UNL Academic Senate Meeting - March 7, 2006


East Campus Union,

March 7, 2006

Presidents Mary Beck, Wes Peterson Presiding


1.0      Call to Order

            President Beck called the meeting to order at 2:35 p.m.


2.0      Announcements

            2.1  University-Wide Benefits Committee (Professor Bradford)

Professor Bradford reported that a year ago President Milliken appointed a committee to examine the University’s health plan.  Professor Bradford noted that members of the committee are knowledgeable and have had experience in finance and insurance.  He stated that a copy of the report made by the committee was included in the Senate packet.  He encouraged the Senators to read the report and to share it with their constituents.  He noted that if anyone has comments they should contact the Executive Committee.  He pointed out that the University has already acted on not offering Medicare Plan D pharmacy coverage.


Professor Hoffman, Industrial & Management Systems Engineering, stated that the Medicare Plan D option should be revisited.  He noted that if the University offered the plan it would save $100 per person.  Professor Bradford stated that he will pass this information to the University-wide Benefits Committee.


          2.2    Safe Assignment Program

President Beck reported that the Safe Assignment Program which is a tool that can be used by instructors to detect plagiarism was recently removed from Blackboard.  She noted that the Executive Committee received complaints about the removal of the program and checked into why it was removed.  After communicating with Information Services the Safe Assignment program has been reinstalled and is accessible through Blackboard until the end of the semester.   It is being tested on a trial basis.  She stated that Information Services would be interested in receiving feedback at the end of the semester on the program. 


2.3    Board of Regents Meeting

President Beck reported that several reports were made at the Board of Regents meeting.  One is on the advanced placement on high school courses.  She noted that only 22% of the high schools in Nebraska offer these courses; and only 5% of Nebraska 11th and 12th graders are enrolled in these courses with most of the students coming from the eastern part of the state.  She pointed out that many courses are dual offerings meaning that the student can get both high school and college credit for taking the course and this contributes to the low numbers taking the advanced placement classes. 


President Beck reported that another report addressed is that there is no standard way to assess the quality of universities across the country.  She noted that UNL is participating this year in an initiative by the Rand Corporation that will assess 100 freshmen and 100 seniors for critical thinking (a one-year cross-sectional study).  She stated that UNO is participating in a four-year longitudinal study in which a cohort of students is tested each year for four years. 


President Beck reported that another report discussed how the University can interact with rural communities better to help stimulate the economy in small towns.  She noted that there are some very interested programs currently in progress in several states. 


3.0    Chancellor Perlman

Chancellor Perlman reported that the State Legislature is getting closer to wrapping up its sessions.  He noted that two major interests to the University are the utilities deficit request and the request to help with the cleanup at Mead.  He noted that the Appropriations Committee has included funds for the utilities request.  He pointed out that it would be extremely helpful to the University if the Legislature approves the requests.


Chancellor Perlman stated that the Appropriations Committee is recommending that the State, along with the Environmental Trust Fund, help out with the clean up costs for Mead.  He encouraged people to express their support for the deficit requests.



Chancellor Perlman reported that the University is cautiously optimistic about the deferred maintenance bill which is funding to help repair critical buildings on campus.  He stated that he hopes that we can go about bringing these buildings back to significant use. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that the report from the Admissions Office is optimistic.  He noted that indications are that there could be a significant increase in freshman students enrolled in the fall.  He pointed out that one of the challenges with the larger freshman class is making sure that the students get into the core courses that they need.  He noted that housing requests are tracking the same as the enrollment figures.


Chancellor Perlman reported that on the Board of Regents website the strategic planning framework document can be found (http://nebraska.edu/news/strategicframework2005.pdf).  He noted that there are basically six goals that the Board is focusing on:  1) access to high quality, affordable undergraduate, graduate and professional education; 2) building and sustaining undergraduate, graduate and professional programs of high quality with an emphasis on excellent teaching; 3) playing a critical role in building a talented, competitive workforce; 4) pursuing excellence and regional, national and international competitiveness in research and scholarly activity; 5) serving the state through strategic and effective engagement and coordination with citizens, businesses and agriculture; and 6) being cost effective and accountable to the citizens of the state.  He encouraged faculty members to look at the website.


Chancellor Perlman stated that the Board is looking at adopting accountability measures and over the course of the next year they will focus on 10 or 12 strategies.  He noted that some of the goals are interesting and challenging although some are ambitious and may need to be reassessed.  He reported that some of the goals are to secure sufficient state funding, increase state-base aid, have a system-wide increase in enrollment and increase graduation rates. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that the Board is very interested in increasing salaries based on merit.


Chancellor Perlman reported that the University needs to focus on how we measure students’ learning and how to assess their skills.  He pointed out that there is no single way to do this but it is important because parents and politicians keep asking what the value is for students to go to the University.  He noted that we need to determine the value added to the student for going to college by determining the differences between when the students first come to campus and when they leave.  Included in this assessment is determining how much has been added by the University as opposed to the general growth and maturity of the student.  


Chancellor Perlman stated that the U.S. Department of Education has a commission studying higher education and it is predicted that a testing component for higher education will be recommended.  He pointed out that the testing may be controversial among higher education professionals and people should be prepared for debates and discussions on the issue. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that he has agreed to have UNL participate in a program that will measure input and output on several parameters for students by using a new national test.  He stated that testing students can be challenging because unless the test is meaningful to students they may not take it seriously.  He noted that one way to get students to take the test is to pay them but another challenge is how to get them to take the test seriously.  He pointed out that there is no single way to measure and assess students and the faculty will need to participate in discussions on how to accomplish this. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that all employees should read the report made by the President’s Health Care Committee.  He pointed out that there are some recommendations in the report that will be acted upon quickly and some recommendations may be on the horizon.  He noted that one of the recommendations includes the expansion of the disease management program.  He stated that people with certain kinds of diseases would be expected to participate but they can opt out of the program if they choose. 


Chancellor Perlman pointed out that the report recommends a proposal to develop a system-wide wellness program.  He noted that nobody wants to be forced to exercise every morning but it has been clearly proven that exercise impacts health care costs and the efficiency and productivity of the employee.  He stated that he would be supportive of a program that would create incentives in the health care system. 


Chancellor Perlman noted that approximately two years ago he mentioned that he wanted to have a review of academic titles and this year a committee was formed to conduct the review.  He noted that the committee made a number of recommendations that would be helpful to us.  He pointed out that the campus needs to recognize those people who have excellent teaching skills and who are committed to teaching.  He stated that he is having the Deans review the recommendations and he is sure that there will be some administrative details that will need to be thought through but he felt that overall the recommendations are good.  He noted that there will be additional reports in the future from the committee as they look at other things. 


Chancellor Perlman reported that a task force was put together to look at international education programs on campus.  He stated that the task force looked at what we are doing with study abroad programs and in tracking foreign students and the report showed that we are doing well in this area.  He stated that he believed that we could do more and better if we have an idea of what countries we should focus on. 


Professor Hoffman asked if employees will be required to participate in a disease management program.  Chancellor Perlman stated that it is his understanding that in some instances they may be required. 


Professor Hope, Psychology, stated that the President’s report on health care does not mention anything on domestic partner benefits.  She asked if the Chancellor knew why this is not mentioned in the report.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he does not know the reason for this.  He pointed out that this is an issue that is facing the University and he knows that this is a benefit that is important in order for the University to be competitive with other institutions.  He stated that he would be in favor of it if there are opportunities to expand benefits. 


Professor Ledder, Mathematics, stated that if the University is going to get a measure of where students are in terms of value added by going to college, it will need to be done through graduation requirements.  He pointed out that students have to care about their outcomes.  He stated that one idea is to collect data.  This could be done by the student producing a portfolio of work.  He noted that to evaluate growth the student would include in the portfolio a paper or project from high school and one at the end of their college career to see if there is a significant improvement.   Chancellor Perlman stated that this is true but it would be costly.  He noted that a student in music would need to be measured differently than a student in math.  He pointed out that there are other things that the University is being asked and pressured to consider.  He reported that the college boards and ACT tests have now added a writing test for admissions.  He stated that so far UNL has resisted using this but a lot of universities are using these tests. 


Professor Wristen, Music, noted that the current discussion is about outcome and she asked what about incoming assessment of students.  She stated that she has encountered a number of students who cannot write.  She asked whether this is something that is being addressed.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he does not know if this is being worked on in the K-12 schools.  He noted that the committee working on the general education program is looking at qualities that undergraduates should have before they graduate.  He pointed out that we need a general education program that focuses on things that will make students successful.


The Chancellor was asked to comment on the effect recent student aid and student loan program changes will have on Nebraskans.  The Chancellor stated that the changes will make life more difficult for our students.  He noted that these changes are at the federal level but there will be a disproportionate effect on our students.  He pointed out that our students have more financial challenges than perhaps a student going to Yale.  He stated that the University knows that a significant aspect in retaining students relates to finances.  He noted that our retention rate is going up a percent each year.  He stated that students’ interaction with faculty members is critical to the success of students.  He stated that he believes that we are getting better at academic counseling and we now need to focus on the financial side of going to college.  He stated that he believes students can get through UNL whatever their financial challenges may be.  He pointed out that we need to do a better job of teaching students how to manage money.


4.0    Approval of 2/7/06 Minutes

Professor Haller, English, moved and Professor Stick, Educational Administration, seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved.


5.0    Committee Reports

          5.1    Parking Advisory Committee (Professor McLeod)

Professor McLeod stated that the committee is trying to explore incorporating a study that looks at impact fees as the university exchanges more parking spaces for buildings.  She pointed out that the loss of parking spaces without getting some compensation for them will have an impact on all of our pocketbooks. 


Professor McLeod stated that the committee wants to institute some kind of formal or informal meetings where the committee can meet with the campus community to entertain questions people may have about parking. 



Professor McLeod reported that the committee will be looking at permit rates to see if there can be any shifts in fees or whether adjustments are needed.


Professor Ford, English, stated that the parking lot next to the Westbrook Music Building is filled with people from the community during Lied Center events making it difficult for faculty members to find a place to park.  He stated that he did not know that the Parking & Transit office closed down at 6:00 pm on Friday and did not reopen again until Monday morning.  He stated that he did not know whether there are problems in other lots.  He wondered whether it would pay to have someone ticket these cars that do not have permits.  Professor McLeod stated that she will bring this issue to the committee for discussion.


5.2    Committee on Committees (Professor Hoffman)

Professor Hoffman pointed out that the number of volunteers dropped down to 52 this year from 177 several years ago.  He noted that 59 committee positions need to be filled and the committee tries to provide at least two names for each position.  He urged people to serve on a committee if they are asked to do so. 


Professor Hoffman reported that volunteers to run for the Senate Executive Committee are still needed.  He stated that anyone interested can contact him or the Senate Office.


Professor Hoffman stated that if anyone has any ideas on how to get faculty to participate on committees, please let him know. 


5.3    UNL Employees Benefits Committee (Professor Harnisch)

Professor Harnisch pointed out that the committee has a limited role because most benefit decisions are made by Central Administration with input from the University-wide Benefits Committee.   He noted that the committee is discussing additional suggestions to the President’s committee recommendations.  He stated that the committee continues to meet with Greg Clayton, Director of Benefits & Risk Management, to discuss benefits.  He noted that several benefits are under publicized and the committee is looking at ways to inform the campus community of them. 


Professor Harnisch reported that the previous chair of the committee had an understanding that the committee appoints someone to serve on the University-wide Benefits Committee but this has not happened this year.  Associate to the Chancellor Howe stated that the Committee on Committees discussed whether the chair of the UNL Benefits Committee should be the representative to the University-wide Committee.  He noted that the committee thought UNL would best be served if a person was appointed for a three year term rather than rotating each year.  He noted that the Committee on Committees never made a formal decision on the issue and the University-wide Committee syllabus states that the Chancellor will appoint the representative.  Professor Bradford stated that he thought that the Committee on Committees had acted on the suggestion of a three year appointment and therefore he has been working under the assumption that this is in force.  President Beck noted that the relationship between the UNL Employee Benefits Committee and the University-wide Benefits Committee should be addressed. 


6.0    Unfinished Business

6.1    Academic Senate Redistricting Report

President Beck stated that the report was introduced at the February meeting.  She noted that no inquiries were made on the report.  Professor Ledder asked why the Psychology department had two representatives when only 22 faculty members were listed.  Griffin stated that she will check her records on this.  (The records were checked and the total number of faculty members for Psychology is 27.)


Motion approved to accept the report.


6.2    Ballot for Academic Planning Committee, Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee, and             

          Academic Rights and Responsibilities Panel

President Beck stated that the ballot was introduced last month.  She asked if there were any questions or comments on the ballot.  Motion to accept the ballot was approved.


6.3    Proposed Revisions to the Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee Syllabus

President Beck noted that the revisions refer to changing the membership of the committee to include the President and Past President of the Academic Senate, making the Past President chair of the committee, and including the Associate to the Chancellor as a formal member.  Motion approved.



7.0    New Business

          7.1    Report on Academic Titles

Associate VC Jacobson wanted to thank Secretary Shea for serving on the committee as the representative of the Senate and IANR.  She stated that the committee is trying to get input from the entire campus community on the recommendations and she will answer any questions. 


Associate VC Jacobson stated that the Deans reviewed the recommendations and made several suggestions.  The committee met to discuss the suggestions and agreed that they were good and should be made.  She noted that these recommendations are:


1.  The Deans felt that there should not be requirements regarding the apportionment of duties for responsibilities other than instructional activities because there is too much divergence in apportionment of duties within colleges and in departments.  They felt that this should be left up to the discretion of the departments.  Associate VC Jacobson noted that the recommendations will be changed to read that responsibilities assigned at the department or college level could include other duties. 


2.  The Deans agreed that we should eliminate the Senior Lecturer title but it should be done over a period of time.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that people could elect to stay in the Senior Lecturer position or could apply for a Professor of Practice position.  She noted that if a Senior Lecturer resigns from the University, then the new position will be classified as a Professor of Practice.


Associate VC Jacobson stated that the recommendations will be taken to the Academic Planning Committee for their input and to the Council of Academic Officers so that all of the campuses are aware of the positions.  She noted that the recommendations will finally go to the Board of Regents. 


Professor Hoffman asked if there has been any discussion about forcing faculty members into these positions.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that this has not been discussed and the idea is to leave these positions open and flexible.  She stated that the administration would like to see people apply for these ranks but no one will be forced into them. 


Professor Bradford noted that recommendation number six stated that all units, including campus-wide units such as the Academic Senate should change their bylaws to reflect these positions.  He pointed out that this would be a fairly extensive undertaking.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that since these positions are parallel to tenure-track positions and to senior lecturers they should be included in the bylaws. 


Professor Bradford asked if these positions are open only to non-tenure track faculty members.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that tenure track faculty members can request to resign from their position and move into a professor of practice.  Professor Bradford asked if there has been any consideration to having some kind of equivalent rank for research professors.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that the decision was to work on teaching positions first and perhaps later on look into research positions. 


President Beck noted that on east campus some lecturers have been hired after a national search is conducted which is much different from how many lecturers are hired on city campus.  She asked how departments should deal with this.  She asked if the title of the positions is set in stone.  She suggested Professor of Instruction might be used instead.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that if the titles are approved all units will need to review the criteria for lecturer and senior lecturer positions.  She noted that the Lecturer/T position will remain.  She pointed out that no one was thrilled with the title of these positions but it is the one that is being used by a number of institutions around the country.  She noted that the title is flexible enough to be incorporated over a wide range of disciplines. 


Professor Hoffman stated that it would be hard to fill positions on many committees if senior lecturers are eliminated.  Secretary Shea pointed out that the committee is not proposing eliminating these positions, but changing the titles to give more equity and recognition for the work they do. 


Professor Eccarius, Special Education and Communication Disorders, stated that her department has a lot of senior lecturers who are supervisors.  She asked if these changes would inhibit them from being supervisors.  Associate VC Jacobson stated that they can still supervise.  She pointed out that the apportionment of duties was left open so it could include supervisory positions or outreach. 



7.2    ASUN Resolution on Student Absence Policy

Sarah Fech stated that ASUN wants to recommend changing the Student Absence Policy to include the proposed resolution.  She noted that the resolution is a result of a student’s experience of trying not to be penalized for missing classes due to religious holidays.  She pointed out that the resolution echoes the sentiment in the existing policy that states that the absence does not relieve the student from course responsibilities.  She stated that the resolution is not meant to force faculty into allowing excuses for religious holidays.  She stated that three of our peer institutions have a similar policy. 


Professor Bradford noted that the resolution does not mandate any action on the part of the faculty member.  Fech stated that this is correct.  She pointed out that it would be out of order to require faculty members to excuse religious holidays.  She noted that the intent is to increase awareness to students so they know how to deal with the situation if they should have to miss a class for observing a religious holiday. 


Past President Peterson stated that the Executive Committee is unsure when the class attendance policy was actually created.  He noted that the Senate might want to think about this resolution because it could set a precedent.  He pointed out that only university sponsored events are listed as an excused absence in the policy. 


VC Griesen stated that the Senate has always been deferred to on policies relating to class attendance.  He stated that it would be appropriate for the Senate to deal with this resolution.  He stated that personally he supports the resolution but some rewording in the first paragraph is needed.  He stated that he will be happy to work with the students on the rewording. 


Associate to the Chancellor Howe stated that he supports the spirit of the resolution but he has seen other cases in which individuals or groups will try to make a point out of this resolution.  He asked how we define a religious concept.   Fech stated that the committee grappled with this but basically came to the conclusion that students that are serious about this will seek out a way to deal with this issue.   She noted that if a student is legitimately concerned and wanting to observe their religious holiday they will make the effort to do what is necessary to get an excused absence. 


Professor Ledder pointed out that the last sentences in the resolution cover the policy.  He noted that it is a mild policy and it is not putting any burden on the instructor.  He suggested that the resolution should read that students should request an excused absence. 


Professor Berhnolz, Libraries, stated that he is concerned with the question about what constitutes a religious holiday.  He noted that having the policy could run the risk of having a student trying to be excused from classes for every religious holiday.  The resolution should state that the request should be made in writing.  Secretary Shea agreed and stated that he would not want to be put into the position of having to decide whether a holiday is a religious holiday. 


VC Griesen pointed out that by stating that a request for an excused absence is required gives the instructor the latitude to deny or accept the absence.  He noted that generally the faculty are very accommodating with such instances although he does know that problems have happened occasionally.  Professor Bradford stated that the policy is a voluntary one.  He suggested that if the policy is adopted there should not be an attempt to make distinctions among which religions it would cover because this would be a violation of the law. 


7.3    UNL 10-year Accredtiation Self-Study Update (Professor O’Hanlon)

Professor O’Hanlon reported that the campus is ready to enter the next stage for the accreditation visit.  He stated that the chapters for the self-study can be found on the web (http://www.unl.edu/svcaa/accreditation) and he asked the faculty to review the chapters and provide feedback on them.  He noted that the self-study will also include issues that the campus needs to look at and by July 1 the chapters will go to the accreditation team. 


7.4    Professor Ari

Professor Garza, History, stated that most people are familiar with Professor Ari’s situation.  He was hired by the History department last year and the department paid $1000 to have his visa expedited but to date nothing has happened with his visa.  Professor Garza noted that the American Historical Society has taken up Professor Ari’s case and the Chancellor has written a letter asking for an explanation for the delay. 


Professor Garza stated that he wanted to make a motion for the Senate to support the University and to ask the government to resolve this situation.  Motion seconded by Professor Ledder.


Professor Bradford stated that he thinks the motion should be stronger and that it should demand that the U.S. Government act on the visa.  Professor Garza stated that the intent is not to pick a fight but to get clarification on why the visa is being delayed.  Professor Bradford pointed out that his suggestion as stated doesn’t take a position one way or another but is just asking the Government to take action. 


Professor Bradford asked if this is an emergency motion.  Associate to the Chancellor Howe suggested that the resolution should be expedited because this has been going on for eight months is spite of the History department already paying $1000 to expedite the visa.  President Beck declared the resolution as an emergency motion. 


Professor Garza suggested that the resolution be similar to the one made by the History department and the University.  President Beck asked if the statement made by the History department takes care of the concerns.  Professor Bradford noted that it does and suggested that the History department be substituted with the UNL Academic Senate.  Secretary Shea suggested that the resolution be kept short and direct. 


Motion approved. 


7.5    Issues on the Horizon

President Beck noted that it has been over five years since the post tenure review policy was adopted.  She stated it is time for an audit to see if it has been effective.  She reported that she will be asking SVCAA Couture and VC Owens to provide a summary of data pertaining to the policy. 


President Beck reported that the Executive Committee is looking at restructuring the Senate back to a Faculty Senate rather than an Academic Senate.  She noted that in 1988 the Senate was changed to the Academic Senate and administrators were added.  She pointed out that only two administrators have been consistent in attending the meetings.  She stated that the meetings are public and that anyone can attend and ask to address the Senate so administrators would not be excluded from meetings.  She stated that the question is whether we should bring the current practice into compliance with the Bylaws, enforce the Bylaws, or change them.  She noted that the Deans would probably not object to the change since they have busy schedules and can rarely make a meeting.  She stated that changing the name to Faculty Senate is more of an identity issue and that most universities, including the other three NU campuses, have a Faculty Senate. 


President Beck reported that Past President Wunder started the process of revising the Reduction in Force procedures which she inherited to work on.  She noted that in retrospect she would have done the process differently.  She stated that she and President Elect Moeller met with the Chancellor to discuss the draft proposal and had an open and candid discussion about it. 


President Beck stated that the difference in the previous set of procedures is that there was earlier involvement of the Academic Planning Committee, more faculty involvement and members of UNOPA and UAAD were included in the hearing committees than with the current procedures.  She indicated that the process of revising the procedures will continue with input from the Chancellor. 


President Beck stated that an ad hoc committee is being formed to look at the status of extension educators.  She noted that currently they can be terminated on just 90 days notice.  She stated that a number of institutions either have tenure or a rolling contract for extension educators.  She reported that the ad hoc committee will develop a policy to provide extension educators a better employment contract than they currently have.  She noted that it will be given to the Extension Educators Advisory Board for a review and would eventually have to be approved by the Board of Regents.


President Beck stated that the Executive Committee is looking at the committee structures to see if some changes can be made to reduce the number of faculty needed to fill positions on the various committees.  She noted that faculty members are being asked to serve on department and college committees as well as campus committees. 


President Beck stated that one of the proposals being looked at is combining the Commencement, Honors Convocations, and Honorary Degrees Committee.  She stated that she spoke with members of these committees who agreed that they could be merged.  She noted that most of the work on these two committees  Commencement and Honors Convocations) is conducted by staff on an annual basis. 


President Beck stated that she will be talking with Professor Gregory regarding the Academic Standards Committee to see if the number of faculty members on the committee can be significantly reduced.  She noted that there are currently 22 faculty members on it.


President Beck reported that the Parking Appeals Committee is not hearing as many appeals now because much of the process is done on-line.  She suggested that the number of faculty members needed for this committee can be reduced.  She stated that the Committee on Committees is going to be asked to look at some other committee structures as well. 


7.6    Open Forum – Proposed Institutional Objectives

Professor Ledder suggested that the item be postponed until the next meeting due to the lateness of time.



The meeting was adjourned at 4:33 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, April 4th, 2:30 p.m. in the East Campus Union, Great Plains Room.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Patrick Shea, Secretary.