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Senators let Institute of Aviation decision stand

INSIDE ILLINOIS, May 5, 2011 |  By Mike Helenthal, Assistant Editor  [ Email | Share ]

Parliamentary procedure took center stage in the Academic Senate’s final two meetings of the semester.

At the April 25 meeting senators narrowly defeated a recommendation of the Educational Policy Committee to close the Institute of Aviation except for the master’s degree in human factors, which would be folded into the Graduate College for two years pending a permanent “home.”

The vote followed nearly two hours of debate between supporters of the institute and those who say the program takes too much general revenue from other instructional areas and doesn’t sufficiently support the university’s mission.

But that vote, 57-54 against the committee recommendation, was a vote not to recommend the committee’s stance on the institute to the administration or UI Board of Trustees, she said.

“It is not a straightforward matter to lay out clearly and concisely what the implications of that vote are, beyond the indisputable fact that the majority – slight as it was – voted not to accept the proposal,” Tolliver said.

To make a formal recommendation, senators would have to again place the item on the agenda. But on May 2, the final meeting of the current semester, senators weren’t willing to take up the matter again; a vote to return the aviation issue to the agenda failed to meet a required two-thirds majority vote.

After the meeting, Tolliver said that although the senate does not have an on-

record advisory vote to send to the chancellor and provost, she hoped the record of the discussion surrounding the proposal would accompany any recommendation the chancellor and provost submitted to the board.

IT changes

A Senate Executive Council-inspired statement decrying recent administrative moves to centralize information technology functions was passed at the May 2 senate meeting.

The statement was drafted after UI President Michael J. Hogan announced earlier this year a streamlined administrative reporting line for information technology wherein each campus Chief Information Officer reports to university administration, not to the campus chancellor or provost.

Senate leaders say the plan will negatively affect academic and research functions, a notion supported by Sally Jackson, the Urbana CIO and associate provost who recently resigned over the issue. The senate later accepted a resolution thanking Jackson for her service.

Two people tried a total of three times to soften the language of the original resolution, but each proposed amendment was defeated.

“The tone of the resolution – it seems almost accusatory,” said student senator David Olsen.

Olsen led an effort to amend the senate statement to include softer language, though he said he supported the statement’s call for more senate input in a spirit of shared governance.

“I think this amendment, this text, does that,” he said. “It still raises the issues, but it also extends our hand as a partner.”

Olsen’s resolution, which had previously been submitted to the SEC, found support in Steve Michael, a professor of business administration, among others, who said he agreed that research and operational IT should be distinguished, not lumped together – but that the senate statement was too harsh.

Alex Scheeline, a professor of chemistry, agreed the draft statement was “slightly more abrasive. It is in fact, fairly aggressive.”

But he said the tack was taken only because Hogan seems not to be listening to senate concerns.

“It’s not the first time this year,” Scheeline said. “The first times we were fairly gentle.”

Michael Hites, a university-level associate vice president of administrative information technology services, said the new leadership structure will not adversely affect campus communication or harm research and education technology needs.

“Those are not intended to be consolidated,” he said. “I want to make sure all of these issues are being addressed. I will be here to work with anybody who wants to be involved in IT governance.”

Olsen’s initial push to amend the statement failed, as did a separate attempt and vote to strike some items within it. The original senate statement passed by a 61-14 vote.

CAP tipping

The senate lent its support to a Council of Academic Professionals resolution opposing the reclassification of academic professionals at all three UI campuses.

The reclassification process started in Chicago with an audit by the State Universities Civil Service System and has led to a large number of reclassified positions. The Urbana campus already has started providing information for the SUCSS audit here.

Rick Atterberry, a media communications specialist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and CAP chair, said the changes were being made by “outside forces,” which include moves by Illinois legislators to take AP exemption authority away from campus leaders.

“It’s a class of employee that is very flexible and responsive,” he said, and one that is needed to staff the workforce of the 21st century. “A great many academic professionals have been reclassified as civil service and that gives us pause.”

Atterberry said the change would be problematic because of the specialized services APs provide. He said bumping rights under civil service rules would mean APs could be moved to other positions at a moment’s notice and that only in-state candidates could be considered for new openings. He said the system would equate to a “loss of institutional knowledge.”

“That really ties the hands of the faculty,” Atterberry said. “We think that puts us at a disadvantage going forward.”

 

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