Lately a lot of attention has been paid to campus efforts to revolutionize undergraduate education and recruit and attract faculty members from outside the university.
At the April 22 town hall meeting, campus leaders announced a new initiative to hire 500 faculty members in the next five to seven years to bring numbers up to the historical norm of 2,000.
But in addition to those efforts, Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise told members of the Urbana Academic Senate at its April 29 meeting that leaders are working to "protect and retain the outstanding faculty (members) here, right now, today."
She said several initiatives are being put into motion that will benefit faculty members through the addition of academic resources and greater collaborative opportunities.
"Our faculty members are the competitive advantage of the university," she said. "We can't grow bigger or better if you are not at the heart of our future plans. It means investing in you directly."
Wise said officials are working on offering more contractural incentives as well, including an attempt this year to secure enough state funding to ensure a merit raise program.
"We are committed to pursuing an aggressive merit program this year within the constraints our final budget may place upon us," she said.
Additionally, U. of I. President Bob Easter recently announced that furlough language was being removed from employee contracts.
"(Furloughs) are off the table, permanently," Wise said. "We cannot balance the university budget on the backs of our faculty and staff."
- Accepted the establishment of the Institute for Universal Biology, a five-year program funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
The institute was reviewed by two senate committees and includes $1.6 million in annual funding, as well as a five-year renewal option. The institute will be located within the Institute for Genomic Biology.
- Agreed to use a finals schedule that includes Saturday for the 2017-18 academic year.
The change, which was utilized for the first time this academic year, addresses a nonannual calendar conflict, but leaves less time for grading and compiling results.
Officials said the addition of Saturday finals this year was met with few complaints.
- Approved revisions to the "academic integrity" portions of the student code to address technology-aided cheating.
Charles L. Tucker, the vice provost for undergraduate education and innovation, said the text outlines "explicit standards of proof" for making allegations of cheating or plagiarism, or for students to appeal a decision.
"The overall strength of our process ... has been retained," he said.
- Accepted a statement written jointly by Sen. Nick Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership, and Randy McCarthy, a professor of mathematics, concerning future discussions over campus faculty unionization efforts.
The two debated the effects of unionization before the senate in February, with Burbules speaking against and McCarthy for faculty representation.
"We haven't changed our views on those differences, but today we stand together, and we ask our colleagues to stand with us in addressing some of the basic challenges facing our campus," the statement said.
The two said they wanted the issued to move beyond "divisive debate to a problem-solving orientation" and called for senate leadership to define a process for doing so. The statement offered 10 discussion topics.
"We expect that by fall this process will result in a public report that lays out specific plans for moving forward," the statement said.
Some senators said the statement was inappropriate because it called for a specific action and circumvented the committee structure.