UNL Academic Senate Meeting - October 7, 2003



City Campus Union, Auditorium

October 7, 2003

Presidents John Wunder, Wes Peterson, and Tice Miller


1.0      Call to Order

            President Wunder called the meeting to order at 2:37 p.m.


2.0      Announcements

            2.1  Meetings with President Wunder

President Wunder announced that a sign-up sheet was being circulated for senators to meet with him to discuss issues of concern for their departments.  He noted that meetings will last one hour and he encouraged senators to sign-up.


2.2  Invitation to UNK and UNO Collective Bargaining Unit Representatives

President Wunder reported that an invitation has been sent to representatives of the UNK and UNO collective bargaining units to speak to the UNL Senate in November.  He noted that a poll of the senators was conducted in February and the overwhelming response was to invite the representatives to UNL for an informational presentation on their collective bargaining units.


3.0      Approval of 9/9/03 Minutes

Professor King, Agricultural Leadership Education and Communication, moved and Professor Stick, Educational Administration, seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved.


4.0      Unfinished Business

4.1  Discussion on the Relationship of Varner Hall to UNL and Other Nebraska State Universities Generally, the Search for New Leadership, and Efforts and Ways to Reduce Bureaucracy and Costs at the Systems Level.  Invited guest:  Dr. Randolph Ferlic, Chair, University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

President Wunder introduced Dr. Randolph Ferlic, Chair of the Board of Regents and a retired heart surgeon who served as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  Dr. Ferlic stated that he loves the state of Nebraska and he became involved with the Board of Regents because he wanted to see the University become a quality institution with a focus on being successful. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that everything is interconnected at both the macro and micro levels of society.  He noted that the faculty members at UNL operate at the micro level of the university system but the macro level is needed.  He stated that a strong central administration is needed to act as a buffer between the university and the legislature and general public.  He stated that if there is not a strong central administration, then UNL will be the loser because the financial powers in the state would shift the focus of the university to Omaha.


Dr. Ferlic stated that he sees himself representing the entire state of Nebraska, not just his district.  He noted that he fought to save the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis.  He pointed out that all of the alumni from Curtis remain in the state and pay taxes.  He stated that he believed Curtis was worth saving.


Dr. Ferlic reminded the faculty that it is beneficial to think about the issues.  He stated that he is not against ideas, but the faculty members need to pick their fights carefully.  He noted that he reads the Daily Nebraskan and minutes of the Executive Committee and Senate.  He stated that he believes faculty members do a disservice to themselves and the university if they pick fights that the public see as important to them.  He stated that the citizens of Nebraska believe in Go Big Red and beer.  He stated this is the glue that holds the state together. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that the arms race in college sports needs to be dealt with through the NCAA.  He stated that universities cannot keep on paying exorbitantly high salaries to coaches. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that his advice to faculty members, particularly UNL faculty members, is that they need to start respecting their colleagues at the other campuses.  He stated that there needs to be more collaboration between the campuses and that this is crucial to providing service to the state of Nebraska and in keeping jobs.  He pointed out that the university is an economic driver for the state.  He noted that the next President of the University will need to build public and private partnerships and must have a good relationship with the Governor and Legislature. 


Dr. Ferllic stated that he has asked faculty members if they are better off now than they were ten years ago.  He stated that President Smith has been the right man at the right time.  He noted that things are better today due in part to the culture created by President Smith.  He noted that a huge grant has just been awarded to the university between two of the campuses.  He stated that more research work needs to be done across campuses. 


Dr. Ferlic wondered how much mentoring is being done by faculty members.  He stated that minutes of a previous Senate meeting indicated that one faculty member stated that it was not his/her job to be a recruiter.  He reminded the Senate that they are here for the students and that they should not be complacent in recruiting students. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that he is proud of the faculty and their accomplishments.  He stated they are a great asset to the university but they need to show and publicize their accomplishments.  He stated that there needs to be a conversation reaffirming the importance of the university to the state.


Professor Harbison, Chemistry, stated that things at the university have only been better off in the past 3 – 4 years.  He pointed out that the energy of the university is coming from the bottom up.  He stated that it is the faculty members that are the driving energy of the university, not the top administrators.  He noted that things seem to be better because not as many dictates are coming down from central administration.  He reported that he has attended Board of Regents meetings and tried to argue against the university acquiring LotusNotes.  He asked if it would not be better to provide the Board of Regents with a proper administrative staff and let them run the university, rather than having a large bureaucracy.  He asked why we need to pay central administration several million dollars only for them to pass to the Board of Regents documents that, for the most part, come from the campuses. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that he believed Professor Harbison thinks too highly of the Board.  He stated that he did not believe the Board can administer the campuses.  He pointed out that Iowa does not have a central administration but that it winds up being more costly to the university without one.  He noted that the old Board would rubber stamp decisions but this is not the case now.  He stated that one of the things the Board needs to do is hold Central’s feet to the fire.


Professor Stump, Modern Languages, stated that when professors leave there is always discussions of whether or not that position is needed or if the department can do without that person.  He asked if Dr. Ferlic believed that there should be a discussion regarding whether the university needs a president or whether continuation of the status quo is the only way to go.  Dr. Ferlic stated that it will depend on the new president.  He stated that he did not believe in the status quo and that there is the over capacity of administration in Nebraska. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that there is a real need to enhance student aid.  He noted that while the cost of tuition is still low here, the state is going through a difficult economic time.  He pointed out that these difficult times might bring some students back to Nebraska.  He noted that students embrace quality rather then economics when deciding where to go to school. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that the state’s economy is not coming back quickly and that we will probably be dealing with tough times for awhile.   He stated that it is important for the university to enhance its economics means and that this can be done by getting more collaborative grants from Washington D.C.  He stated that he understands the importance of the faculty but they need to keep in mind that they live in a macro environment where everything is connected. 


Secretary Fuller stated that she understands the role of the President and that this person needs to act as a politician at times.  She asked whether academic credentials will be a priority in candidates for the position or whether the search committee is looking for a former CEO or politician to fill the position.  Dr. Ferlic stated that it would be absurd not to get someone with a strong academic background.  He stated that he resents anyone who tries to do a pre-emptive strike against the search committee.  He stated that he wants to get the best candidate that Nebraska can get.  He stated that he wants the search committee to be exposed to the best candidates.  He pointed out that President Smith was a walk on candidate.  Dr. Ferlic stated that the search committee has not been formed yet.  He noted that there are people in the state who are willing to put up big dollars in order to hire a good person for the position.  He stated that more money will be needed in order to get the top candidates. 


Past President Miller stated that good candidates might be scared away because they believe there may be a favored son running for the position because of the statements made by some of the Board members.  Dr. Ferlic stated that nobody has an indoor track on the position.  He stated that the Board is interested in looking for outside candidates. 


Professor Crawford, Classics and Religious Studies, asked if there was an example of an actual arrangement between private industry and the university that helps support the university.  Dr. Ferlic stated that the Kiewit Institute is a prime example.  He stated that this arrangement has worked well and that it has become a real showplace.  He noted that there are tremendous opportunities for the university to collaborate with private entities and that these collaborations will help retain students in the state. 


Dr. Ferlic stated that there is a large growing population of Hispanic and Latinos in the state.  He pointed out that the university needs to entice this population into higher education.  He pointed out that in the last ten years there has been no math teacher going into teaching.  He stated that students need to be recruited into these areas of disciplines in order for the state and country to stay competitive in this world.


Professor Beck, Animal Science, stated that most of the faculty members are working very hard.  She stated that she had a question regarding the perception the public has of the university and the faculty.  She pointed out that the university has suffered a lot with the budget cuts.  She raised the point that the public would have a better view of the university if it made cost cutting measures by eliminating the President’s position, thereby saving $250,000 a year and making the Chancellor of UNL the head of the university system.   Dr. Ferlic stated that he perceives the public differently.  He noted that this is the first time that the public is seeing significant decreases in the university’s budget.  He noted that state senators are glad that they are not being lobbied by the individual campuses.    He stated that the Regents and the Legislature do not want to go back to the former system where each campus speaks for itself.  He stated that they want to have a centralized voice for the university.   Professor Beck stated that much of the public do not have an idea of what the faculty members do.  She pointed out that the President should be standing up for the faculty members and explaining to the public the work of the faculty.  Dr. Ferlic agreed and said that the Chancellors need to be involved in this as well.  He stated that President Smith and Chancellor Perlman often travel around the state but it is difficult to discuss academics at the local town meetings when many people want to talk about sports. 


5.0      New Business

            5.1  Motion on the Academic Senate Joining the Alliance for Intercollegiate Athletics Reform

President Wunder stated that the motion to join the Alliance comes from the Executive Committee.  He stated that the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee was asked by the Executive Committee to review the situation.  The IAC voted unanimously to have UNL join.  President Wunder noted that the motion will not be voted upon until the November meeting.  Professor Stick asked what the essential reforms would be that the Alliance wants to institute.  Professor Gaussoin, Chair of the IAC, stated that the early coalition formed to look into intercollegiate athletics was unwilling to work with the NCAA.  He stated that the IAC was reluctant to join the coalition at that time.  He pointed out that the Alliance has taken a different stance and is now interesting in working with the NCAA.  He stated that one of the goals of the Alliance is trying to get control over intercollegiate athletics. 


Professor Morris, School of Biological Sciences, asked where the Chancellor’s office stands on this matter and whether there is an official university stance.  President Wunder stated that the Chancellor’s office is interested and suggested that UNL send representatives to the conference.   President Wunder pointed out that he has not heard of any official position from the Chancellor’s office.


Professor May, Economics, asked if the conference was the University Presidents (AAUP) Governance Conference or whether it was the AAUP Professors Governance Conference.  President Wunder stated that the letter states that it is the American Association of University Presidents (AAUP) Governance Conference.


President Wunder stated that there will be further discussion on the motion at the November meeting.


6.0      Committee Reports

            6.1  Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee (Professor Keown)

Professor Keown reported that as chair of the committee he spent a lot of time talking with faculty members and departments in regards to the budget cuts and how they were done.  He asked for any questions regarding the report.


            6.2  Grading and Examinations Committee (Professor Woodward)

Professor Woodward referred to the report and stated that it shows that some colleges were very busy dealing with late withdrawals and grade option appeals.  He noted that a report on the effects of the new grading system is included in the main report.  He noted that the change in the grading system has actually increased the percentage of grades given out in the A-, A, and A+ category. 


Professor Gilde, Modern Languages, noted that late withdrawal appeals will usually be granted if a student has never attended a class.  He pointed out that students should know what courses they are signing up for and either attend the class or drop the course earlier.  He noted that some students sign up for courses they have no intention of taking just to show that they have a full schedule.  Professor Woodward stated that professors are supposed to indicate on the correction roster if a student has not attended a class.  He pointed out that Registration and Records checks on these to see if there is any fraud that is occurring.  He noted that some students mistakenly punch in the wrong course numbers when registering for a course and are not aware of their error until it is brought to their attention.  He stated that the committee could look into the matter and verify that Registration and Records are checking to see if frauds occur. 


President Wunder stated that the ASUN is concerned with the issue of dead week.  He stated that faculty members are interested in dead week but there continually seems to be a problem with violation of it.  He suggested that the committee should look into dead week and whether or not it should be changed. 


President Wunder asked about the regulations on dropping a class late.  Professor Woodward stated that students can withdraw from a class up to the eleventh week.  He pointed out that problems occur when students want to withdraw after this period of time. 


6.3  Academic Standards (Professor Gregory)

Professor Gregory asked for any questions.  Professor Gay, Physics and Astronomy, suggested that the committee should look into academic standards and whether they are too low.  He noted that the Grading & Examinations Committee reported that the average grade point average for students was 3.1.  Professor Gregory stated that the Academic Standards function is to review appeals to dismiss students.  Professor Hoffman, Industrial & Management Systems Engineering, stated that the number of appeals seems to be half of what they used to be.  He asked if this is a result of better students.  Professor Gregory stated that he believes the dismissals have gone down in part due to the higher academic standards. 


Professor Flowers, Psychology, stated that the relative number of appeals accepted appears to be fairly constant.  Professor Gregory stated that a spread of the percentage of appeals has been done since 1995 and he was surprised to see that the percentage remains in the 60% range.  He noted that every committee meeting is different because it is composed of different faculty members.  He stated that with some of the appeals there appears to be a self-selection taking place and those students that have low gpa’s usually walk.


President Wunder pointed out that the Academic Standards Committee still needs faculty members to serve on the committee.  He asked Senators to encourage their colleagues to volunteer to serve on this committee.


            6.4  Wasted Time Committee Report (Past President Miller)

Past President Miller stated that the committee met again and they are still working on reviewing the various procedures.  He noted that many units are beginning discussions on how to simplify procedures within their departments and colleges.


7.0      New Business

7.1  Increase in Tuition Remission Benefit

Professor Keith, Entomology, pointed out that it might be better for faculty members to push for an increase in benefits rather than an increase in faculty salaries since funds are limited.  He suggested that the tuition remission benefit could be increased.  He noted that Purdue University, one of our peer institutions, provides 50% tuition remission for its employees.  He suggested that the UNL Employee Benefits Committee should look into this.  He pointed out that an increase in this benefit emphasizes higher education and may help to keep more bright students in the state.  President Wunder stated that this was a good suggestion and that he would bring it to the Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee for them to consider.


7.2  Salary Equity Report and President’s Search Committee

Professor May, Economics, stated that a year ago a salary equity study was done at UNL.  She noted that the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women recommended a model to use for the study and submitted a report to the Chancellor.  She asked if there have been any updates regarding this report.  President Wunder stated that he would raise the issue with the Chancellor when the Executive Committee meets with him on October 8th. 


Professor May asked for clarification on the President’s search committee membership.  She asked if it was correct that UNL only had one faculty representative to the committee out of a possible twenty members.  She also asked who will make up a majority of the committee.  President Wunder stated that he is unsure of who will make up the majority of the committee.   Professor May asked if he received a response from the Board of Regents on his letter suggesting an increase in faculty members on the search committee from UNL.  President Wunder stated that he has not received a response.  He noted that the Regents Bylaws state that there is to be one faculty representative from each campus. 


Professor May raised concerns regarding candidates being announced for the position when the search committee has not even been formed yet.  President Wunder stated that Regent Ferlic had strong words to say regarding an open search.  Professor May stated that it is important to keep the search process open if faculty members are being encouraged to recommend candidates for the position.  President Wunder noted that with President Smith’s resignation only one of the four remaining upper administrators holds a Ph.D. 


Professor Stick stated that departments are being told when they have an open position that they need to hire at the assistant professor level.  He questioned whether President Smith and SVCAA Edwards were going to departments at the salary level of an assistant professor.  He asked where the funding is going to come from for these administrators to return to teaching.    President Wunder stated that this is a current issue that the Executive Committee has been discussing.  He stated that he hoped departments will be able to decide whether these administrators will be given tenure in their department.  Professor Morris stated that President Smith’s files were reviewed by the School of Biological Sciences when he was being hired.  He stated that the school looked at the quality of his research at that time and awarded tenure to Smith.  He stated that Smith’s tenured academic home was defined at the time of his hire.  Professor Morris stated that he does not have the funding in his budget to cover Smith’s position when he returns to teaching and did not know where the funds will come from.


7.3  ES/IS Review Committee

President-Elect Peterson reported that the committee is meeting regularly.  He noted that each college is represented on the committee and that there are some ex-officio members participating as well.  He stated that the committee hopes to have a proposal to distribute to the colleges soon.  He stated that the committee wants to get feedback from each of the colleges’ curriculum committee on the proposal.  He stated that the committee hopes to bring a motion to the Senate at the December meeting.  He pointed out that the college curriculum committees would need to approve the changes before they can be implemented.


Professor Crawford asked who the representatives were from the College of Arts & Sciences.  President- Elect Peterson stated that Professor Griep, Chemistry, was the faculty representative.  He noted that they tried to get another faculty member from Arts & Sciences but she was unable to participate.  Professor Harbison asked if the proposal included the elimination of the IS courses.  President-Elect Peterson stated that this proposal is being discussed thoroughly.  Professor Cohn, Mathematics, asked if there was support to eliminate the IS courses.  President-Elect Peterson stated that there was considerable support but there were some reservations.  He noted that the proposed changes to the ES courses are minor adjustments, mostly dealing with reducing the number of courses and lists. 



The meeting was adjourned at 4:20 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, November 4, at 2:30 p.m. in the East Campus Union, Great Plains Room.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Shelley Fuller, Secretary.