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MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
May 10, 2010

VI. UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

C. Revisions to Changes to the Voting Rights of the General Faculty (D 8065-8066).

Chair Staiger turned the meeting over to Chair Elect Neikirk because she served on the committee proposing changes to voting rights and wanted to participate in the discussion. Dr. Hillary Hart (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering and committee chair) presented the report. The contents of the PowerPoint slides she presented are included in Appendix C. She reminded everyone that the original report and proposal had been based on the information in the posted HOP, which she learned during the presentation was not current and up-to-date. The committee had studied the accurate version of voting rights rules and made some changes to its original recommendations. She explained that the rationale underlying the proposed legislation remained the same as originally proposed, which was to correct inequities in the HOP by extending voting rights to all non-tenure track faculty members that meet certain requirements within the General Faculty as well as within the various types of subunits of the University. She said many non-tenure track position titles were being used across campus, and a survey conducted last year by the Faculty Rules and Governance Committee revealed that the job descriptions for the same title varied extensively from one unit to another. Although there were inconsistencies in the type of work performed under the same occupational title, Dr. Hart said the committee thought basic voting rights would be an area where greater uniformity and fairness could be provided to this large group of University employees.

She explained that the proposed changes were to modify Chapter 1, Section VI of the HOP where faculty voting rights of the General Faculty were currently delineated at the following four unit levels: General Faculty, college, department, and academic centers. Due to changes in the structure of subunits, the committee was recommending that two of the subunit titles in Section VI be updated as follows: (1) Section VI.A would be titled “Colleges and Departmentalized Schools” and (2) Section VI.B would be titled “Departments and Non-Departmentalized Schools.”

At present, she said the HOP provides General Faculty voting rights to professors, associate professors, and assistant professors, who are appointed at least 50 percent of the time in a UT unit and are not students, without regard to their length of UT service; however, she said the only non-tenure track faculty members who have General Faculty voting rights are instructors and lecturers, who have held 50 percent appointments at the University for a total of four or more continuous long sessions at these ranks and are nonstudents. Dr. Hart said the proposal from her committee sought to provide General Faculty voting rights to all instructors and non-tenure track faculty, who have had a total of four or more continuous long session semesters of service at these ranks at The University of Texas at Austin and who meet the following criteria required of all voting faculty members:
  • are appointed at least 50 percent time at a UT Austin unit,
  • have an academic title, and
  • are not students.
At the college/school level, Dr. Hart said her committee was asking Section VI.A be clarified by adding the descriptor “departmentalized” before the word schools, since there were some schools, such as the Cockrell School of Engineering comprised of several departments and others, such as the School of Architecture where no departmentalization exists. She said the committee members believed that the voting rights at the school level in schools with departments would be comparable to those within colleges. Voting rights in schools without departments would be comparable to those in departments and therefore Section VI.B would be renamed to include non-departmentalized schools along with departments.

In college and departmentalized schools, Dr. Hart said the committee sought to extend voting rights to all fulltime non-tenure track faculty members with two semesters of service. Dr. Hart reported a minor change being proposed in the HOP’s wording involved updating the fields used to illustrate how dual appointments in different departments would be handled. She said faculty members with dual titles would be provided voting rights in both units if the faculty member held a 50 percent appointment in each; she said the fields in the example were the only changes as the rule about granting dual voting rights was the same as in the past. Another minor language update, according to Dr. Hart, was proposed to eliminate gender bias by adding “or she” wherever the word “he” appeared. In Section B.1, Dr. Hart said the committee proposed that voting rights on departmental and non-departmentalized school matters be extended to all fulltime non-tenure track faculty, but she indicated that the phrase that followed on the PowerPoint slide saying “as detailed in the budget” should be stricken since a position being included in the budget no longer was applicable and should not have appeared on the slide.

Chair Staiger said she thought some other information on the PowerPoint slides was incorrect. She clarified that the committee had actually proposed that the length of service required to qualify for voting rights at the college and departmentalized school level be the same as that for General Faculty voting rights. This time period would be four or more continuous long session semesters of service at these ranks. Dr. Hart told the Council that she agreed that Chair Staiger’s statement was accurate regarding the four semesters rather than the two on the slide. Chair Staiger also clarified that non-tenure track faculty would be required to have 100 percent appointments to qualify for voting rights on departmental and non-departmentalized school. Dr. Hart thanked Chair Staiger for correcting the information that was in error on the slides. She said the committee realized that there was concern that the relative share of non-tenure track faculty was considerably larger in some areas than in others and could impact voting outcomes. For example she said the clinical titles occur more frequently in nursing and pharmacy than in other areas. However, she said the committee realized, “There are a number of clinical faculty, who make their professional home at the University, who are appointed 100 percent, who teach a whole lot, and who cannot vote, whereas lecturers, who are appointed 100 percent, and teach a lot, can.” She added, “So, the purpose of this legislation—the real goal—is to get rid of that discrepancy.” Regarding joint appointments, she said the committee proposed wording to make these consistent with the intent in Section 1.A for all ranks of personnel, and the members decided that the phrase “and the joint appointment is subsequent to his or her initial appointment” should be omitted because it seemed irrelevant.

Dr. Hart said there were a number of faculty members, who have positions in centers before they become members of departments. The committee was proposing that a faculty member be granted voting status in an academic centers for matters related to that center based on how the particular center determines it’s own voting rights. Professor Hillis said he thought the proposal was problematic because he believed there were a number of non-tenure track positions that were not appropriate for voting rights as faculty members. He said he was particularly concerned about the appointments currently being made in a rushed manner to establish a medical school. He said these employees are being given clinical positions at the University but often work entirely in a local hospital but “do not have any kind of connection to the academic programs at the University. He said he thought the reasons were largely to attract individuals into certain fields and be able to grant them benefits at the University. Professor Hillis said he did not think these clinical positions should be granted voting rights if they were not connected to the University’s academic programs. Because he realized that there were other clinical faculty positions on campus where the work did involve academic programs, he recommended that voting rights be granted on a case-by-case basis. He said this approach would allow departments to decide which positions actually had a significant role in the academic mission and affairs of the University whereas the proposal under consideration would just automatically provide voting rights to “any of these types of non-tenured position.” Professor Hillis said the automatic voting rights provision was “a recipe for disaster.” Dr. Hart replied that the proposal did not provide blanket voting rights to all non-tenure track faculty because only those holding 100 percent positions at the department level would be allowed to vote. Professor Hillis said the 100 percent requirement applied only to the department level, but he was concerned that voting rights at the General Faculty level only require 50 percent appointments. He added that the clinical appointments were being structured with 51 percent appointments at the University and 49 percent at the local hospital so that individuals could qualify for University benefits. This meant they would qualify to vote even though he thought many of them had no connection to the University’s academic programs. Dr. Hart said she foresaw a problem with Professor Hillis’ recommendation in that it would probably be necessary to take away the current automatic voting rights for existing lecturers and any new appointees in order to be fair and review each on an individual case-by-case basis. Professor Hillis said he perceived that lecturers were involved in the academic programs so the current rules should remain for these positions; however, he said he could not support the addition of other non-tenure track positions without some way of being sure the individuals holding those positions were actually involved in the academic programs of the University.

Professor Palaima said he was preparing a talk for the upcoming AAUP conference in Washington, D.C., where he was going to address the historical and current institutional marginalization of the faculty voice at UT Austin. He said he perceived there were two major ways this marginalization occurs. First, faculty members who are genuinely concerned about the University come to realize that the faculty committees have no real power and serve only in an advisory capacity, which is guided by Regents’ Rules. Those rules clearly say that faculty committee recommendations can be overridden at any point coming down the chain of authority “from the regents to the president and the provost and the deans.” Another way to marginalize the faculty voice, according to Professor Palaima, would be to dilute those “powers that genuine faculty have” by some means. He said this second way was what Professor Hillis had illustrated, and he shared the same concerns that had been expressed by Professor Hillis. Allowing the establishment of voting faculty positions for individuals who are not closely involved in the “courses, instruction, research as it takes place within what we all would identify a the University,” according to Professor Palaima, could result in a voting block that further marginalizes the true faculty of this institution.

Chair Staiger said she had mixed feelings about the legislation. She said she understood the need to secure professional employees who would be providing services apart from the normal University roles of faculty members and even perhaps giving them faculty titles. However, she said she was concerned about the number of former lecturers that are now called clinical faculty members, who are still largely involved in departmental instructional activities, and were totally surprised when they could not cast votes in University elections anymore. She said many individuals now would not serve on University committees, where they had been quite active in the past, because of the loss of their voting rights due to their changed job titles. Chair Staiger summed up her feelings about the situation as follows:
I think it’s a serious problem when we disenfranchise faculty, who are faculty, who are teaching, who are involved with our students, the right to vote. We ask them to do this work of the University, and in some ways we’re alienating them further from a place that gives us very little rights, and then to take away their voting rights is a great concern for me.
Chair Staiger said she thought it might be best to table the legislation even though she had wanted to get the item passed given the time that had been spent on it. She added that she thought, “ultimately what we want is some language that suggests the people with faculty titles, who are acting as faculty, ought to have voting rights and be able to participate in the practices of this institution.”

When Dr. Hart asked if the principle Chair Staiger had just articulated was what most Faculty Council members believed and would help create and support legislation that allowed that to actually happen, the audience responded by saying “yes.” Chair Elect Neikirk asked Chair Staiger if she had just introduced a motion to table the legislation. Chair Staiger said, “No, it was a statement.”

Professor Alex Garcia (nursing) said she wanted to speak on behalf of voting rights for of the clinical faculty members in nursing, who participate fully in the academic mission of the University. He said he agreed that some language should be developed to clarify that voting faculty members needed to be involved in academic endeavors of the University. Professor Hillis said he had no objection to individual faculty members with particular titles, including clinical faculty, having voting rights, but he believed it was best to consider each position on a case-by- case basis. He said he would follow Chair Staiger’s suggestion that the item be tabled, which he thought would be non-debatable. After clarifying that Professor Hillis had moved to table the item, Chair Elect Neikirk said there was a second and the item could not be debated. He called for the vote, and the motion to table was unanimously passed. Chair Elect Neikirk said thank you and ceded the chair back to Chair Staiger. Chair Staiger said she expected the voting rights item to be come back in some form to the Council at the first meeting in September.

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