By Shannon Vicic
A proposal to alter the academic calendar has stirred up plenty of debate on the floor of the Urbana-Champaign Senate in recent meetings.
At the senate's Feb. 3 meeting, Walter Arnstein, chair of the Calendar Committee, presented a proposal under which each fall semester would begin three days earlier but would include an entire week of vacation for Thanksgiving rather than the current two-day vacation.
The senate was to vote on the committee's proposal at its Feb. 24 meeting. But when the proposal came up for discussion, three professors -- Ruppert Downing, social work; Terry Weech, library and information science; and Peter Feuille, labor and industrial relations -- proposed to amend it.
Under their amendment, the semester would begin three days earlier, but the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week would be reinstated as instructional days, and the semester would end two days earlier -- on a Wednesday rather than Friday.
The faculty members proposed the amendment because they were concerned that the original proposal would shortchange students with classes that meet only on Mondays or Tuesdays.
However, Arnstein said the amendment couldn't be accepted as friendly because ending the semester on a Wednesday would necessitate a change in the final exam schedule. Since that could have implications for the date of fall commencement, Arnstein said he couldn't support the amendment without resubmitting it to the committee.
To help resolve that issue, Arnstein asked Weech if his group would accept an amendment to its proposed amendment that would reinstate the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week as instructional days but keep the rest of the original calendar proposal the same. That amendment would increase the total number of days in the fall semester from 72 to 74.
Arnstein said that the altered amendment would constitute only a minor change to the original proposal, which would mean that he could accept it on behalf of the Calendar Committee. Weech accepted the suggestion, and a movement was made to amend the amendment.
Wesley Seitz, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics, recommended that the senate vote against the suggested calendar alteration. He noted that the development of the calendar is a complex process and trying to amend the calendar on the senate floor is very tricky.
Kelly Doyle, a junior in fine and applied arts, urged the senate not to amend the amendment further, but to approve the first amendment proposed. At the Feb. 3 meeting, Doyle had lobbied for an earlier end to the fall semester so students could pursue seasonal employment.
A vote taken on the motion to amend the amendment passed 39-24. With time in the meeting running short, H. George Friedman, a professor of computer science, moved that the debate of the newly amended proposal be closed, so a vote could be taken.
But before the amended proposal could be voted on, Alfred Kagan, a professor of library administration, asked for a quorum call. Since no quorum was present, the meeting was adjourned.
The senate reconvened March 3 to vote on the amended calendar proposal. A motion to send the amended proposal back to the Calendar Committee was defeated by only a three-vote margin, 46-43, and, ultimately, the voting process was stymied once again by a quorum call that fell short. The calendar proposal will be taken up again at the senate's March 17 meeting.
Pouring Rights Contracts
In remarks at the beginning of the Feb. 24 meeting, Chancellor Michael Aiken addressed the issue of "pouring rights" contracts. At a previous meeting, students had requested that they have more input into the decisions surrounding soft drink providers for the campus.
According to Aiken, the university currently has three arrangements with soft drink providers. University Housing has an exclusive arrangement with Coca-Cola for the residence halls. The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has an exclusive arrangement with Pepsi for DIA events. And Coke, Pepsi and other beverages are sold in vending machines other than those in student housing through a contract with the Illini Union's campus vending.
Currently, the university is trying to determine whether a package arrangement with one beverage company would bring additional revenues into the university. Other universities, such as Indiana University and the University of Minnesota, currently have such package arrangements, Aiken said.
The university put out a request for proposals for pouring rights contracts in November. At that time, the university also put out a request for proposals from fast food franchises, possibly to take over the Illini Orange and/or a location in the Union.
If a package arrangement with a beverage provider brought in additional income, it would help pay for programs to enhance the lives of students, such as the First Year Impact program, Aiken said. This year, that program served 600 students. Next year it will be offered to twice as many students, and the university would like to make it available to all freshmen.
Aiken also mentioned the need to continue funding programs such as the new student convocation and mandatory sexual assault seminars. In addition, he said that the university is committed to increasing programs for Native American and Asian American students.
With regard to athletic programs, Aiken pointed out that the university has one of the smallest sports programs for women in the Big Ten. To increase sports opportunities for women, the university has pledged to add a women's soccer program and softball team, which will each cost $300,000 per year on a recurring basis.
"We have one of the worst records on gender equity [in sports] in the Big Ten. I'm not very proud of that, and I think we need to do something about it by adding these two sports. But we have to pay for it," Aiken said.
If the university can produce new income through its pouring rights arrangements, then it can use the money to address some of these issues, he said. The university already has received proposals from several companies, but university representatives haven't completely finished analyzing the proposals yet. Aiken said he will be holding meetings with students this week to get input on the pouring rights issue.
One of the issues that the university must consider is a shift from the current cans-only arrangement to a mix of cans and plastic. That would have an impact on the university's recycling program, which is currently paid for by recycling cans. Aiken also noted that the university will set a standard price for soft drinks, which will increase the price of pop in student housing from 50 to 60 cents, regardless of the university's decision concerning the proposals.
Evaluation of Fitness to Work
In other action at the Feb. 24 meeting, the senate approved the Evaluation of Fitness to Work proposal. Under that policy, if there are concerns about an employee's fitness to work, that employee can be required to be examined by a university-designated health-care professional.
Several faculty members objected to the proposal because it doesn't give the employee the right to choose his or her own physician. The proposal only says that the employee shall be consulted about the selection of the health-care professional "where practicable."
Law professor Matthew Finkin pointed out that there are many reasons that employees shouldn't necessarily be allowed to choose their own doctor.
Provost Larry Faulkner added that when employees become a threat to themselves or others, it may not be feasible or wise to involve them in choosing a health-care professional to evaluate their fitness to work. Faulkner reminded the senate that the appeals process is available for anyone who believes that he or she may have been treated unfairly.
Several faculty members continued to express concern with the phrase "where practicable," so the proposal was amended to delete that phrase before it was approved.
In Other Business
Freidman, chair of the committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures, moved that a Terms of Employment proposal be withdrawn from the Feb. 24 meeting agenda so that the committee would have more time to consider suggestions received recently from university counsel.
Also at the Feb. 24 meeting, John Braden, chair of an advisory committee charged with reviewing the campus options for fire protection and emergency medical services, discussed the options being considered and the process the advisory committee is using to evaluate those options. The advisory committee plans to complete its evaluation process and make a recommendation to the Chancellor by spring break.