Senate approves final ‘response’ to proposed reorganization
The Urbana-Champaign Senate on Nov. 8 took its final action related to changes to the university administration and to key university governing documents proposed by the UI Board of Trustees.
Specifically, the senate approved a document that addresses technicalities in proposed amendments to the university’s Statutes and General Rules – but not before extensive discussion around a proposed wording change.
The senate’s formal response to the board’s proposed reorganization came the previous week, at a Nov. 1 meeting, when it approved a three-page “Response to the Proposed University Reorganization,” laying out objections to the board’s proposals in their current form. Added as an appendix was a 13-page document, from which the response was drawn, supplying additional background and rationale.
The document approved on Nov. 8, from the senate’s Committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures, primarily addressed concerns about specific language in the board’s proposals. The committee saw its role “as simply examining the (proposed changes in the Statutes and General Rules) for any confusing references or possible unintended/unapparent consequences of the specific changes proposed.”
The committee’s “most salient observation,” according to the document, was the “awkwardness and confusion” introduced by the board suggestion to insert “vice president/” in front of every occurrence of the word “chancellor” in the Statutes and General Rules.
“It is not entirely clear whether the vice president/chancellor is intended to be one person with two hats or two different ways of looking at one job. In addition, because the title ‘vice president’ is used to refer to four other vice presidential positions … it is not always clear whether plural references to vice presidents/chancellors are intended to cover only the campus chief officers or the full cabinet of vice presidents.”
What produced extensive discussion at the meeting, however, was not the committee’s recommendations, but a proposed change in the background section of the document.
The amendment came from Nick Burbules, a professor of educational policy studies, suggesting a change that in part removed a phrase in which the committee expressed “hope … that the senate’s Nov. 1 advice will be followed by the board.” Burbules said the change might avoid a misunderstanding about the nature of the committee’s concerns, since they needed to be addressed even if the board moved forward with its original proposals.
Senate members spoke for and against the rewording, some concerned about how it might be read by the board in conjunction with to the Nov. 1 response.
The amendment was eventually approved, by a voice vote. When Burbules, however, suggested another wording change farther down in the document, “for consistency,” the senate voted against it. History department chair James Barrett, speaking against the change, suggested that not offending the board was the main concern of some members, and that some were second-guessing the previous week’s action.
The senate then voted by voice to approve the amended document, which was to go to the University Senates Conference, along with the Nov. 1 response. The conference is responsible for collecting input from all three campuses about the board’s reorganization proposals and putting together a response to the board prior to its Nov. 18 meeting.
The proposed university reorganization, which had been the subject of almost weekly senate meetings since Oct. 11, came out of a Sept. 23 meeting of the board of trustees.
In that meeting, President Michael Hogan was asked to move forward with a plan to restructure the university administration in order to reduce costs, streamline operations, create opportunities to generate new revenue and better coordinate shared teaching and research missions.
Among the proposed changes, only some of which require amending the University Statutes or General Rules: changing the three campus chancellors’ titles to “vice president and chancellor,” adding “research” to the title and portfolio of the vice president for technology and economic development, establishing a new position of vice president for health affairs, enhancing the duties of the vice president for academic affairs, and establishing executive directors of human resources and enrollment services.
In other actions, the senate approved:
- Procedures for selecting a search committee to advise the university president on the selection of a chancellor, which Joyce Tolliver, chair of the Senate Executive Committee, said were unchanged since the last search in 2004.
- Renaming of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability, to the Prairie Research Institute.
- An amendment to Admissions Task Force recommendations, implemented last year in the wake of the admissions controversy, which will allow for communication between admissions officers and specific campus staff members involved in the recruitment of wheelchair basketball student-athletes.