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.


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 (facsenchair@unr.edu)


Request for input on FS committee charges, 2008-2009

June 6, 2008

Dear Senators:

Bill Follette and I are in the process of putting together the various Faculty Senate committees, and soon we will need to work on the charges. In July, the Executive Board will have a retreat (it’s really not as glamorous as it sounds), where we will propose charges for the next year. These proposals will then be brought to the senate in August for your approval.

So that our committees focus on the most productive tasks, 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. We will also ask the current committee chairs for their suggestions. We can then use your ideas and discuss them further, to decide how best to address the problems and whether these could be good charges for the senate’s committees next year.

A good starting point might be to read the charges for this last year, for each of the standing committees. These are:

Academic Standards Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/AcStand%2007-08%20Charges.pdf

Bylaws and Code Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/BC_07-08_Charge.pdf

Campus Affairs Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/CampAff%2007-08%20Charges.pdf

Salary and Benefits Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/SalBen%2007-08%20Charges.pdf

Technology Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/Tech%2007-08%20Charges.pdf

Administrative Faculty Personnel Policy and Procedures Committee:
http://www.unr.edu/facultysenate/CteeInfo/AFPPP%2007-08%20Charges.pdf

In addition, we are naming an Ad-hoc Research and Grants Committee, a College of Science five-year review committee, a College of Liberal Arts five-year review committee, and a committee to review the restructuring of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

This blog is a perfect place to make your suggestions.  Scroll down to the comments link and post.

We greatly look forward to hearing your ideas.

Best Regards,

Elliott Parker


Academic Standards Year End Report discussion

May 9, 2008

LINKS:
2007-2008 Academic Standards Committee Year End Report
Kathy Boardman Memo re:Year End Report

The links above lead you to the End of Year Report (including the committee charges) and a memo from Kathy Boardman regarding the year end report.  

There were three charges with specific committee recommendations, so they have been placed in three seperate posts for individual discussion.  For the June meeting, the intent is to have these items on the consent agenda in the same manner so individual or similar recommendations can be discussed or approved without impacting the whole.

Please only comment on this post if you have something general to say.  If it is specific to particular charges or their recommendations, please use the other topics to post.


Academic Standards, Charge #1 Recommendations (Discussion)

May 9, 2008

Please limit the discussion to the recommendations for charge #1 listed below.  It would be helpful if you note which recommendation you are commenting on by number prior to making your comments.

Pertaining to Charge 1:

1.  The existing catalog language regarding the policy for dropping a course should be changed to state that students who wish to withdraw from individual classes must obtain their instructor’s signature on a form stating that they have discussed their intention to withdraw with the instructor. 

2.  The existing catalog language regarding the grade replacement policy should be changed as follows: 
           2a.  Students may repeat a course anytime before graduation, instead of only during the next semester a course is offered.
            2b.  Students may not repeat a course for which a grade of C or better is earned (except where specific degree programs require higher grades)
            2c.  Repeating a course withdrawn from does not count as a grade replacement attempt.
            2d.  The number of allowable grade replacement attempts should be increased to 4 courses.
            2e.  Only one grade replacement attempt should be allowed per course, although more are permissible with approval from the Dean/Chair and academic advisor. Repeating a course more than once requires a plan for improvement, drafted and signed by both student and advisor, which may include tutoring and other forms of academic support. 

3.  Regarding probation, disqualification, suspension and dismissal, the committee recommends as follows:

            3a.  Students under academic warning and probation should avail themselves of progressively more advisement and assistance as a condition of continued enrollment.  This should take the form of a written agreement specifying the assistance the student will obtain (e.g., help with study skills, tutoring in specific subjects). The contract would be developed and signed by the student and his/her academic advisor, then signed by the student’s department chair and the dean.  UNR Admissions and Records would receive a copy of the contract. Course registration would be blocked until approval of the contract.

            3b.  Students not raising their GPA above the threshold for disqualification after two semesters should be suspended from UNR and not readmitted until they can present a record of 15 semester credits of transferable credit at a community college or other accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 2.5. 

4.  Regarding midterm progress reporting, the committee recommended that faculty teaching lower-division courses be strongly encouraged to use the midterm grade reporting functionality in CAIS, or some other means, to report grades of C-, D and F to students prior to the drop date.  A general e-mail should be sent to alert faculty to the existence of this tool.


Academic Standards, Charge #2 Recommendations (Discussion)

May 9, 2008

Please limit the discussion to the recommendations for charge # 2 listed below.  It would be helpful if you note which recommendations you are commenting on by number prior to making your comments.Pertaining to Charge 2:

5.  The Nevada Faculty Alliance should be involved in future discussions with the Faculty Senate about the formulation of a code of ethical conduct for faculty at UNR.

6.  The “faculty-wide discussion” should not begin with a campus-wide survey of all faculty, but be conducted within the Colleges.  As a first step towards this, the matter should be brought before the Academic Leadership Council.


Academic Standards Charge #3 Recommendations (Discussion)

May 9, 2008

Please limit the discussion to the recommendations for charge #3 listed below.  It would be helpful if you note which recommendations you are commenting on by number prior to making your comments.

Pertaining to Charge 3:

7.  Regarding methods of addressing academic dishonesty by students (reporting and sanctions):

            7a.  The OSC web site should put online the standard format of the letter to be sent to students, or several different sample letters; and should include a link for faculty which would include all the information faculty need to report, verify, and learn about penalties for academic dishonesty.

            7b.  The curriculum of the voluntary course in ethical decision-making for students currently being offered through the Office of Student Conduct (see pp. 31-32 below) should be evaluated by the committee.  The committee should work with Sally Morgan, bearing in mind our specific curricular recommendations of several years ago, to design a course that fits both her and our needs.

            7c.  The committee should propose specific language to be added to the conduct code related to retaking of courses.  The Graduate School should be made aware of and take steps to implement our committee’s earlier recommendations regarding the Q course and implement this policy as soon as the grade has been approved for use.  The committee should discuss whether, with these changes, the current policy is adequate.  If there are other issues not addressed by the current policy or by our other recommendations, the committee should identify them and make specific recommendations for Graduate Council consideration.

            7d.  A mechanism should be developed for noting on the student’s transcript actions taken regarding academic dishonesty that does not involve a specific course (e.g., research projects, TA work, etc.).  The permanence of this notation should be treated in the same way as the Q grade for in-class dishonesty.  The Graduate Council should look into this issue and make sure that a consistent policy is in place.

            7e.  The Office of Student Conduct should put in place a mechanism for notifying the home department of students involved in incidents of academic dishonesty.

            7f.  Sally Morgan should be asked to follow up with the Provost to ensure that changes recommended by the committee in the past (regarding the development of sanctioning guidelines to guide faculty in the academic sanction area) are in fact implemented into the Code.

8.  Regarding ways of discouraging academic dishonesty among students:

            8a.  The committee should discuss the importance of having the Provost’s or President’s office address publicly the issue of academic dishonesty, and of establishing how the administration will promote the importance of the issue.

            8b.  As regards the modality of conducting faculty workshops, face-to-face workshops should be scheduled regularly and online options be made available.

            8c.  As regards faculty and student websites on academic dishonesty issues and resources, UNR’s webpage should be revised to include links to other web pages (as indicated in Appendix A, p. 35 below).

9.  Regarding policy clarity and future directions:

            9a.  Based on the help and facilities available to Sally Morgan, a definite timetable should be set up to ensure the implementation of the committee’s earlier recommendation that the University Code of Conduct and Policies should, in separate sections, lay out explicitly the nature of possible academic and administrative sanctions, and distinguish these two types of sanctions clearly.

            9b.  Policy language should include the instruction that the committee should revisit the policy three years after it was enacted to  determine how well or ill it has functioned.