Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
September 10, 1999

Faculty conduct policy on senate's agenda this year

by Linda Charles
A faculty conduct policy will be on the Faculty Senate agenda during the upcoming year, said this year's president, Dean Ulrichson, chemical engineering professor.

An ad hoc committee began working on the policy two years ago and it now has been scrutinized by several legal authorities, including the American Association of University Professors and National Institute of Health. Ulrichson said some portions of the proposed policy still need to be discussed with senators and administrators, but the policy should make it to the senate floor this year.

Many of the policies at the university, such as those on sexual and racial harassment, deal with legal procedures for complaints, he said.

"Clearly, those harassment issues become legal if they're formal. They can cause a lot of damage to somebody who depends on people having confidence in them," Ulrichson said.

Ulrichson said he hopes the faculty conduct policy can provide informal alternatives to deal with complaints, as well as lay out the legal procedure for cases that can't be resolved informally. In addition, areas of the current policy on academic dishonesty need to be updated.

The new senate president also wants to continue the strategic planning begun by past senate president Denise Vrchota. While the senate traditionally has mapped out a strategic plan each year during June retreats, Ulrichson hopes the committee he appointed last spring will provide a more formal framework for future planning.

"This is the 12th year of the Faculty Senate," Ulrichson noted. "We have been, much of the time, reactive. We'd like to become more active in having a hand in the direction in which those issues of faculty interest move."

University staffing also will be studied by the senate this year.

"The number of faculty members does not move with the number of students," Ulrichson said, "while the number of professional and scientific staff has increased significantly."

Faculty have tended to focus on research, teaching and development of new material, he said, and spent less time advising student clubs and other activities. The trend has been to hire P&S staff for that. While faculty have been supportive of this in general, Ulrichson said he would like the senate to review the situation to see if it's appropriate.

Ulrichson also would like to see faculty take greater advantage of the academic information technology that is available on campus. He sees electronic communication as one way to improve communication between faculty and administrators. In addition to continued efforts to keep faculty abreast of information technology, Ulrichson hopes to reactivate the senate Web site and explore the possibility of holding electronic elections for the senate.

The senate's basic document and bylaws also are being rewritten to streamline them, make it easier for the senate to act on various issues and provide clearer procedures.

In addition, Ulrichson would like the senate to investigate equal domestic partner benefits. Currently, non-married domestic partners must pay more for insurance coverage than married partners, he said. He would like the senate to study the issue to determine if policy changes should be recommended.

The senate will be keeping an eye on the implementation of the new promotion and tenure policy, which went into effect this year, he added. The post-tenure review policy goes into effect next year. Both policies call for position responsibility statements and academic portfolios, which may be new to some faculty.

Ulrichson said the senate also may investigate ways to measure teacher performance other than through student class evaluations, which are commonly used now.

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