language said while considering potential employees, the University cannot consider hires solely on their conviction history.

However, Anna Marshall, USSP committee member, said the employer is still allowed to act on information underlying the arrest but not the arrest itself.

“If their criminal history is expunged, the University is not allowed to use that information,” Oberdeck said. “But we’re not restricting people with convictions.”

A third amendment added that employees may not be discriminated against based on “family responsibilities.”

“I think this is a term that adds something more,” said Kay Emmert, English lecturer. “I think that it is an extension for terms that already exists but miss this common form of discrimination.”

New Engineering Degree Proposal

A motion narrowly passed to show support for an additional degree in the college of engineering.

The proposal would establish a Bachelor of Science in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship as an intended duel-degree to match other engineering degrees.

Andrew Singer, ECE professor and sponsor of the proposal, said the degree is meant to pair with a primary degree and would require an additional 30 credit hours.

However, some students and faculty pointed out some concerns, including that it couldn’t stand as a solo degree and should be considered as a minor before a full bachelors degree.

“I think it’s a great disservice to prospective students,” said David Hanley, graduate student in mechanical engineering, said regarding the degree proposalIL .

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