By Shannon Vicic
At its April 7 meeting, the Urbana-Champaign Senate discussed a proposal to amend the university statutes to add sanctions that could be used to discipline faculty members and academic professionals for misconduct.
Currently, the statutes don't contain any sanctions other than dismissal that can be used to discipline faculty members or academic professionals.
The proposed amendment lists specific sanctions suspension without pay or reassignment of work duties and reasons those sanctions could be invoked, such as an employee's refusal to perform reasonable work assignments or misappropriation of university property.
This is the second time the proposal has been debated in the senate. It was initially brought to the senate's Feb. 3 meeting for a first reading. The senate was scheduled to vote on the proposal Feb. 24, but H. George Friedman, chair of the committee on University Statutes and Senate Procedures (USSP), moved that it be withdrawn from the agenda so that it could be revised further.
In prefatory remarks to the April 7 discussion, Friedman reported that the revised version incorporated the suggestions of several groups and individuals, particularly university counsel Byron Higgins.
But Friedman noted that the revision did not reflect all of Higgins' recommendations.
"Perhaps the single most fundamental point on which we disagree is whether the document that we are proposing should cover all academic staff, including academic professionals, or tenure-track faculty members only," Friedman said.
"We believed that there would be a serious hole in the university's structure if we did not apply this to all academic staff and are so proposing."
When the floor was opened for discussion, English professor Joan Larsen Klein moved that the senate take an advisory vote on the issue of whether the proposal should include academic professionals.
Philosophy professor Richard Schacht seconded the motion. "It seems to me to be imposing an unnecessary degree of difficulty on this process to try to set it up in such a way that it would apply equally well to both categories of employees."
Emanuel Donchin, a professor of psychology, said he intended to vote against including academic professionals in the proposal. "It's important to make a distinction between faculty members and academic professionals. Faculty have a very different relationship with the university."
An advisory vote was taken, and the senate voted that academic professionals should not be included the proposal.
Afterward, the senate debated an amendment from Peter Loeb, a professor of mathematics, designed to clarify the wording of an item in the original proposal.
In addition, law professor Matthew Finkin flagged several areas of concern, including the sanction of suspension with pay, which he said would be viewed by the general public as the awarding of a paid vacation for misconduct.
Finkin also questioned whether it was necessary to form an appeals committee to hear faculty appeals, saying that the appeals committee would be "incredibly cumbersome."
But I. David Berg, a professor of mathematics, voiced his support of the appeals committee. "These are not trivial sanctions being described, so I think it's reasonable to have a fairly elaborate process to make sure they are justly assigned."
The proposal is scheduled to be voted on at the next senate meeting.
Tenure seminar report
The senate also met as a committee of the whole to discuss a report recently released by the members of a seminar on tenure.
The tenure seminar group, appointed by Sylvia Manning, vice president for academic affairs, was charged with studying the history and theory of academic tenure, analyzing the value of tenure today, and examining the practice of tenure at the UI .
In recent years, the tenure system has been criticized in many publications, including the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times. According to Finkin, the current assault on the tenure system is one of the most massive attacks on tenure in its more than 80 years in existence.
The tenure seminar report recommends that the university retain its present system of academic tenure, but also suggests that the university develop sanctions for faculty misconduct or unsatisfactory performance a recommendation addressed by the proposal discussed earlier in the meeting and develop procedures to appraise faculty performance after the award of tenure.
The senate discussion was designed to give faculty members an opportunity to voice their opinions about the report, particularly its suggestion concerning post-tenure reviews of faculty members.
A committee has been formed to draft policies for post-tenure reviews of faculty members. Such reviews already exist in the form of annual reviews used to determine faculty raises, but the committee would attempt to standardize the review process, said Geneva Belford, who will serve as a co-chair of the committee.
Schacht pointed out that any post-tenure review system that is developed should be attentive to the merits of faculty members as well as any problems, should build on the procedures departments are already using to review faculty members, and should be attentive to the different needs of individual departments.
Donchin objected to the term "post-tenure" review. "It's not post-tenure review. Everybody gets reviewed, even non-tenured faculty. What we need is not a post-tenure review but a systematizing of the merit review system on this campus."
In other business, Senate Council Chair Thomas Conry announced the results of senate elections for the 1997-98 academic year. Schacht has been elected Senate Council chair, and Donald Uchtmann has been elected Senate Council vice-chair.
Carl Altstetter, professor of physical metallurgy, materials science, and engineering, May Berenbaum, professor of entomology, and Nancy O'Brien, professor of library administration, were elected to serve on the Committee on Committees.