February 16, 2009


Chair elect Janet Staiger (women’s and gender studies and radio/television/film) said the method of faculty reduction that occurred at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston was a topic discussed at length at the recent meeting she attended of the University of Texas System Faculty Advisory Council (SysFac). She said the extended discussion was in part due to the fact that the two SysFac faculty representatives from UTMB had been among the faculty whose employment was terminated. Then Interim Chancellor Kenneth Shine (who has now returned to his post as Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs) was present to hear the discussion, in which great concern was expressed that “the procedures used at UTMB did not necessarily coincide with Regents’ Rules.” There were questions about the interpretation of the Regents’ Rules and whether or not they coincided with guidelines issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Chair elect Staiger reported that SysFac had produced a resolution with detailed information about how such an emergency reduction of faculty and staff should occur and emphasized the involvement of the faculty governance organization in the decision-making process. She said she would be glad to send a copy of the recommendations to any one who would like to receive it. However, she pointed out that this was simply a resolution from the advisory group as to how such a reduction should proceed. SysFac also recommended that the UTMB faculty contact the AAUP. She said she had heard that AAUP had responded with a set of significant suggestions to the new chancellor regarding the UTMB situation. Although Chair elect Staiger said it always pleased her to hear from President Powers that the financial situation here at UT Austin looked reasonable from his perspective, she knew that everyone realized that conditions could change. She wanted to Council to know that SysFac was acting in a responsible way and discussing ways fiscal emergencies could be handled even though such situation involve very difficult decisions.

The chair elect reminded everyone the joint meeting with the Texas A&M Senate would be held here at UT Austin on March 2nd. She said the RSVPs indicating who plans to attend and who cannot are due today, and she hoped the balance of attendees would not end up being more administrators than faculty members. In addition to remarks by the presidents and provosts, there will be a presentation on the state of the state budget and a discussion about evaluating faculty, in part because of the new procedure at A&M where student evaluations will determine bonuses for faculty. The last part of the meeting will involve concurrent faculty chat sessions on (1) faculty governance issues and (2) equity issues in terms of gender, racial and cultural diversity, and domestic partner benefits. She said facilitators for the chat sessions were still needed.

Chair elect Staiger also reminded Council members to nominate good candidates for the elected committee positions; she said that self-nominations were encouraged. After emphasizing the importance of these committees in terms of encouraging academic freedom and shared faculty governance, she noted that the Faculty Rules Committee would become an elected committee and be broadened to address governance issues if the Council at today’s meeting approves D-6850.


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