Several senators at the Sept. 16 Urbana Academic Senate meeting provided input on a report prepared over the summer by the Senate Executive Committee's ad hoc Task Force on Faculty Issues and Concerns.
Senators offered their suggestions during the public comment portion of the meeting, which followed a presentation of the report's 18 recommendations made by its three primary authors and task force subcommittee chairs, Nicholas Burbules, Randy McCarthy and Joyce Tolliver. (See the related story for more details on the report.)
SEC Chair Roy Campbell said the idea behind the 14-member task force was to stimulate conversations that lead to action on some of the important issues facing campus.
The meetings also were attended by representatives of the provost's and chancellor's offices.
The task force report focuses on faculty salary and benefits, promotion and tenure, campus budget oversight and strengthening the practice of shared governance.
"How do we take these ideas and move forward?" Campbell asked senators. "There will need to be a lot of proactive action in the senate."
Most of the senators in the public comment portion of the meeting expressed support for the task force's effort, but a recurring theme in their comments was that any final recommendations should include better protections for non-tenure-track as well as tenure-track professors.
Burbules said the committee had considered adding language to include non-tenure-track faculty issues, but that was not part of the committee's original charge. University statutes define "faculty" as tenured and tenure-track employees - wording that some have said is at odds with the senate's own bylaws.
Burbules said some recommendations of the task force report could be extended to apply to non-tenure-track faculty members, but that would entail a "much wider conversation."
One senator suggested a step-based promotion system for faculty members that includes stronger job protections for everyone. Another was critical of a task force recommendation to expand the faculty reduced-tuition program, saying that sends the wrong message to state taxpayers about who really owns the institution.
"We never thought our statement would be final," Burbules said of the task force report. "Of course, we welcome these wider concerns. That's why we did this (brought before the Senate for comment)."
Senator Mary Mallory, a professor of library administration and head of the Documents Library, said she would have liked to have seen more transparency in the task force's work, and suggested any similar series of discussions in the future adhere to the Illinois Open Meetings Act and be open to the public. She cited the task force's charge letter statement, which claimed the discussions were not subject to the act.
Mallory asked Campbell about any planned next steps for the SEC's recently completed shared governance survey and suggested the results should be reviewed by other senate committees, not just the General University Policy Committee as planned.
"It worries me that they are the only committee looking at this," she said. "This activity is very important. I see these (individual committees) as silos and I wish there could be some crossover."
Campbell said the General University Policy Committee was asked to suggest how the senate should follow up on the survey. Even though the survey was only answered by a small number of people, he said, it did raise significant concerns that need further study by GUP.
"There are some issues that need to be addressed and I'd like to get a plan of action together" using GUP as a starting point, he said. He said matters stemming from the issues may need to be addressed by several senate committees, as well as the Seventh Senate Commission.
"Depending on the (specific) issue (being considered), the appropriate committee would be contacted," said GUP Chair Tolliver.