Feb. 11, 2010

Senate debate of eliminated programs and positions continues

by Erin Rosacker

Policies and procedures for the elimination of academic programs and faculty were central in a spirited debate at the Feb. 9 Faculty Senate meeting. Two documents concerning the issues -- changes to the Faculty Handbook and a new memorandum of understanding -- could be voted on in March.

First, the policy

Proposed changes to Faculty Handbook language would expand the current one-sentence policy dealing with termination of tenured faculty positions. The changes -- similar to what are in place at the University of Iowa -- add policies for position cuts due to academic program eliminations and" financial exigency." Although the handbook changes were eligible for a vote at this month's meeting, senators postponed a decision to March.

Next, the procedures

The procedures for eliminating an academic program and its faculty are outlined in a collaborative memorandum of understanding developed by faculty and administrators. The draft, made available to senators on Feb. 8, contains a June 30, 2012, expiration date. A PDF version of the memorandum is available online.

"We're trying to find some sort of middle ground that we can all live with," said Steve Porter, chair of the subcommittee working on the memorandum. "This represents the closest level of agreement the faculty representatives and the administration could come to."

The memorandum contains sections on:

  • Faculty membership in academic programs
  • Criteria for eliminating of academic programs
  • Procedures for eliminating of academic programs
  • Good-faith efforts to transfer faculty with continuous appointments
  • Faculty appeals
  • Report on status of faculty from eliminated academic programs

The document states that program elimination will be based primarily on academic and educational reasons. Four additional criteria also will be considered, including:

  • Cost effectiveness
  • Quality and productivity
  • Centrality, especially to the university's commitments and strategic goals
  • Need, both current and future

University counsel Paul Tanaka said ISU's current policy offers limited financial options other than a declaration of "extraordinary financial crisis," which only requires a one-year notice for faculty terminations. He said adding procedures for program elimination is one way to "put order into the process of reducing budgets."

If passed, the memorandum would be the prevailing document until its 2012 deadline. After that, the handbook language would take over.

"It's never good to make long-term policy in a crisis, because you're always looking at the issue today and you're not looking broadly," Tanaka said. "The [memorandum] was an effort to let us address what we have today and as we come to expiration, then both sides have to get back together."

Other business

A Faculty Handbook revision of the senate's open meetings policy passed (38-20), simplifying the language and eliminating requirements. Senators also approved several proposed academic items, including:

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