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Faculty Council Remarks 5/10/10
I’ve been feeling a bit awkward since I learned yesterday that Alba was also nominated as Chair-Elect. I feel confident in saying that I am second to none in my admiration and respect for her – and for her terrific work on many of the issues important to faculty and to this institution, much of which I know first-hand because we have often worked closely together. If Alba is elected to this position, the Council and the University will be well served.
Since the establishment of the Faculty Council, a number of us have worked to build on the cooperative model that we then put in place. The basic features of that model include the President’s regular participation in Council meetings; the monthly meetings of the FCEC with the President and Provost to discuss current and upcoming business; and the provision that Council legislation rather than being vetoed as used to happen, will either be accepted as passed or else become a basis for discussion and negotiation. The faculty and administration subsequently worked together to establish PTR in a form that serves the institution and the faculty rather than threatens tenure, as initially seemed likely; to improve the faculty grievance process; to establish the faculty Ombudsperson position; to revise the guidelines concerning tenure and promotion in order to provide candidates greater access to their dossiers and opportunity to counter possible mistakes or misrepresentations, as well as to address perceived violations of due process and academic freedom.
Last week the students passed several resolutions requesting their early involvement in budgetary decisions, a move I support. Shared governance, a concept to which UT subscribes, means that faculty too must play a fundamental and substantial role in the decision-making process so that we don’t simply receive instructions that must then somehow be implemented regardless of what we may think of them. Earlier this spring, in an attempt to establish principles to guide our thinking as we deal with the budgetary cuts, I submitted five resolutions for Council consideration on this matter; they are on the agenda for today’s regular meeting and I hope they become the basis for a serious discussion of the crucial issues that will determine the institution’s future. Faculty must also be partners from the beginning in addressing other major issues: what to do with the Brackenridge Tract, for example, the Cactus Café, and informal Union classes. We should not be in the position of having to play catch up after decisions have been announced. I would also ask the administration to refrain from appointing ad hoc committees to do the job of standing committees; to work with us to establish due process for faculty accused of ethical violations; to establish the office of staff Ombudsperson; and to encourage Deans to attend FC and participate in its discussions.
But if we are to ask these things of the administration, we must get our own house in order and find ways of making better use of the extraordinary talent in this room and on this faculty. I would like us to consider how to strengthen the workings of the Council and increase faculty participation in governance, for if we don’t we may find ourselves disenfranchised and victims of a top-down corporate management structure. I would begin by asking all Council members – both new and continuing -- to commit themselves to attending Council meetings and serving on standing committees; if you feel you cannot, I would ask you to consider resigning from the Council so that someone who will make that commitment can serve. I would like to see a mechanism established for soliciting on an ongoing basis suggestions and feedback on institutional issues and faculty governance from Council members. We should also consider ways to improve Council meetings: perhaps by altering the order of business so that important action items come early rather than late and by having all reports to the Council submitted and read in advance by Council members, and then have only Q&A time at meetings. If we increase faculty participation in Council and committee elections and then improve attendance and participation, we will be on much solider ground when we ask the administration to work cooperatively with us.
Addendum: Proposed principles for dealing with budgetary cutbacks:
Believing that a financial crisis should not be addressed by doing harm to those who are most vulnerable, the Faculty Council opposes firings and wage reductions of low paid faculty, staff, and graduate students. We support providing a living wage with health benefits for all UT employees.
We endorse the principle of slowing or cutting new construction and administrative salaries and positions rather than fire faculty or staff.
We support a serious effort to eliminate or reduce wasteful duplication of programs. We endorse the principle of creating retirement incentives, with proper safeguards to minimize their being taken advantage of by the most productive faculty.
We support a serious study of the financial relationship between the University and its Intercollegiate Athletics with a view toward insuring that it is IA that supports the academic enterprise and not the other way around.