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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Nov. 7, 2008

Modified duties policy introduced to senate

by Erin Rosacker

A modified duties policy, aimed at recruitment and retention of faculty, was introduced at the tail end of the Faculty Senate meeting Nov. 4. The policy would add another option for faculty designated as the primary caregiver of a newborn child, and a newly adopted or placed foster child under the age of six. Options currently available to faculty include the Family and Medical Leave Act, tenure clock extension and part-time appointment.

As proposed, the policy would allow faculty to take up to one semester with modified duties at full pay. Modifications likely would limit regularly scheduled campus commitments (such as teaching and service obligations). Application for modified duties would require approval from the department chair, college dean and executive vice president and provost. Faculty members would be limited to two semesters of modified duties during their ISU career.

Full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty would be eligible to use the modified duties policy, while part-time appointments would be limited to the percentage of the appointment. Funding the initiative (such as hiring teaching replacements) would be split equally between the office of the executive vice president and provost and the college.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, chair of the faculty development and administrative relations council, said the modified duties policy was developed with a previous -- and unsuccessful -- policy in mind. The "arrival of children" policy, backed by ISU, was tabled by the State Board of Regents in September 2003.

The University of Iowa also has developed and approved a modified duties policy. It was slated to go before the regents in August, but was pulled from the agenda.

Senate discussion was postponed since the policy was introduced late in the meeting. Senators are scheduled to vote on the matter next month.

Faculty satisfaction

Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman presented results from a faculty satisfaction survey conducted in January by the American Association of Universities Data Exchange. The topics surveyed included:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Faculty resources
  • Work environment
  • Sources of stress
  • Mentoring
  • Tenure and promotion
  • Promotion and advancement
  • Hiring and retention
  • ISU flexible tenure policies
  • Care of others

"The good news is that, in general, our faculty are pretty satisfied," Hoffman said.

She said overall satisfaction was highest among Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, and lowest among Business faculty.

"One of the questions we're going to have to ask ourselves is, are business faculty more dissatisfied everywhere in the country, or is there something special about Iowa State?"

Hoffman expressed concern about issues impacting associate professors and female faculty, including mentoring and stress factors (such as scholarly productivity and managing household responsibilities). Specifically, Hoffman pointed out that 41.3 percent of women faculty have no children (for men, it was 21.5 percent). This reflects the national trend, she said.

"Women in academia do not have children," Hoffman said. "I find that a disturbing statistic, despite everything we are doing to try to encourage family-friendly policies."

Hoffman said the entire report will be posted on her office's web site when the final data is compiled.

In other business

Senators also voted on a pair of policies. The authority to hire employees policy was approved as part of the consent agenda, and the employment verifications and background checks policy passed with a 34-18 tally.

Concerns voiced during discussion of the background checks policy touched on cost, privacy, academic freedom, discrimination and relevance of the checks for faculty hires.

"It's a relatively small cost to protect our institution," Hoffman said.

She said Iowa State's lack of an established policy puts it behind the national trend. Because the policy would govern all ISU employees, Hoffman encouraged senators to create an addendum for the Faculty Handbook to deal specifically with academic freedom issues.


Senators are considering a modified duties policy that would allow new parents to cut back on campus commitments.