[ Email | Share ]
Senate Executive Committee chair Roy Campbell laid out an aggressive work agenda for the second semester at the Jan. 13 SEC meeting.
Campbell, a professor of computer science, led the SEC in establishing one ad hoc committee to study campus compensation issues, another to study the honorary degree process, and gave senate leaders their first look at a new online voting system he hopes will be used to improve representation and ensure senate elections run more smoothly.
The ad hoc compensation review committee will compare pay and benefits packages at the U. of I. with that of faculty and academic professional positions at peer universities. The committee also is being asked to consider gender-gap salary issues as well as fiscal restraints, and it will have full access to data and analytical tools through the Office of the Provost.
Campbell said he hopes the committee will come up with ideas leading to a list of actionable recommendations that improve compensation equity issues and make campus more competitive when it comes to hiring.
"It would be good to get some insights to inform future actions," Campbell said of the committee's work, which was recommended by last summer's Senate Task Force on Faculty Issues and Concerns. "We need to be able to compete with our peers."
Committee members will work closely with the existing Senate Faculty and Academic Staff Benefits Committee, he said, and both are being asked to make recommendations on whether to establish the compensation review committee as part of the standing senate committee structure. Doing so would require a change in senate bylaws.
As it exists now, the current committee's responsibility is that of monitoring academic staff and faculty benefits issues, with regular reports made to senators apprising them of new initiatives and state legislation that could affect the university.
"I've often felt like a voice crying in the wilderness," said Sen. John Kindt, a professor emeritus of business and legal policy and the chair of the benefits committee, in welcoming the creation of the committee.
Campbell said he advocated the creation of the ad hoc committee on honorary degrees to find ways to allow senators to freely discuss concerns over a candidate in private without being "on the record" and without conflicting with the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The act requires open debate for all matters that come before public bodies, outside of a small list of exemptions such as hiring or pending legal action.
SEC vice chair Kim Graber, a professor of kinesiology and community health, said the hope is to encourage a senator's "freedom of discussion without intimidating the people we're trying to honor." She said the committee would look at other institutions to see if they have methods of keeping such sensitive conversations private.
Several senators were skeptical of portions of the committee's charge, saying that it was next to impossible to avoid being held to the open meetings act, outside of the expressed exemptions, considering senators are required to meet before and represent a public body.
Student Senator Calvin Lear said the only option senators have to skirt public discussion would be to "surrender" the honorary degree process to campus administrators.
Graber said there likely are a number of different options for determining honorary degree recipients in light of the IOMA, but that those should be debated within the ad hoc committee.
Campbell also reported on the progress of the effort to create an online election process for senate elections.
"We'd like to engage as much electorate as possible," he said of the initiative.
Under Campbell's proposal, which is still being formulated, each year's election would consist of three rounds. In the first round, all eligible candidates on campus would be asked if they would be willing to serve in the senate, providing an opt-out option. In the second round, voters would make unit nominations, providing an opt-in option. In the third round, faculty members would cast ballots based on the new candidate slate.
Campbell said a database would be developed to help certify ballots unit by unit, and then the results would be published.
"If (anyone) is having problems we can observe who they are and help them," he said.
Sen. William Maher, the University Archivist and a professor of library administration, expressed concern that any new election system must not adversely affect existing rules governing elections. He suggested the rules be reviewed so there are no discrepancies with the new election system.
- Katherine Galvin, the associate provost for administrative affairs, updated senators on the progress of preparing a new Provost's Communication on Specialized Faculty
She said the initiative is the result of a 2011 senate task force recommendation as well as a general realization on campus and nationally that changes needed to be made regarding the employment conditions of non-tenure system faculty members and the confusing number and inconsistent use of titles.
"The overarching factor was the desire shared by campus units, administrators and the senate to do more to recognize the significant contributions made by these employees to the education, research and service missions of the campus," she said. "We want to ensure we have clear employment guidelines and policies in place."
Galvin said about a third of the university's instructional units are delivered by specialized faculty members, traditionally called non-tenure track, contingent or adjunct.
Barbara Wilson, the executive vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said the impetus for the change is to better describe specialized employees' "important place in our campus community."
"We want titles that do not define them by referring to the absence of tenure, as is commonly done across the country," she said. "We hope the term 'specialized faculty' becomes a national norm."
The communication is designed to better express and ensure that academic units have foundational policies and practices in place regarding hiring procedures, offer letters, clear job descriptions, performance expectations, annual performance reviews and grievance procedures for specialized faculty members.
The communication also seeks to create greater career advancement opportunities for specialized faculty by articulating clear promotional tracks, including the recognition of a new "teaching professor" career track. Each specialized faculty category has "assistant" and "associate" levels, with the apex being the teaching, research or clinical professor. Instructors or lecturers can advance to a senior level.
Another provost's communication is being created that will set forth detailed promotional procedures for the modified professorial titles.
Wilson said hiring decisions will continue to be made at the unit level, though the provost and the senate's General University Policy Committee will monitor and track the number of multiyear contracts offered to those in the specialized faculty roles.
The communication has been reviewed and endorsed by the SEC, Council of Deans and the GUP. It will be presented to the full senate for review and consideration at an upcoming meeting.
- Kindt reported there are three lawsuits pending over the state's pension-reform plan. He said other parties are likely to join and that the suits likely will be consolidated. He said the only issue that could jeopardize the entire law would be a ruling against the state's constitutional ability to make wholesale changes to Cost-of-Living Adjustment formulas. Other individual issues could be struck down independently without affecting the overall law.
He said the pension law, as it stands, is "complex and disturbing" and "a maze of problems from an administrative standpoint."
- SEC members voted to endorse a recent statement by Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise concerning national efforts to organize a boycott of academic institutions in Israel because of alleged human rights abuses by that nation.
Wise's statement supports the official statement released by the Association of American Universities' executive committee in December, which is against the boycott.
"At Illinois, we value academic freedom as one of our core principles and cherish the critical importance of the ability of faculty to pursue learning, discovery and engagement without regard to political considerations," Wise said.
"American colleges and universities, as well as like institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom," the AAU statement said.
- Maher suggested adding language in senate bylaws outlining the procedures for creating ad hoc committees. He said the bylaws now recognize the possibility of creating ad hoc committees, but doesn't set forth an official process for doing so.