Administrative Faculty

May 27, 2009

In 2008, the Faculty Senate’s Executive Board charged one of its committees, the Administrative Faculty Personnel Policies & Procedures (AFP^3) committee, with the following charges, among others:

6. Consider issues related to the creation of a new employment category for professional or technical staff, and review the policies and categories of peer institutions. Make recommendations to the Senate.

7. UNR Bylaws require that all faculty, academic and administrative, should have the protection of bylaws at the major unit (e.g., college) or below, but many administrative faculty work in divisions and units without bylaws. What bylaws are appropriate and necessary for administrative faculty, and what current examples exist? Make recommendations to the Senate, as appropriate.

What was our thinking in developing this charge? I am happy to tell you some of my own thoughts. But you must take them with a grain of salt, as I do not know if they are close to the opinion of the executive board, the senate, or the administration. They do seem not be be very close to the opinion of the AFP^3 Committee.

This question came up last year because we learned that many people report difficulties in hiring the people they need, when what they need does not fall correctly into either the “faculty” camp or the “classified” camp. There are folks who need to hire professionals who do not necessarily have a college education, but who need to work by the job, not by the hour. The hiring process can be slow, and the classified staff system has an elaborate system of bumping rights. Many are currently concerned that this will make it hard for them to compete for grants. Some grant-funded work has to be done by hiring subcontractors, which is more expensive but more flexible. I think that it is dumb and parochial for the university not to fix.

State law defines us all as professional staff, and only the Code and UNR Bylaws limit us to “faculty.” This stems for historical reasons to our old unitary faculty model, in which you could be tenured as a professor of buildings and grounds. Somebody was apparently Solomonaic a couple of decades ago and separated faculty into two types, administrative and academic, but there are other needs that these two types do not meet. UNLV has changed their bylaws to use different terminology, but they are still bound by a badly-written Code. DRI also does it very differently than we do.

The Code actually defines administrative faculty as administrators, as faculty in “executive, supervisory, or support” roles. Department chairs are supervisors, but they are academic faculty. There is a great deal of variation. Some administrative faculty were once classified staff who were given additional responsibilities. Some administrative faculty were once academic faculty, and still hold tenure in their home academic department. Some administrative faculty have Ph.D.s, some don’t even have a bachelors. Some are fully qualified to teach, and do. Some aren’t, and don’t.

What a mess.

Webster’s dictionary defines faculty as the teachers and instructors within any of the divisions or comprehensive branches of learning at a college or university, or alternatively, as the members of a learned profession. When regents, legislators, or members of the public learn we apply the word to all professional staff, regardless of whether they are qualified to teach or not, they are very puzzled. Why do we do this? Why are we so wedded to this?

I personally think that some administrative faculty truly are that. I think some are not, and we make things both confusing and difficult by insisting on lumping everybody together in the same definition.

If I could have my way, I would advocate creating new categories of professional staff, without eliminating the current category. I have tossed out the terms “technical staff” and “administrative professionals” but am not wedded to anything so specific. Current administrative faculty might choose to retain their place in that category, or might choose an alternative category if it held advantages. New hires could be made into any category the university thought appropriate.

In addition to the grandfathering issue, there are several other questions raised by the creation of new categories of professional staff. In particular, how could we best protect faculty rights, even if we no longer call some of them faculty? What rights and privileges really matter to them? We need to consider how they would best be represented, if not by the faculty senate, or how to make sure they continue to receive the benefits that matter to them. We would also need to reassure them that they were not being put at any additional risk, a difficult thing in this budgetary climate, where administrative faculty positions have been cut more than for academic faculty.

In addition to hiring flexibility and linguistic clarity, there are other reasons to consider. For more than a decade, I have been very concerned with improving and enforcing bylaws. It is very clear to me that most of the bylaws are really written for academic faculty. For decades we have shoehorned administrative faculty into them, but they just don’t really fit. For example, nowhere in the bylaws does it accurately describe the annual evaluation process for administrative faculty, and that is pretty basic in terms of rights. Instead, we talk about personnel committees and the recommendations of chairs and deans. This is just ignored for administrative faculty, but I think this is a bad idea. Bylaws become useless when they are ignored in some cases. How do you protect rights when everybody knows the rules do not apply?

Some administrative faculty like the title, but others find it problematic. Some complain that being lumped in with academic faculty puts them at a disadvantage, since they must compete for benefits (e.g., sabbaticals, awards) that are really tailor-made for academic faculty. They are rarely ever recognized for what their jobs are, and are almost always outvoted by academic faculty even on matters that aren’t academic in nature.

Some work with students and find the title of faculty helps get their respect. Otherwise, I am not sure why anyone would care as long as it does not affect your rights. “Call me anything you like,” my father used to say, “just don’t call me late for dinner.” Some just like having the title, or just being part of the larger group. Some of my friends who are administrative faculty who came from other universities think it is a little silly, and have never understood why we do it this way. Others have never been at any other university, and assume that we do it the way it should be done.

There are, however, practical differences. In the Senate, we sometimes have a difficult time getting administrative faculty to serve to the extent academic faculty are expected to serve. Academic faculty are evaluated by their peers on teaching, research, and service, but many administrative faculty are evaluated by their direct superiors on the performance of specific duties, which does not always include significant service. We once tried to appoint a committee chair who had to get his supervisor’s permission to serve on a committee. This is antithetical to the independent nature of academic faculty. Last year, the AFP^3 Committee failed to even report because everybody on it was too busy with other duties to even meet.

Regarding representation on the Faculty Senate, I have mixed feelings. I value the contributions of our administrative faculty to the debate, and they bring a fresh perspective to the table. I like and respect them individually. On the other hand, I’m not sure they really ever get their concerns heard, and there are practical problems too. There is a strong tradition in the Senate that the Chair should be already tenured, since this allows the Chair the independence to speak for the faculty, to stand up to the administration, the Regents, and even the Governor when it is necessary. This tradition makes the Senate stronger. But with administrative faculty making up a third of the Senate, we have a relatively small pool to choose from in nominating the Chair-elect (especially if there are other characteristics we want in a Chair).

Some have suggested that a different governance structure might make sense. I am agnostic on this, but I do think somebody ought to at least think about it. If we do create new categories of professional staff, the issue will have to be dealt with because these new folks will need some sort of representation.

There are also academic faculty who are concerned with voting rights. Some academic faculty do not like the idea of having people who do not have the degree, who do not teach or research, voting on curricular issues or tenure-track hires. It’s never been an issue for me personally, but some faculty are really concerned with this.

Another reason the issue remains a concern for me is that issues come up every so often with the Executive Board that appear to result from this aggregation of professional staff into one catch-all category. For example, one issue we have been trying to resolve is whether or not “A contract” faculty are allowed to consult. These faculty are required to take leave before they consult. This may make sense for administrative faculty who are expected to keep regular hours, and this makes sense for academic faculty who are funded entirely by grants. But what about state-funded “A contract” academic faculty? Faculty on “B contracts” do not have to take leave, but are instead only expected to report their consulting and keep it under an average of one day per week. Try explaining this difference to the Board of Regents, however.

We are concerned that if these issues are so obvious to us, then eventually they will be obvious to somebody else with the power to dictate change. We know some regents and legislators think the university is a little nuts on issues like this. If we are going to have change, we need to get in front of it to make sure it is done right and reasonably, to make sure it is done carefully and with full consideration by both academic and administrative faculty, to make sure rights and privileges are protected as best they can be.

Finally, I must admit to being in disagreement with the belief that Nevada is inherently different. I love Nevada and I love this university, but I want more of us to open our eyes and see what others do. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel or make change for the sheer love of change, but I think we should study the best practice of our peers, and adopt what works best. We should be willing to make changes that make sense, and not fear change.

The NSHE Budget has Closed

May 13, 2009

Dear Senators:

The budget for higher education finally closed yesterday evening, with a 12.5% reduction overall for NSHE’s state-funded operating budgets. This is relative to our budgets for 2008-2009, which were set by the previous Legislature. This cut is only a third of what the Governor requested, and it will require that the Legislature find the offsetting revenues, that they pass the budget by May 21, and they are able to override the Governor’s probable veto.

There is a Regents meeting tomorrow, which Milt and I will participate in, and we will give you more information once we know more. In the meanwhile, here are some things you should know.

First, the university is already much of the way there already, because the Governor already requested budget cuts this past year, and because we have been preparing for this. It also should include any pay cuts or furloughs, though there are constitutional issues regarding whether or not NSHE can be forced by the Legislature to cut pay, and legal/contractual issues regarding whether NSHE can cut our paychecks unilaterally without a notice period.

Second, there are some tuition increases that are being planned, but these are not dramatic in nature relative to those we have already had, and these tuition increases will be allowed to offset some of the budget cuts for us, rather than just going back to the Legislature as is usual.

Third, it is a complicated matter, using enrollments, the formula, and raw politics, to determine how much of a cut each institution will receive. UNLV has experienced a fall in enrollments recently, from which they will mostly be held harmless, and CSN has grown considerably more than we have. I can’t yet say exactly how much we will need to cut for a couple of days, though we have a good idea already.

Finally, you should know that we have been working with the President and the Provost to prepare for this decision, so if we need to have a curricular review to consider cuts to academic programs and tenured positions, you should feel confident that faculty governance and the Senate will play a key role in any decisions.

By the way, if budget discussions leave you a bit bewildered, Bruce and I wrote up two documents to explain them, which I have linked on my website and you might want to peruse:

University Budgets: A Guide for the Perplexed (Mar. 23, 2009).

Funding, Fairness, and the Formula: The University of Nevada, Reno, in the System of Higher Education (Apr. 17, 2009).

Best regards,

Elliott Parker, Ph.D
Faculty Senate Chair
Professor of Economics /0030
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0027 U.S.A.

Chair’s Corner: goals for chair and senate

May 11, 2009

The university has a unique governance structure that many do not understand well. On budgetary matters, universities follow a traditional, hierarchical top-down model. On curricular and research issues, universities follow a bottom-up approach, in which administrators act as the agents of the faculty. On policy matters, the two share governance, sometimes uneasily.

The Senate represents the faculty, but it is not a union like the NFA. It is, in a way, like an equivalent branch of government, almost but not quite entirely unlike the Legislative and Executive functions. Whether it equal and effective depends on the people involved, and how they choose to behave.

As the new chair, my major goals are:
1. To recognize that to be effective, shared faculty governance requires a greater responsibility of faculty to look out for the long-run interests of the university, and to make reasonable and well thought-out recommendations for change.
2. To make the senate as effective as possible in working with university administration, by working cooperatively with the administration while remaining independent of it.
3. To try to turn over as much control to the senate as is practical, while doing as much with the executive board, the senate office, or on my own to be effective and responsive.
4. To make sure that shared faculty governance plays its proper role in both the development of the ISP and in any curricular review that takes place in response to the budget crisis.
5. To help shepherd through changes that will help the university continue to grow up, to learn from best practice at other universities instead of continuing to believe that UNR is somehow unique.
6. To try to fix long-standing problems in our Code, Bylaws, Manual, and practice, to make them all accurately reflect what we can and should do, to make them workable, and to make them in the university’s long-run interests.
7. To be responsive to suggestions and proposals from the senate in particular and the faculty in general, to represent them as best as I can.

I will rely on the Executive Board to make sure that my efforts are consistent with these principles. The Senate Office staff are also not shy about letting me know when I go too far or make an error in judgment.

I will also try to stay engaged with those outside the university – System Administration, the Regents, the Legislature, and the Public – to better advocate for the faculty.

I will be contacting senators through the Senate Blog – which we don’t use near as often as we should – to get input from them on what problems the senate needs to address, and to keep working on making senators know they can make a difference.

Sense of the University of Nevada, Reno Faculty Senate Regarding Pay Cuts for Faculty and Staff

May 8, 2009

The Nevada State Legislature is currently proposing that pay cuts for state employees be part of budget reductions for the 2009-2011 Biennium. On May 6, 2009, the Faculty Senate of the University of Nevada, Reno passed the following three resolutions regarding the sense of the senate, should there be a mandate to cut wages and salaries due to budgetary constraints.

1. While some have suggested that all employees be subject to a uniform policy for symbolic or historical reasons, it is the strong sense of this senate that any portion of faculty salary and benefits from non-state funded sources should be immune from reductions to state-funded salaries. Faculty and staff who are funded entirely from sources other than state funds, such as grant-funded researchers, should be exempt from reductions in pay if they are able to maintain current or projected salaries using such funds. We believe that it hurts the university and the state if we turn away income that costs Nevada taxpayers nothing. We also believe that any policy that reduces the incentive for seeking extramural funding is antithetical to the long-run goals of the university.

2. Next, it is the sense of this senate that reductions in full-time equivalency (FTE) or other similar approaches are strongly preferred to reductions in the base rate of pay. Reducing FTE makes it easier for some faculty to make up lost income through other sources such as grants and contracts, it ties pay to performance expectations, and it allows incomes to be more quickly restored once revenues recover.

3. Finally, it is the sense of this senate that the Legislature and the Nevada System of Higher Education should allow the university to determine how funds are cut, and if wages and salaries must be cut then the university should be allowed to reduce average pay, rather than requiring uniform reductions across the board. Such flexibility should strive both to protect lower-salaried faculty and staff and to serve the long-run goals of the university.

What do you suggest this year for Charges?

May 6, 2009

Dear Senators:

This summer, the executive board and I will start putting charges and members for the various Faculty Senate committees. Half of our committees will operate on the academic year, and half will be on the calendar year. Once we draft charges, they will come to the senate for possible modification and approval.

We get some charges from problems we run into in the prior year or new problems we anticipate, and other charges are suggested by the prior committees. But we also get charges from you, the representatives of the faculty.

We would be grateful if each of you could give us a problem or two that you think the Faculty Senate needs to address this next year, so we can debate and prioritize them in order to have our committees be most productive. Putting them here on this blog would not only be more transparent, it would help other senators better consider their own suggestions.

We greatly look forward to hearing your ideas.

Best Regards,
Elliott Parker
Faculty Senate Chair (