As the debate over position classification continues, academic professionals are finding allies on and off campus.
At issue is the State Universities Civil Service System’s auditing of university positions, which academic professional leaders say has been unfairly weighted to show that units on campus have improperly created AP positions.
The most recent Urbana campus SUCSS audit recommended that 90 percent of the AP positions audited were improperly classified as academic professional and should be changed to civil service.
Council of Academic Professional officials are considering requesting a more detailed depiction of audited positions to possibly challenge SUCSS claims the positions should be reclassified. They contend officials of the agency may have retaliated against all of the CAP officers who testified before the Merit Board on the university’s behalf by auditing their positions.
CAP chair Melissa Madsen, the assistant director of human resources in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, said the agency also has changed audit methodologies, increased sample sizes and reneged on a 1998 agreement with state universities on exemption authority.
State universities have the power to exempt certain positions that meet specified criteria. University officials say they are best able to determine a position’s classification and they have exempted positions properly.
Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise assured campus academic professionals at the Oct. 2 CAP meeting that the university is doing everything in its power to retain exemption authority and to resist outside efforts to reclassify their positions to civil service categories.
“Academic professionals are critical to everything we do,” Wise said. “This really affects all of the higher education institutions of Illinois, and we are trying to get other universities engaged and mobilized.”
Wise said the U. of I. has been rallying Illinois higher education leaders to take a stand.
She said the three U. of I. campus chancellors and their human resources leaders had been working diligently to ensure universities maintain the power to make academic professional exemptions for jobs requiring special expertise or flexibility.
Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Elyne Cole, the associate provost for human resources, said at the July 9 CAP meeting that campus leaders were continuing to argue for the university’s retention of exemption authority.
Champaign Senate passed a resolution at its Oct. 20 meeting that offers support for campus academic professionals and states that SUCSS has exceeded its
The basis for the resolution, a statement passed by the Council of Illinois University Senates in September, says:
"The CIUS is gravely concerned about the actions of the executive director and staff of SUCSS toward reclassifying principal administrative/academic professional positions within universities, as well as their adversarial audit activities and the threat thereof, without adequate and widespread consultation, including with the presidents, chancellors, faculty leadership and human resource directors of the respective campuses.
"These actions strike us as both arbitrary and capricious, and lacking in the transparency we expect from our public bodies."
The Illinois Board of Higher Education's Faculty Advisory Committee also passed a resolution last year showing support for universities retaining exemption authority and calling for greater faculty involvement in the "stakeholders group" convened by SUCSS.
Tom Morelock, the SUCSS executive director, lost a bid last year to take exemption authority away from the universities and give it to his agency.
In arguments before the Merit Board, the agency's governing body, Morelock said universities, since being granted the authority about 16 years ago, had misused it and regularly miscategorized positions.
The authority was taken away from SUCSS at that time because university leaders had complained the rules contributed to hiring delays. But Morelock said the universities had since abused the system to avoid civil service employment rules.
"Unfortunately, that high standard of accountability ... has not been consistently attained," he said at last year's Merit Board meeting. "(Exemption authority) should never be construed as an employer right."
After the board vote, which included three U. of I. trustees, Morelock said he was disappointed with the decision.