Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Senators on the Urbana campus will be asked in the coming months to consider several proposed changes to the university's governing documents.
The statutes, being reviewed by a faculty-led committee at the request of the U. of I. Board of Trustees, are the basic organizing documents of the university and define its governing structure. They haven't been wholly revised in 30 years or more.
"We wanted to make them clearer, easier to understand and much more straightforward in their interpretation," said Nicholas Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership, and a member of the committee charged by the board to review the statutes.
"Numerically, there are a lot of changes, because parts of these documents were kind of a mess," he said. "I think the documents will be much more relevant and in much better shape after the process is completed. It will help head off misunderstandings in the future."
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Revision work to this point has suggested three kinds of changes: correcting inaccurate or out-of-date text; refining practices that may have changed because of legislative action; and addressing sections that are ambiguous, vague or open to interpretation.
The suggested changes sent to the three campus senates are accompanied by an explanation of the rationale behind each change.
"We want to make sure the statutes do what they were designed to do," Burbules said. "We want to speak with a more consistent voice. It's been a lot of work, and a lot of people have contributed."
The board has set a spring deadline for the revisions, now under review by the senate's University Statutes and Senate Procedures committee. In an effort to meet the deadline, the committee plans to submit what they've reviewed to the senate in portions. Any disagreement among the senates will go to the University Senates Conference for resolution. USC members already have reviewed the proposed changes.
"So much has changed as far as practices and technology, all of the parties believed it was time for a thorough, fresh review," said Pam Strobel, a trustee and the head of the board's Governance, Personnel and Ethics committee.
She said the board has final approval, but expressed a desire to have the endeavor led by the people most affected by the statutes - campus faculty members and administrators.
"There has been tremendous consultation," she said. "It's been a perfect example of shared governance."
She said no specific occurrence led to the call for a review, though there are plenty of examples in the past few years where better wording would have made interpretation clearer and helped avoid conflict.
"It's been more of a matter of needing to tighten some of those procedures," she said.
There also are plans to soon address articles dealing with the revocation of tenure, the timing of appointments and the role of the president. Strobel said she'd like to see the statutes reviewed every 10 years to ensure their relevance.
"Processes eventually become antiquated," she said. "It's a matter of asking, 'What have we learned from some of these recent cases, and where can we be clearer?'"