Members of the University Statutes and Senate Procedures Committee will refine language on proposed rules changes aimed at more clearly delineating the lines of authority for hiring tenure-system faculty members.
The committee's proposed changes were shared with senators in a first reading at their Nov. 16 meeting and the resolution will appear on the Dec. 7 senate agenda.
One of the proposed changes specifies the requirements for U. of I. Board of Trustees approval for the positions of president, university officers, deans, the CEO of the UIC hospital, directors of intercollegiate athletics and head coaches for football and basketball.
In addition, the USSP recommends the board formally delegate its responsibility for tenure-system appointments at the level of dean and below to the president, who would in turn delegate that authority to campus chancellors.
The end result would be more campus control over lower-level, nonadministrative academic appointments and to avoid the procedural gap that gave rise to the recent legal settlement with Steven Salaita.
The proposal is the result of an ad hoc committee commissioned in 2014 by former Senate Executive Committee Chairman Roy Campbell and the Office of the Provost.
The committee recommended changes to the mechanisms of faculty hiring; USSP was asked to propose new language to reflect the recommendations.
USSP Chair William Maher, the university archivist, said the board already delegates authority to campus for specialized faculty, and he is hopeful trustees are open to expanding the practice.
"It's clear this process of delegating authority is already done," he said, "and the change will improve our competiveness in faculty recruitment."
Interim Chancellor Barbara J. Wilson said she thinks the proposal will lead to much-needed hiring-practice reform.
"I definitely think we need to do something," she said. "And I think the board wants to have that conversation. We're all motivated to find better ground."
She said she also would like to see rules strengthened regarding the consultation process between the chancellor and campus constituents during the hiring process.
She said improved hiring practices and the settling of the Salaita case would be helpful in the university's case to be removed from the American Association of University Professors’ censure list. She said she had been in contact with national AAUP leaders to determine what other steps the university needs to take for a resolution.
"I don't like settlements," she said, "but I think this was the right decision. Dr. Salaita was ready to move forward and we were ready to move forward. It doesn't get us off the censure list, but it will allow us to take a step forward."
Several senators offered wording suggestions for the USSP resolution, which will be brought before the senate for a vote at a future meeting.
One senator predicted the changes wouldn't prevent the board from "meddling" in faculty appointments in the future. Another argued against the changes, saying that, as the legal representatives of the taxpayers, the board has an obligation to oversee all aspects of the university's operation.
Sen. Harriet Murav, a professor of Slavic languages and of communication, said the rules changes would improve the university's hiring competitiveness by illustrating to applicants that the campus has hiring autonomy and improved academic freedom protections.
If approved by the senate, the changes would require approval by the board of trustees.