Administrative Faculty

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.



2 Responses to “Administrative Faculty”

  1.   jwallace Says:

    I have serious concerns regarding some of the points made in this blog and would like to try to address them one at a time. I do have a couple of general concerns though that I’d like to address first. You begin by listing the two charges given to the Administrative Faculty PPP committee and then proceed to make arguments that I assume are counter argumentative to the Admin Faculty PPP report because of your remark that “they do seem not be very close to the opinion of the AFP^3 Committee.” As of 5/28, 11 am, this report has not been posted and I question such how “fair” it is for a faculty senate chair to post their opinion regarding the charges given to a committee before the senate has had a chance to read the committee’s report. Also, it seems that your comments regarding administrative faculty go far beyond the charges given to the AFPPP committee, which makes me question the original intent in terms of expected outcomes of the executive committee who made these charges. That being said, I would like to respond to several of your individual points.

    “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.”

    Response: I assume that the folks that you describe as needing to work “by the job” are needed for a job that is not a full time job so an academic or administrative faculty appointment would not be appropriate and that the position does not require that the person have a degree so a Letter of Appointment (LOA) contract would not be appropriate. In my own group I have dealt with this situation in two ways: in one case, by getting approval from the Provost to hire a non-degreed person for a LOA position; and, in a second case, by hiring the person under a casual labor contract.

    I assume that this position would truly be a “special case” type of position and would not be viewed as a way to bypass the classified system and therefore violate the rights of classified personnel. I would also like to assume, but have some doubts because some of the arguments you make later in your post, that you realize that this type of position would not fit administrative faculty whose job and role assignments are seen as ongoing and fulltime. If the job assigned to an administrative faculty becomes obsolete or is no longer needed, the PDQ of the administrative faculty is revised based on the person’s skills and background or the position is phased out and the admin faculty is given a terminal contract.
    So, it appears to me that the big question is whether an additional position type is needed and how it would be different from the other position types already in place.

    “There is a great deal of variation [in academic and administrative roles]. . . . Some administrative faculty have Ph.D.s, some don’t even have a bachelors. . . When regents, legislators, or members of the public learn we apply the word [faculty] to all professional staff, regardless of whether they are qualified to teach or not, they are very puzzled.”

    Response: I completely agree with the statement that there is a great deal of variation in academic and administrative faculty roles, but I don’t know of a good way around this and I don’t see the problem with the variation. There are a good number of different types of academic faculty, i.e. lecturers, research faculty, clinical faculty, library faculty, Cooperative Extension faculty. Administrative faculty could be divided into two groups, those who supervise and those who don’t, with variation in the recipients of the supervision. Most administrative faculty are viewed as being in a “support” position, which in my opinion does not diminish their importance to the overall mission of the university.

    The statement that “some [administrative faculty] don’t even have a bachelors degree” is correct. According to Marsha Miller, in Human Resources, there are under 10 administrative faculty who don’t have a bachelors degree. She said that these less-than-10 administrative faculty are incumbents whose position needed to be changed from a classified position to an administrative faculty position because their job required them to work longer than a 40-hr week or to work on weekends. Working longer than a 40-hour week or working on weekends as well as weekdays is often expected of administrative faculty because of their role responsibilities, just as it is expected of academic faculty. Like academic faculty, but unlike classified staff, they are not paid overtime nor can they accrue compensation time.

    Who is “qualified to teach”? Is the person’s terminal degree the qualifier and, if so, doesn’t this qualification vary with the teaching position. There are academic faculty (lecturers) who teach with a masters degree. There are LOAs who teach with a bachelors degree. There are academic faculty who don’t teach undergraduate or graduate courses. But, the big question is: What does this “teaching” qualification have to do with the charges given to the AFPPP committee and with this discussion in general. I don’t understand the point being made here.

    “I would advocate creating new categories of professional staff, without eliminating the current category. . . New hires could be made into any category the university thought appropriate.”

    Response: So what you’re advocating is the creation of a new category for those positions that require a person who doesn’t have a college degree and who would be hired for a job that a classified position would not be appropriate for? And, you’re not advocating that the administrative faculty position not be assigned to new hires? And, you’re not advocating for changes in the rights of administrative faculty, specifically the right to be represented on the Faculty Senate? I’m not convinced that this is the case after reading the rest of your post.

    “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.”

    Response: If you are not talking about changing the rights of administrative faculty, then this question jumps the gun a bit. At this time, the only university-related group that does not have representation in a group that recommends university policy are LOAs. The fact that LOAs don’t have representation has been discussed several times in Faculty Senate and has been dismissed as being too problematic to address. Academic and Administrative faculty have local representation on the Faculty Senate, classified staff with the Staff Employees Council, undergraduate students with ASUN, and graduate students with GSA.

    If new categories of positions are created then representation is certainly an issue that will need to be considered but until these new categories have been created and defined, this discussion is academic, unless what we are really talking about here is administrative faculty no longer having representation on the Faculty Senate.

    “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.”

    Response: I recognize and applaud the Bylaws & Codes committee for working so diligently on clarification of the language and content of the University ByLaws and Elliott for his leadership in this effort. So, if additional by-laws are needed to better “fit” administrative faculty, why don’t we charge the Bylaws and Code committee to recommend revisions and additions that would address this deficiency? What is the alternative solution, removing all mention of administrative faculty from the bylaws?

    “Some administrative faculty like the title [administrative faculty], 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.”

    Response: I’m confused. I didn’t think you were talking about changing the administrative faculty title. I have not heard the complaints that you refer to, but it is true that there are no awards for administrative faculty similar to some of those few awards given to Academic Faculty. Administrative faculty do not compete with academic faculty for sabbaticals but have been able, in the past, to apply for professional leave, which is similar to sabbaticals. Very few administrative faculty have applied for this leave because in most cases there are no viable replacements for us when we are on an extended leave. We have been recognized for the way in which we do our jobs with merit awards, which is an important award because it is a monetary award and it recognizes above average work. I can’t speak for all administrative faculty, but I think that is what is important to most of us.

    With regards to being “outvoted by academic faculty”, I haven’t found voting “as a block” on academic or non-academic matters by academic or administrative faculty to be an issue in the five years I have been on the Faculty Senate or on any of the various faculty senate committees that I have served on. My experience has been that we listen to each other, particularly paying attention to those with the most knowledge or experience on an issue, and we vote based on others input or we abstain when we don’t feel qualified to vote on an issue. I remember very few issues in which there was a significant difference in voting and that those were not a case of voting by block . What are you really getting at here?

    “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.”

    Response: You right, Elliott. Respect should be an outcome of the acts and character of a person and not the result of a title and perceived stereotype that accompanies that title. I have never used the title administrative faculty to gain respect from those who don’t know my character. I have experienced a different attitude in a very few, usually students, when they know I have a Ph.D. Neither “titles” define who I am and whether I deserve the respect of others. But you nailed it on the head. The title doesn’t really matter unless it affects my rights and, I would also add, my representation and ability to vote on university issues. My fear, Elliott, is that you are advocating that the category administrative faculty not be assigned to new hires and/or that administrative faculty do not have representation on Faculty Senate and if that is what you are advocating in this discussion, you are affecting my rights.

    “In the Senate, we sometimes have a difficult time getting administrative faculty to serve to the extent academic faculty are expected to serve.”

    Response: This statement is so skewed that I don’t know where to begin in addressing it. In my experience, the administrative faculty elected to Faculty Senate or to the FS executive board, have been both willing to serve and have generally been exemplary in that service. With regards to service on FS committees, administrative faculty may not feel that they have the background or experience to serve on some committees, such as the Academic Standards committee, but those who are interested in university governance issues do volunteer and work on these committees. With regards to last year’s Admin Faculty PPP committee who didn’t produce a report, what was the responsibility of the committee chair appointed by the FS Executive Board or the responsibility of the FS liaison in this matter? I suggest that this particular event was an exception and not evidence of administrative faculty’s willingness to serve.

    One recommendation of the Morale Study committee a couple of years ago was that senior tenured faculty be encouraged to serve in greater numbers than they do to offset the burden on junior faculty and to add their mature, experienced perspectives to Faculty Senate. The ability and willingness of people to serve is based on many factors and the lack of either is not limited to one group.

    “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.”

    Response: If this is true of a large number of academic faculty, I am very disappointed because I believe the concern is based on biases and misconceptions. By “the degree”, are you referring to the Ph.D. degree? As stated earlier, some administrative faculty have a Ph.D. and some academic faculty do not. Some administrative faculty teach or could teach; some academic faculty don’t teach or do research in the traditional sense. But are these differences really important?

    Also as stated earlier, it has been my experience on Faculty Senate that we listen with respect to each other and that we vote on issues after weighing all the opinions and recommendations. It is also my opinion that we do represent the university well in the work we do together on the Faculty Senate and that our actions and decisions are stronger because of the variety of perspectives and experiences that have contributed to those decisions.

    I shudder at the thought of a bicameral organization of academic and administrative faculty, not because of the power that one group would lose, but because of the power and influence that we would lose as a whole. I think we can better represent the concerns of this university as one group with one voice. Can you imagine the time that would be wasted deciding which group had precedence over which issues and which group’s recommendations should have more weight in common concerns?

    “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.”

    Response: First of all, I am not convinced there that are substantive issues so this statement is not a compelling one for me. Second, are you suggesting making changes before they become dictated changes when these changes could have a negative impact on us? At this point this conversation has diverged a long ways from the Admin Faculty PPP committee’s charges, but I suspect that it is a conversation that has been bubbling under the surface for some time.

    So, I suggest, instead of making changes before they are dictated, that we all participate in this discussion and we decide what we believe in. Once that decision is made, then we should have the backbone to stand up for that decision and to resist change that is dictated.

    “We should be willing to make changes that make sense, and not fear change.”

    Response: I agree wholeheartedly that we should be willing to make changes that make sense for us, but what makes sense for us cannot be divorced from our history and how we have evolved to this point and time. Change should also be done if it adds value. And lastly, making changes or doing things like our peers do them was not a good argument for my mother and I don’t think it should be the deciding factor for us as well.

  2.   ddietrich Says:

    Without pointing the way to a solution, I think this category can create confusion on many campuses. Before I came here, I worked at Stony Brook, where my position was considered to be professional staff. But to complicate matters further, all professional staff in the SUNY system were represented by the same union as faculty (UUP), and professional staff positions were also eligible for permanent status–which was in many respects, the functional equivalent of tenure. UUP positions were different from both classified positions (which were represented by a different union), and “Management Confidential” positions (who were the most senior administrators–such as the President, Provost, and VPs).

    Likewise, when I was in graduate school at the University of Virginia, I worked for a while in the Provost’s office, and I remember that most non-teaching administrators there held the academic title of “lecturer,” even though they were essentially administrators or professional staff in an administrative division with no teaching responsibilities. They were considered faculty appointments simply because the hiring process was different than it was for classified staff–and the benefits packages were also very different.

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