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

Jan. 30, 2009

Modified duties policy gets senate approval

by Erin Rosacker

After lengthy discussion, including debate over a proposed amendment, the modified duties policy was convincingly approved, 50-5-1, at the Faculty Senate's Jan. 20 meeting.

The proposed policy would relieve faculty of some regularly scheduled campus commitments, such as teaching and committee assignments, to manage the arrival of a new child (newborns and foster placement or adoption of children younger than 6 years old). Only tenured and tenure-eligible faculty designated as the primary caregiver (provides more than 50 percent of the care) are eligible. The policy allows one semester of modified duties at full pay, which can be used only twice during a faculty member's ISU career. The office of the executive vice president and provost and the colleges would split the cost of teaching, research supervision and service replacements for faculty utilizing the policy.

"This is not a leave document, it is modified duties," said Anne Smiley-Oyen, a member of the faculty development and administrative relations (FDAR) council that developed the policy. "Instead of teaching, the resources and time are put toward research."

Is it revenue neutral?

An amendment, introduced by president-elect Arnold van der Valk, expanded the policy to include the care of a spouse, child or parent, as well as personal health issues. He also argued that the original policy "won't fly in this economic climate ... unless you can show that it's revenue-neutral."

Smiley-Oyen disagreed, pointing to the FDAR council's primary goal of recruiting and retaining tenure-track faculty. The council's research estimates $566,200 in savings if three faculty positions were retained.

"It is revenue-neutral, because replacement costs, search costs and so forth are very expensive. If we can retain but a few faculty members, this will more than pay for itself," Smiley-Oyen said.

van der Valk's motion to send the policy back to committee for more work was voted down. His amended policy also was defeated.

Regent-driven effort

FDAR council member Martha Selby said the Board of Regents asked ISU and the University of Iowa to develop arrival-of-children policies. Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman added that the University of Northern Iowa likely won't develop a proposal, and that ISU and Iowa are working to make their policies as similar as possible.

What's next

The proposed policy now goes to ISU administrators, then to the Council of Provosts -- a group made up of the provosts from the three regent institutions. The Council of Provosts will determine when to present the policy proposals to the regents.

"We want to get this on the books as quickly as possible, but I don't know from a strategic position how quickly we will bring it to the board," Hoffman said. "It may take some months before we deem it appropriate to bring it before the board."

Other business

Citing budget issues and a theme shared with the university's Feb. 9-10 Symposium on Enhancing Sustainability, the senate canceled its spring faculty conference. Senate president Clark Ford said the senate will contribute some funding for the symposium.

Mike Owen was voted the senate's next president-elect, running unopposed. The agronomy professor has been at ISU for 26 years.

Senators unanimously approved five items, including:

  • An adjunct instructor position in animal science
  • Catalog copy for colleges and interdisciplinary programs
  • Catalog copy granting military veterans who serve abroad a waiver of the "international perspective" requirement
  • The addition of an electronic links disclaimer to the Faculty Handbook
  • A resolution to make all college and departmental governance documents electronically available (via a web site link) to the public

A list of proposed changes to the senate's bylaws was sent back to the governance council for continued work. New agenda items senators will consider for a vote at the next meeting include:

  • A checklist outlining procedures and guidelines for the new college and departmental document review committee
  • A pair of policies dealing with external reviewers and external letters related to the promotion and tenure review process


"This is not a leave document, it is modified duties. Instead of teaching, the resources and time are put toward research."

-- Anne Smiley-Oyen