UNL Academic Senate Meeting - November 1, 2005



East Campus Union,

November 1, 2005

Presidents Mary Beck, Ali Moeller, and Wes Peterson Presiding


1.0      Call to Order

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


2.0      Announcements

            2.1  Research Council Report (Professor Baenziger)

Professor Baenziger noted that a copy of the report was included in the Senators’ packet.  He stated that one of the highlights of the Council is the Nebraska Lecture Series which features a lecture by prominent faculty members who speak on their work.  He noted that Professor Wishart, Anthropology and Geography, and Professor Kooser, English, gave presentations this past year and Professor Banerjee, Biochemistry, just recently gave a presentation on October 26th.


Professor Baenziger reported that the report lists the sources of funding for Research Council awards.  He pointed out that the website has been improved with a “Commonly Asked Questions” section which will hopefully help faculty members in writing grant proposals.  He noted that the Council makes every effort to ensure balance, fairness, and transparency in awarding grants.


Past President Peterson stated that the Senate is interested in how the Mentorship program is working and if the Council has any recommendations regarding mentoring new faculty members.  Professor Baenziger stated that he believes that SVCAA Couture and VC Paul are working together to take a lead on the Mentorship Program.  Professor Baenziger stated that the report on the Mentorship Program is very interesting and he will request that the Senate Executive Committee receive a copy of it. 


President Elect Moeller asked if the members of the Council are listed on the website.  Professor Baenziger stated that he believes they are listed. 


President Beck asked what the connection is between the Research Council and the Research Advisory Board.  Professor Baenziger stated that the Research Advisory Council specifically works with VC Paul and advises him on overall issues related to the Office of Research.    Professor Baenziger stated that the Council is a separate entity.  It does advise on research but in a different capacity than the Advisory Board.  Secretary Shea asked who appoints members to the Advisory Board.  Professor Baenziger recommended that this question be directed to VC Paul.  Professor Baenziger noted that the Advisory Board has more administrators on it and the Council has more faculty members. 


            2.2  Meeting with Senate Presidents

President Beck reported that she recently met with the Presidents of the Faculty Senates from UNO, UNK, and UNMC.  She stated that part of the discussion centered on employee benefits and domestic partner benefits.  She noted that they intend to meet regularly to discuss issues and concerns that affect all of the campuses. 


2.3  Meeting with President Milliken

President Beck reported that she and the other Senate Presidents met with President Milliken last week.  She stated that they discussed the vision for the University and the benefits issue.  She stated that it was an interesting and candid discussion and she appreciated President Milliken’s willingness to speak with them.  She encouraged the faculty to contact either President Milliken or herself if there are particular questions or issues that they want to raise.


2.4  General Education Program

President Beck noted that the campus is undergoing a process of revising the general education program.  She encouraged colleagues to participate in the discussions being held on Blackboard about the revisions.  She noted that some elements of the current program will be kept but there will be some changes.  She pointed out that the curriculum is the purview of the faculty and they should participate in the revision process. 



2.5  Reduction in Force Procedures

President Beck reported that a draft document on the reduction in force procedures will be given to the Senate hopefully in December.  She noted that this is a significant document which is considerably different from the current procedures.  She reminded the Senate that Past President Wunder appointed a task force to look at revising the current procedures but this task force was suspended when the campus was going through the budget crisis.  She stated that Past President Peterson reinstated the task force approximately 18 months ago. 


President Beck noted that the reduction in force procedures is relevant now because of the tuition shortfall.  She stated that the shortfall could have a serious impact on departments.  She pointed out that the Chancellor had stated during an Executive Committee meeting in July that he would be recommending a 2% reduction for departments but when funds become available again they would be restored differentially. 


President Beck reported that in some colleges the chairs/heads are being asked to develop several different budget cut scenarios.  She stated that she did not know whether faculty members were being included in discussions about the budget cuts.  She reported that in IANR departments are being asked to develop an 8% budget cut scenario.  She pointed out that an 8% cut would be very problematical for all departments.  She encouraged the faculty to think about this issue carefully and to ask questions of their administrators.  She questioned why a permanent budget cut is being asked for a temporary situation.  She pointed out that hopefully the tuition shortfall will not be permanent. 


President Beck stated that another question that should be asked of the administrators is why the University can’t ask the Legislature for a stop gap measure until the tuition turns around.  She stated that faculty members need to be engaged in discussions about the budget cuts and she reminded them that the cuts affect our programs and our effectiveness. 


2.6  Committee on Committee Request for Service on Committees

President Beck reported that the Committee on Committees will be sending out a notice asking faculty members to volunteer to serve on the various campus committees.  She pointed out that the request is for service that would begin in the fall of 2006.  She noted that faculty members should not get discouraged if they are not selected to serve on committees but she stressed the importance of faculty participation on committees because it gives them the opportunity to participate in faculty governance. 


President Beck pointed out that the Committee on Committees strives to maintain a balance on each committee by having members from across the various colleges and departments.  She stated that some committees have particular requirements for membership and diversity is an issue that needs to be considered when members are appointed.


Professor Kranz, Northeast Research & Extension Center, asked if the number of open positions on committees can be posted.   President Beck stated that the list of members and the expiration date of their term is posted on the Senate website and people interested in knowing how many positions are open can check the list of committee memberships.


2.7  Academic Senate Survey

President Beck stated that members of the Executive Committee hear comments that the Senate and the committees don’t do very much so why should faculty bother to participate.  She gave the example of Bylaw 4.3 which the Board of Regents wanted to change several years ago.  President Beck reported that the Board wanted to change the Bylaw so that an administrator could change a professor’s appointment and apportionment of duties.  She stated that the Senate Executive Committee argued for a long time to prevent the change.  Instead the Committee was able to establish a means for a faculty member to make an appeal if an administrator attempted to change their duties. 


President Beck reported that very soon a survey from the Executive Committee will be sent out to all faculty members.  She noted that the survey is short, to the point, will be done electronically and would be completely anonymous.  She stated that the Executive Committee does not plan on conducting surveys often but do want to use it to get input from the full faculty.  She noted that the Committee wants to periodically ask questions to get a feel for the pulse of the faculty on various issues.  She encouraged faculty members to respond to the survey.


President Elect Moeller pointed out that the intent of the survey is to give faculty a larger voice so the Senate can accurately represent the faculty.  She stressed that surveys would be conducted rarely. 


3.0    Chancellor Perlman

Chancellor Perlman was unable to attend the meeting. 


4.0    Approval of 10/4/05 Minutes

Professor Bradford, Law, suggested minor corrections to the minutes.   Professor Alloway, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, moved and Professor Stock, English, seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved.


5.0    Committee Reports

          5.1  Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women

President Elect Moeller stated that she would give the Commission’s report for Professor Albrecht, Chair of the Commission, who was attending an all day workshop.  President Elect Moeller noted that the report states that the Commission is set up with three different councils, one for faculty, one for staff, and one for students.  She stated that the report lists the issues that were addressed last year and the activities that the Commission is engaged in.  She noted that the University now has a common calendar with the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS).


President Elect Moeller reported that great progress was made this past year with developing an on campus day care center.  She stated that the Commission has developed an instrument to interview faculty members who have left the University.  This instrument will help to get input from these people to ascertain why they left.  She stated that the information gathered will be compiled into a report.


Professor Alloway asked when the common calendar with LPS will begin.  President Elect Moeller stated that she believes it will begin with the spring break during the spring semester. 


Professor Hope, Psychology, asked where the report on the exit interviews will go and if they will be made public.  President Elect Moeller stated that she believes the report will go to the Chancellor but she does not know whether it will be distributed from there.


5.2  Update on University-wide Benefits Committee

Professor Bradford, UNL representative to the University-wide Benefits Committee, reported that the Committee is now meeting again thanks to President Milliken.  Professor Bradford stated that the Committee met several times during the spring semester.  He noted that at the last meeting the Committee received a report on what was going to happen to the health insurance.  He reported that it looks like the wellness benefit will increase.  This is the payment that will be made for annual checkups.  He stated that there will probably be an increase in health insurance costs. 


Professor Bradford reported that the medical increases for current employees increased by 14% and pharmacy costs for retirees went up 23%.  He stated that the good news is that there were no major changes in the dental costs so that rate will probably not increase. 


Professor Bradford reported that a real interest to retirees is the Medicare changes that will go into effect soon.  He noted that this will affect the pharmacy benefits for retirees.  He stated that it is not clear what the University will do in reaction to the changes in Medicare but something will probably change with the pharmacy benefits for retirees.  He reported that the University will probably have some informational meetings for retirees.  He noted that retirees will need to make a choice between Medicare and the University health program. 


Professor Bradford stated that President Milliken is planning on setting up a committee to look at general health care policies.  He noted that this committee will report to the University-wide Benefits Committee and will have discussions about broader policy changes.  He pointed out that the committee to look at the general health care policies will be composed of people who are technically competent in dealing with the health care insurance area.  He stated that he does not know whether the committee will be seeking input from the faculty.


Professor Bradford stated that the University-wide Benefits Committee will be meeting in January and he encouraged people to contact him (sbradford1@unl.edu) if they are issues that he wants him to raise at the meeting.  He noted that he will be raising the issue of domestic partner benefits and proposing that domestic partners can participate in the health insurance but at full cost.  He pointed out that this proposal would not cost the University anything.


6.0    Unfinished Business

No unfinished business was discussed.


7.0    New Business

          7.1    Course Syllabus Policy

President Beck reported that ASUN approached the Executive Committee about having a campus wide policy requiring instructors to provide a course syllabus.  She noted that her first reaction was to see if there is such a policy.  She stated that there is a Board of Regents Bylaw that specifies that instructors are required to inform students about the course expectations but it does not specifically state that a written document must be provided.  She noted that colleges or departments might have a policy and there is a reference to a syllabus policy in the Student Handbook. 


President Beck stated that she was not clear what the students want with the policy and whether there should be uniform expectations on it such as the University’s policy on academic dishonesty.  She pointed out that the content of the syllabus would not be dictated to the instructors. 


Matt Schaeffer, ASUN, stated that the students want to have a requirement for a course syllabus so that everyone understands the expectations in a class.  He noted that most instructors do provide a syllabus but there are some who don’t.  He stated that ASUN would like to get feedback from the faculty on this issue.  He pointed out that the syllabus could either be posted on Blackboard or distributed in class.  He stated that the students would like to see contact information, office hours, and some other information on every syllabus but otherwise the rest of the information would be up to the instructor. 


Professor Ledder, Mathematics, stated that it comes as a surprise that there might be a course that does not have a syllabus and he believes each course should have one.  He noted that the request to include office hours on the syllabus is impractical because many professors do not know when office hours will be available until the semester begins.  He agreed that contact information and course expectations should be included in the syllabus. 


President Beck stated that she is considering forming a task force to look into this issue.  She stated that if anyone is interested in working on this task force they should contact her.  She reported that she has sent an email message to SVCAA Couture and VC Owens asking them to contact the Deans to see if they have college policies. 


Secretary Shea stated that he believes the request is very straight forward and that having a syllabus would be better for both faculty and students.  He stated that he does not believe it is necessary to form a committee to look into the matter because it can be resolved quickly. 


President Beck asked who should decide what should be required on the syllabus.  President Elect Moeller stated that some colleges require that certain information be provided on the syllabus.  She suggested that there should be a template that provides information on academic dishonesty because this would make students equally informed. 


Professor Hope stated that it might not be as simple as it seems.  She noted that there could be problems for honors courses, independent study courses, and practicum courses.  She questioned what the actual problem is that needs to be solved and whether this just involves a particular college or department. 


Professor King, Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, stated that he is Chair of the Teaching Council and he invited Matt Schaefer to meet with the Council to discuss the issue.  He noted that the Council could work on the problem and come back to the Senate.


          7.2    Open Forum – Search Committees

President Beck noted that search committees and the purpose of them seems to have changed over the past few years.  She noted that in some colleges search committees are seen strictly as an advisory committee and can no longer make recommendations.  She asked how search committees are being handled across the campus and whether their function has changed over the years.  She asked if the search committee training is effective and whether on-line training would be more effective.   [A synopsis of the discussion and comments, without identifying individuals follows.]


A faculty member stated that he learned that the search committee was disbanded once the interviews were held.  He noted that in the past the search committee would rank the candidates and provide this information to the appropriate administrator but this is no longer being done and no assessment is being made by the search committee.  He asked if it is appropriate for a search committee to operate this way.  He asked why faculty members should serve on a search committee if they can’t even make a recommendation.


In one department, the search committee works on making a shorter list of the candidates by sorting through the applications.  The Chair then decides who will be brought in for an interview but everyone in the department gets to express their view on the candidates.  The Chair solicits responses from the faculty members.   The number of candidates on the short list is five and the number of candidates selected to be brought in is three. 


Another faculty member commented that in his/her department the search committee meets and gets the number of candidates down to a small number.  The search committee is no longer a priority when interviews are scheduled.    


One faculty member commented that search committees are usually disbanded prior to the interviews. 


Another faculty member commented that in his department the search committee remains involved through the process.  The committee ranks candidates that are brought into the department for interviews and the chair follows the recommendations of the committee.  The candidate makes a presentation to the entire department but the search committee meets and interviews the candidates and makes recommendations to the chair who then gives the final approval.  The search committee is much more involved in the selection process.  Another faculty member stated that this is how it is done in their department as well. 


In another department the search committee winnows down the applications and makes recommendations on who to bring in for interviews.  The entire faculty approves the short list of candidates.  Candidates make a presentation to the entire department but interviews are held with people who are in that particular subfield and not necessarily with the members of the search committee.  After the interviews are completed, the faculty members vote to determine who the top candidate is.  The other candidates are ranked to see who is acceptable should the first choice not accept the position.  It is a much more faculty driven process and the Chair does not play much of a role in the process. 


A faculty member stated that the search process becomes an issue of perception and definition.  The faculty member noted that he/she was involved in a search where the candidate that was ranked sixth was the one that was hired, even though the person was not interviewed.  He/she stated that they feel more comfortable as a winnower of the applications because he/she was frustrated with who was hired with the last search. 


Another comment made was that it may be difficult to get the members of the search committee to meet at the same time to interview a candidate.  Perhaps only part of the committee would be available for the interview. 


The question was asked whether there should be a difference in how the search committee operates for a faculty position or an administrator position.  If there should be a difference, what should these differences be?


How search committees are formed and who is asked to be on them seems to be an unknown process.  The whole process of deciding who gets on a search committee is a mystery.  There seems to be procedural issues that need to be addressed.  Search committees should be involved or have some ability to make recommendations.  There needs to be clarification on procedures. 


Numerous comments were made that the training for search committees was not adequate and the information given was very piecemeal.   Comments were made that they are not sure if the training would be good if done on the web but perhaps a video should be shown indicating what can and cannot be said during the interview process.  This would be helpful.  The current training is not very good. 


The on-line sexual harassment training is well done.  Perhaps something similar for search committee training could be done.  This would allow faculty members to review the information shortly before going into an interview. 


Information that is told needs to be standardized.  Different information about a topic was given to different groups. 


The Institutional Review Board training is terrible.  It can take several hours to do the on-line training for IRB. 


For students the on-line training for IRB is helpful but for faculty who have been through the process it is a pain.  The on-line IRB training does standardize the content and it is one way to disseminate standard information although it is not tailored to individual research that is being conducted. 


A faculty member stated that he/she just went through the search committee training and found it inadequate and not informational.  He/she noted that people could not get questions answered by those who were conducting the training and no response is provided if a faculty member calls.  He/she felt that the training was a joke and if this is so important then why is it done this way. 


IANR specifically spells out the procedures for hiring faculty versus administrators but very few people know what the procedures are.  A faculty member was saddened to see how much lack of trust there is on both parts:  the administration versus the faculty.  There is a tremendous amount of complaining from the faculty members but they do not want to participate and come to meetings. 


A faculty member stated that training is desperately needed and needs to be standardized.  Training needs to be better.


One faculty member reported that they had to train to be able to drive one of the University’s large vans.  This training took three hours.  The question was asked whether all of this training is necessary. 


A faculty member stated that they went through the search training for the second or third time.  It was interesting but dwelt on thou shalt not rather than thou should.  He/she agreed that the training is necessary so the institution does not get into trouble.  One thing the training could do is tell what role the search committee should play in the process.  A charge or mission for the search committee is not given. 


Another faculty member disagreed and stated that he/she found the training intensely annoying.  Wasn’t sure what could and could not be said during an interview.  Departments have their own philosophy about search committees and their function.  He/she believes that the department is happy with the way it handles the search process. 


The comment was made that there’s a lot of expectations of first time faculty members and it might be helpful for faculty members on search committees for the first time to know the philosophy of the committee.  The Executive Committee is learning that search committees function differently across the campus.  It would be helpful if everyone was on the same page. 


A faculty member stated that they only know about hiring faculty members and cannot comment on hiring a Dean.  In a large college, the search committee might be different. 


A faculty member commented that he/she recently learned that the position descriptions for staff and managerial/professional positions are now being put back to the departments and not with Human Resources.  He/she noted that they have had challenges in trying to get positions reclassified and there is concern that there is some inherent biases in getting positions.  This is all related to budgets for departments and translates into how positions are handled.  The question was asked why the decision was made to take the process out of Human Resources. 


A member of the Senate indicated that the procedures for staff and managerial/professional positions were changed in order to be able to advance secretaries and others more easily. 



The meeting was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2:30 p.m. in the City Campus Union, Auditorium.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Patrick Shea, Secretary.