Jan. 21, 2010

Senate preparing for faculty cuts

by Erin Rosacker

With talk of budget cuts that could lead to program and department eliminations, the Faculty Senate is examining policy revisions dealing with the termination of faculty positions. Senators got their first look at the proposed changes during their Jan. 19 meeting. They also held a budget discussion that was delayed for a month when the December meeting was canceled due to a storm.

"There is no chance that the budget cut will be less than the 10 percent that we have already taken," said executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman. "We won't know for several weeks if that is the extent of the budget cuts."

"We really have to make some significant changes to narrow the focus of what we do if we are going to be able to sustain our excellence as a land-grant university going forward," she said. "I recognize that if we are going to reduce the activities that we do, it may require that we eliminate some majors and programs, and maybe even some departments."

Hoffman said ISU administrators are offering colleges advice, but "it's all being decided at the college level. We are leaving it to the deans to come up with proposals."

Hoffman also fielded questions about the budget concerns. Here are the highlights of her responses:

  • More furloughs and temporary layoffs would "whittle away the pay of those who remain for the long run"
  • The latest media attention "may cause legislators to think twice before cutting us more"
  • Elimination of a college is unlikely because ISU only has seven and "no college is lacking for students or research"
  • "You cannot have a first-rate university without arts and humanities"
  • Decision makers are looking at undergraduate enrollment, research dollars and quality when evaluating programs and departments
  • TIAA-CREF contributions will be reinstated as part of the salary policy currently being developed for FY11
  • Additional retirement incentives could be offered to faculty in eliminated programs or departments
  • Deans have some salary savings from unfilled positions, and fewer faculty hires are expected

Faculty cuts

Learn more about the proposed policy that deals with terminating faculty positions:

The Faculty Handbook offers just one sentence about the termination of tenured faculty due to "extraordinary financial crisis." That sentence was removed (leaving the remaining language dealing with nonrenewal of term appointments essentially untouched), and new language is being proposed for:

  • Terminating tenured faculty when academic programs are eliminated
  • Terminating tenured faculty due to financial exigency
  • Terminating faculty without tenure due to elimination of academic programs and financial exigency

Max Porter, chair of the senate's governance council, said the procedures still are being ironed out, and that senate leaders are working with administrators on a memorandum of understanding dealing with those issues. Among them is a mutually agreeable definition of "financial exigency." Porter said senators could see a draft of the memorandum before next month's meeting.

"There are a lot of details to be worked out in this document," Porter said. "The idea is to try to get something in the handbook in a timely fashion -- in this calendar year -- so when the provost's office has to react to the budget concerns, at least we'll have some guidelines of what to do. If we don't pass anything, it leaves us more open to questions."

Steve Porter, a member of the senate subcommittee working on the handbook revisions, said the proposed policy is similar to the University of Iowa's policy.

"If we do have some program and department eliminations, we do it in a way that everyone agrees is a responsible path," Hoffman said. "I don't go into this lightly. It is important to know that we have a policy that respects the rights of faculty."

New president-elect

Steve Freeman ran unopposed to earn the president-elect position for 2010-11. Freeman, a professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering, also serves as associate director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

Other business

In business held over from the November meeting, senators approved:

  • Name changes for undergraduate and graduate majors in apparel, merchandising, design and production to apparel, merchandising and design
  • Name changes for undergraduate (hotel, restaurant and institution management) and graduate (foodservice and lodging management) majors to hospitality management
  • Merging two undergraduate majors (logistics and supply chain management; and operations and supply chain management) into a single supply chain management major

A slate of new academic items, eligible for a vote at next month's meeting, was introduced. The proposals include:

  • A minor in critical studies in design
  • A master's degree of engineering in information assurance
  • A master's degree of engineering in civil engineering
  • A master's degree of engineering in materials science
  • A bachelor's degree in meeting and event planning
  • Eliminating the master's degree in business

A Faculty Handbook revision dealing with the senate's open meetings policy also will be voted on next month. The changes simplify the language, removing outdated requirements.