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Faculty Welfare Committee

The Faculty Welfare Committee (FWC) met six times during the academic year: September 13, October 11, November 18, March 1, April 5, and May 3. All six meetings were chaired by Professor Bagchi. The 2010-11 FWC started the year by considering faculty health benefits and wellness initiatives and revisited the topic throughout the year. As a way of marking continuity with the 2009-10 FWC, the 2010-11 FWC considered UT’s response to the gender equity task force report. The FWC also considered what its proper role should be in safeguarding and promoting faculty welfare, as the so-called faculty information/management system is designed and implemented by the administration.

The following summarizes the FWC’s efforts for the 2010-11 year:

  • At the September 13 meeting (attended by Professors Almen, Bagchi, McCray, Perry, Rawlins, Warner, and Worthy), Professor Worthy was elected vice chair of the FWC. The FWC reviewed the 2009-10 FWC annual report and decided to set priorities for 2010-11 at its next meeting.
  • At the October 11 meeting (attended by Professors Almen, Bagchi, Heinzelman, McCray, Perry, Rawlins, Warner, Worthy, and Ying), Kelly Lomasney (assistant director, Human Resource Services Center) gave an update on health benefits and wellness initiatives. The FWC agreed on the following priorities for discussion and consideration in 2010-11:
    • Potential changes in UT benefits for employees and retirees
    • Increased teaching load for faculty
    • Monitoring the rights of lecturers and other non-tenure-track faculty

The third priority is a recommendation from the 2009-10 FWC, but the first two priorities concern what are likely to have the biggest impact on faculty welfare at UT. These priorities were communicated to the Faculty Council. The FWC felt strongly that in the matter of these two priorities, the voice of the UT faculty needs to be heard loud and clear, and the Faculty Council needs to be that voice.

  • At the November 8 meeting (attended by Professors Bagchi, Heinzelman, McCray, Perry, Warner, and Worthy), Vice Provost Langlois gave an update on actions taken by the University in response to the gender equity (GE) task force report:
    • Family Friendly Policies (new brochure, website)
    • Graduate Student Climate Survey (in progress)
    • Best Practices (in progress)
    • Dual Career Assistance (done)
    • Report on Promotion/Tenure Results (done)
    • Mentoring (part of Leadership Academy)
    • Salary Gap (will require multi-year effort given current budget)
    • The establishment of a senior administrative position to oversee GE.
    • Colleges/Schools (GE plan; college-wide GE councils)
    • Institutional Oversight (GE council)
    • GE Report Card (aggregate report card at end of each year)

Vice Provost Langlois also expressed concern about some reported instances of bullying of faculty by faculty.

  • At the March 1 meeting (attended by Professors Almen, Bagchi, Perry, and Warner), Professor Worthy was elected chair elect for the 2011-12 FWC. Kelly Lomasney gave an update on what changes in health benefits may be in store for 2011-12.
  • At the April 5 meeting (attended by Professors Almen, Bagchi, Perry, Rawlins, Warner, Worthy, and Ying), Laura Chambers (director, Office of Employment Benefits, UT System) gave an update on the legislative process pertaining to employee benefits. Also attending was Kelly Lomasney.

Professor Worthy reported on a meeting she had on April 1 with Linda Millstone (associate vice president for institutional equity and ADA coordinator) and Judith Langlois. The issue was: tenured faculty whose disabling medical conditions are precluding them from performing their jobs. Professor Worthy made the following points:

    • The issue is worsening because people are retiring later.
    • Departments have different ways of dealing with the issue, which can be problematic.
    • Currently, the University’s only recourse is to terminate or reduce salary.
    • University policies that could help the affected faculty are not widely known.
    • The goal is to develop a University-wide procedure that addresses the issue in a respectful way. Could the FWC help in developing this procedure?

The FWC recommended that the issue be addressed by the 2011-12 FWC in consultation with the Committee for Academic Freedom and Responsibility.

  • At the May 3 meeting (attended by Professors Almen, Bagchi, McCray, Perry, Rawlins, and Worthy), the FWC received a written update on employee benefits from Laura Chambers. The update made the following points:
    • Health insurance is going to cost more in 2011-12. The scope of coverage is unlikely to shrink, but a mix of higher premiums and higher deductibles and/or copayments will be called for. The only question is how much of the additional cost will be due to higher premiums and how much due to higher deductibles and copayments.
    • The Affordable Care Act will mean coverage for dependent children to age 26 and 100% coverage for a wide variety of preventive care.
    • UT Flex medical maximum is going to drop to $2,500.

Professor Dean Neikirk, the Faculty Council chair, attended the May 3 meeting to participate in a conversation on what challenges confront faculty welfare and how the FWC can help promote faculty welfare. The conversation touched on benefits, the recommendations of the Commission of 125, curriculum reform, operational efficiency, faculty workload, and design and implementation of faculty information/management system(s).

  • One concern about benefits is that no mechanism exists for the faculty to express its preferences (e.g., higher premiums vs. higher deductibles) early enough to influence decisions. By the time the faculty is informed, there is little that can be done. Could we find a way to solicit more faculty input early on?
  • A big concern is the rationale, relevance, and accuracy of any information/management system(s) and the inevitable impact on faculty welfare. At what levels are decisions going to be made and to what extent will faculty be able to access, correct, and challenge the information used in making these decisions? It appears that major changes are afoot regarding teaching loads. There are even rumors about “lists” circulating. Are we moving to a two-tiered system of tenured (tenure-track) faculty? If so, is this appropriate? If teaching loads are to vary, what are the criteria? Who determines them? Deans? Department chairs? Executive committees? How can a faculty member challenge the categorization? Should it be retrospective or only prospective?
  • There is a sense that some profound changes may be in the offing that will significantly impact faculty welfare. And there is consequently a deep-seated anxiety attending these changes. The roots of the anxiety are again concerns about fairness and the University’s commitment to faculty governance. The FWC felt that it should do what it can, in concert with the Faculty Council and the University administration, to defend and promote faculty welfare.
  • For the 2011-12 FWC, the current FWC recommends the following:
    • In consultation with the Committee for Academic Freedom and Responsibility, address the issue of tenured faculty unable to do their job because of a disabling medical condition.
In consultation with the Faculty Council, set priorities that make sense for what is very likely to be a difficult time for faculty welfare.
Rayan Bagchi, chair