MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF October 26, 2009
IV. REPORT OF THE CHAIR.
Chair Staiger reported that the Faculty Council Executive Committee had realized, as a result of the recent proposed foreign language curriculum changes submitted by the College of Liberal Arts, that further clarification of the approval process was needed. She said this was especially true when curriculum changes are controversial and/or may affect degree requirements of students in other colleges/schools across the campus. She explained that proposed changes are reviewed by the Committee on Undergraduate Degree Program Review (CUDPR), which is currently comprised of administrators or their representatives from all colleges and schools involved with undergraduate curriculum. Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter chairs CUDPR, whose primary function is to be sure all units are aware of proposed changes and the impact they will have on degree programs and course availability for students across campus. In the case of the proposed restructuring of foreign language requirements, Chair Staiger said the magnitude of the changes produced questions as to whether or not the proposal should be reviewed by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC). As the level of disagreement about the proposed changes heightened in the College of Liberal Arts and around campus, Chair Staiger said she made inquiries regarding the policies and procedures followed in the past and found the typical process was that changes approved by CUDPR would be brought to the floor of the Council for discussion and action when objections were filed following the legislation’s posting. If serious issues were presented at the Council meeting, then the legislation could be referred to the EPC for further review. Chair Staiger said she hoped the curriculum legislation approval process could be made more efficient by clarifying when and how to involve the EPC before the Council’s review and action occurs. She reported that Vice Provost Ritter had earlier that day called for a meeting of parties involved in undergraduate curriculum and catalog changes to deal with this and other related issues. Chair Staiger said major controversial issues would still be discussed and acted upon at Council meetings unless the Council decided to change the current rules.
Chair Staiger said the second matter that came to the attention of the Faculty Council Executive Committee was that it had no way of knowing if a proposed curriculum or catalog change had been properly approved at the college or school level. She said this was important since the curriculum was one of the few areas of responsibility granted to the faculty in the Regents’ Rules and Handbook of Operating Procedures. Chair Staiger said many curriculum changes are simple catalog changes proposed by a department that do not impact other units across campus. Although departmental mechanisms may possibly exist, Chair Staiger said Executive Committee members perceive that discussion and approval mechanisms at the college or school level across campus are quite varied. In addition, personnel in the Office of the General Faculty and members of the Faculty Council Executive Committee do not know the extent to which the faculty have been involved in the development and approval of the proposed changes because these processes have not been documented and disseminated. After faculty concerns regarding the foreign language restructuring heightened, this issue was discussed at the monthly meeting the Executive Committee members have with President Powers, Provost Leslie, and other administrators. Chair Staiger said she had received approval from President Powers and Provost Leslie to request from the deans of the colleges/schools written statements describing their unit’s procedures and policies for approval of curricular and catalog changes within their respective units by March 1, 2010. She explained that the reason this was important related to the “dismal budget scene” that is expected over the next few years and the likelihood that efforts to gain cost savings through proposed changes in the curriculum will occur. For the Faculty Council members to properly perform their oversight of the curriculum, they need to know that the process followed by the proposing unit is appropriate and the faculty of that unit generally support the proposed changes.
Chair Staiger introduced Professor Mary Steinhardt, the faculty ombudsperson, and thanked her for the work she has provided faculty members. Professor Steinhardt expressed her gratitude to the Faculty Grievance Committee for its work in encouraging the establishment of the position and acknowledged several current Faculty Council members, who played active roles in that effort. She said the first ombudsperson, Professor Stan Roux, had served for four years, and she was in her second year. After saying, “The purpose of the faculty ombuds is to provide faculty with a prompt and professional way to resolve questions, concerns, and complaints beyond turning to their supervisor,” she said she felt her background and interests were well suited for the position and was enjoying this opportunity to serve the University community.
She reported that the six slides presenting an overview of the ombudsperson’s role were available for anyone to use and could be obtained by contacting Debbie Roberts in the Office of the General Faculty and Faculty Council. Professor Steinhardt's role involves the following: serving as a neutral third party in providing information, counsel, and mediation services; working with supervisors and administrators to open communication channels in order to fairly resolve problems; and facilitating the flow of faculty complaints to appropriate University officials. She said she has primarily worked with the Faculty Grievance Committee and expressed her appreciation to past committee chair, Professor Sue Heinzelman (English and Women’s and Gender Studies) and current chair, Professor Linda Golden (marketing) for their helpful assistance. In addition, she has worked occasionally with Associate Vice President Linda Millstone (Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity). With each individual case, an action plan is developed and the case remains open until the issue is resolved or the faculty member decides that the situation has been resolved as best as can be achieved. She said she ensures that cases are documented and maintained in a confidential manner by keeping the files at her residence and properly disposing of them at the end of one year.
Professor Steinhardt explained that she reports directly to Associate Vice Provost Judith Langlois, who reports to Executive Vice President and Provost Steve Leslie. She said she has meetings with these administrators about every eight weeks. In addition, she has conferred with Vice President Patti Ohlendorf (legal affairs) several times and has received useful information from Connie Deutsch and Rita Handrich, who are both in the Employee Assistance Program. Professor Steinhardt’s written annual report where she documented the number of cases and the time she typically has had to spend in her ombudsperson role is included in D 7380. At the conclusion of her report, Professor Steinhardt recommended the principles of fairness, honesty, and respect; when conflicts inevitably occur, she said most disputes are amicably resolved. She said she had talked at length with Professor Roux about the University’s honor code and had spent a great deal of time in her role as ombudsperson reinforcing the principles outlined in that code. When Professor Brian Evans (electrical and computer engineering) asked if she had handled any issues with lecturers and adjunct professors, Professor Steinhardt said she has talked with lecturers, and there had been two graduate teaching assistants who had consulted with her regarding their teaching.
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