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

Dec. 12, 2008

Modified duties debate continues

by Erin Rosacker

Faculty Senators will carry a bevy of business into the new year, including a proposed modified duties policy introduced in November. The policy sparked more than an hour of debate at the senate's Dec. 9 meeting.

The faculty modified duties assignment policy would allow tenured and tenure-eligible faculty to reduce on-campus responsibilities (at full pay) for one semester to manage the arrival of a new child. The policy would apply to newborns and adoptions or foster placements of children younger than 6 years old. Modifications would relieve faculty members of some regularly scheduled campus obligations, such as teaching.

"This policy addresses one of the priority areas, which is the recruitment and retention of tenure-eligible and tenured faculty," said Ann Marie VanDerZanden, chair of the faculty development and administrative relations council.

The cost to implement the policy would be shouldered evenly by the colleges (not departments) and the office of the executive vice president and provost. Replacements for teaching, research supervision or service responsibilities would make up the bulk of those costs.

An information sheet developed for senators outlined the potential cost-savings of the policy. The estimated cost to replace the 44 faculty who resigned last year was $5.1 million (including search expenses and start-up funds). In contrast, an estimated $566,200 would be saved if the policy was able to retain three of those faculty positions. Replacement costs also would be covered in those savings.

"This is a modified duties policy, not a leave," said Martha Selby, adjunct assistant professor in materials science and engineering. She said existing practices in some departments already allow modified duties for things such as increased research.

Arnold van der Valk, senate president-elect and professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, was the policy's most vocal opponent.

"I think this is an extremely well-intended policy, but unfortunately, a very bad policy," he said.

He argued the policy excludes non-tenure-eligible faculty and fails to address issues other than the arrival of new children. He also questioned the development process of the policy, asserting an "agenda."

van der Valk presented an amended policy that also would cover the care of a spouse, child or parent, and serious personal health issues.

"There's a bigger issue here in terms of dealing with family life balances that should be addressed by our policies and would make the policy more equitable than we're currently proposing," van der Valk said. "If we truly want to be a family-friendly institution, then we need to deal with all aspects of family life."

van der Valk's amendments were seconded. Discussion continued, but a motion to postpone further discussion moved the debate to January's meeting.

Other business

New business items introduced Tuesday and slated for a vote in January include:

  • A proposed waiver of the "international perspective" requirement for military veterans
  • Catalog copy for all colleges and interdisciplinary programs
  • A proposed adjunct instructor position in animal science
  • Faculty Handbook changes (electronic links to college and departmental governance documents, and an added disclaimer on electronic links)


The Faculty Senate's debate on a proposed modified duties policy will continue next month. The policy would give tenured and tenure-track faculty with new children a semester of reduced campus responsibilities.


"This policy addresses one of the priority areas, which is the recruitment and retention of tenure-eligible and tenured faculty."

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, faculty development and administrative relations council chair