Inside Iowa State
August 28, 1998
Vrchota outlines senate's slate
by Linda Charles
As baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."
Even though the faculty approved a promotion and tenure policy last spring, the Faculty Senate will find the policy on its agenda again this year, says new senate President Denise Vrchota, adjunct assistant professor of journalism and mass communication.
While a policy was approved by a general faculty vote spring semester, the policy also must be approved by the provost, president and Iowa Board of Regents, Vrchota noted.
"We were naive in thinking that just because the general faculty approved it, it would just go sailing through the provost's and the president's office and to the board of regents and everyone would say, 'Yes, yes' and pass it on," she said. "That has not become the case."
Officials in the provost's office spent the summer reviewing the policy and are recommending several changes, Vrchota said. Some are in wording to make the document read better or make it consistent with other policies, but some changes could be described as "substantial," Vrchota said.
The promotion and tenure policy expands the traditional definition of scholarship (research and artistic activities) to include creative activities, teaching and extension/professional practice. The policy also calls tenure "the keystone for academic freedom."
Narrowly defeated by the faculty vote was a policy that would have mandated a post-tenure review for faculty at least every seven years. That issue too is likely to surface on the senate's agenda during the coming year, Vrchota said.
"Post-tenure review needs to continue to be a concern, she said. "It would not be smart to not continue talking about it."
Vrchota added that she believes if the senate does not craft some sort of post-tenure review policy, it could be imposed on the faculty from outside sources.
Other items that will come before the senate this year, she said, include:
- Creating a university club -- Several issues relating to the Memorial Union and its management must be resolved for the proposal for a university club to move forward, Vrchota said. She hopes work on the club can proceed later this fall. Former senate President Bill Woodman proposed the club and Vrchota said she thinks it is "a very good idea." Vrchota said one of the problems she sees on campus is a sense of isolation among faculty and staff. A club open to all would provide a setting for people from various departments to meet and share ideas. It also could be used as a "recruitment tool," she said, providing a place to take potential faculty and staff during the interviewing process.
- Studying proportional senate representation -- In his closing remarks to the senate, Woodman called for a study of the senate's representation structure. Vrchota said a committee is being appointed and will make recommendations on the senate size and whom senators should represent.
- Creating a budget council -- Vrchota said she will follow up on a suggestion made last year to create a fifth senate council to deal with university budget issues and, possibly, university planning. The senate currently has a budget committee, but Vrchota said the topic may deserve council status.
- Revising the conduct policy -- The policy would detail procedures to be followed when faculty are accused of misconduct. Under discussion is a two-tier process. Once a complaint is filed against a faculty member, a small faculty committee would investigate and make a recommendation to the provost. The committee could recommend that the case was without merit, that the provost could handle the matter, or request a thorough investigation by a larger faculty committee. In the latter instance, the larger committee would make a recommendation to the president.
- Reorganizing the Faculty Handbook -- While preparing the new promotion and tenure policy, senators discovered fragmentation in the Faculty Handbook. A senate committee will work with associate provost Ed Lewis to improve organization of the handbook.
- Reviewing the Office of the Provost -- The senate is mandated to conduct this review every five years. Vrchota said it will be conducted much like that of the President's Office last year, with two reviews -- one of the office and a second, private review of the provost.
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