University of South AlabamaFaculty Senate
Synoposis of the Faculty Senate Town Meetings
Faculty Town Meeting #1, The Terrace, Campus (Oct. 11, 2007)
Attendance: 28-30 people
Daycare for Campus Employees—
The question was raised about the possibility of getting access to daycare on campus. Chair Tate indicated that having daycare added as a “fringe benefit” was not an option due to several reasons (difficult to make daycare available to hospital workers who work late shift, liability issue), but she is trying to suggest to the administration that they consider a daycare business as a possible tenant for the ResearchPark.
There was a question about why faculty IDs were not photo IDs. Chair Tate reported that Human Resources Dept is actively looking at the possibility of doing photo identification cards. They are consulting with the same business that provides the IDs for students and for hospital workers. Once HR moves to their new quarters in the HealthServiceBuilding later this month they hope to have more room where they can devote space for producing photo IDs for faculty and staff. HR is hoping to be able to provide the new IDs around the beginning of the year.
Faculty Senate Minutes—
There was a question about why faculty senate approved minutes were no longer distributed to faculty members. It was suggested that, even though they were available on the web, that distributing the minutes via email to all faculty would give the senate more visibility.
Summer Teaching Policy—
Why doesn’t the bulk of the revenue generated by summer courses stay with the departments that teach the courses rather than given to the Dean of the College, with no accountability for its use?
Why isn’t there a way to determine how raises are given?
Why can’t the information about departmental budgets be readily available? How can we find out how travel money is spent within different departments?
Why hasn’t incremental pay raises been made available for adjunct faculty as there is with full-time faculty?
Sick Time Bank—
Why can’t the university provide the fringe benefit of banking sick time so others may use it? Chair Tate reported that this question has been looked at by the USA Fringe Benefits Committee and they believe that it is not possible for several reasons. They are not interested in pursuing it at this time.
There was a suggestion that, until there is a change in procedures regarding student class withdrawal policy, that the university at least send a message to the course instructor through email that a student has withdrawn from a course.
Some faculty were disappointed that the senate was not consulted prior to the announcement in the press that football was once again an issue that the university would be looking at. There continues to be a wait-and-see attitude to on how the university administration approaches the topic, with the hope that the administration will continue to be cautious and that the financial support for football stays primarily separate from the general operating funds.
There was concern that with Mr. Mitchell’s death that there would be a serious financial impact with the loss of his support. It was pointed out that Abraham Mitchell is still a major supporter of the university and that Mayer’s daughter Joy is also a supporter.
Loss of the USA Transplant Services—
There was concern that the university should put the needs of the GulfCoast region at a higher priority than whether it was a profitable business. Chair Tate commented that the decision to close down the service was not made lightly and the university continued the service long after most other hospitals would have discontinued it, but transplant program just could never received the support that it needed through referrals from the local physicians.
Faculty Town Meeting #2, SHAC (Oct 16, 2007)
Consideration should be made for they extremely large (150+) survey courses. Faculty believe that there is a 20-25% withdrawal from the course, with most waiting until the deadline to withdraw. If signature is required for all of the students who wait until the 11th hour to withdraw, this could be burdensome to the faculty member.
If the idea is to find out why students withdraw from courses, then maybe there can be on the withdrawal webpage in Banner a “drop-down” box with choices for reasons the student is withdrawing.
If there is concern about why students are withdrawing from courses, then maybe there can be a centralized way of identifying which students are at risk. If course instructors notice students with numerous no-shows could notify their Academic Advisors/Counselors, who could track their absences so that they could follow-up with the student.
AHP uses several guest presenters to represent the various subjects & topics that most AHP faculty do not feel they have enough expertise to teach. This puts a hardship on the few experts that need to address multiple class sessions. There needs to be a better way to use faculty expertise, such as videotaping experts to be used in multiple classes, or scheduling several classes at once to hear each expert.
There is a question as to why upper-level faculty are required to teach freshman seminars; there seems to be unbalance in cost. There is also a conception that only faculty that indicated on a survey that the freshman seminars would be a good idea are being required to teach the seminars. Also there seems to be disparateness in the way the various colleges are structuring their classes, even though there are specific guidelines. Will there be an analysis of the impact the courses have on student retention or a survey of faculty about how the courses are working? Has anyone actually looked at the way the different colleges are teaching the course?
Freshman & Transfer Orientation—
There was a consensus of those present that it is a waste of AHP faculty’s time to assist with advising new students using a very inefficient, manual system. Many of those at the orientation will not be future AHP students.
There was a suggestion that faculty senate have “Press Releases” of their positions on issues made available on their web pages.
Faculty Town Meeting #3, MCOB, Campus (Oct. 17, 2007)
“Late” Withdrawal Policy—
There was some general discussion about the proposed changes in the policy. There was a question about the possibility of changing the status from a graded class to an audit (since the class is already paid for) rather than withdrawing altogether from the class.
Preparation for AttendingCollege—
A faculty member voiced concern that the university is not adequately preparing students for the transition from high school to college, that they need a general introduction to academic life before they actually start taking classes. The Freshman Seminar class is sometimes too late. Also consideration should be made about creating a program for community college transfers since many do not understand the demands of a four-year college.
There was a request for more guidance in how to advise students. Some departments do not require advising for their majors (e.g., English) while others (e.g., CIS) have holds on every single major until he/she comes in for advising. There was some concern about consistency in the university policy.
Get Acquainted Day—
There was a suggestion that the university stop grouping students by majors at events like Get Acquainted Day and allow them to interact with other students and faculty. Instead, there can be representatives from the different departments at booths so students can check out other possible majors.
There was praise for the Athletics program for making sure their student athletes stay on target with their academic programs. They do a good job of making sure the students attend classes and they work with faculty when students are having academic problems. It was suggested that ROTC could utilize the same oversight.
There was a request that the university consider going back to the MW/TR course schedule instead of the current MWF/TR schedule. Fridays could be reserved for research, consulting, writing, and other related activities. It was thought that it would help with faculty recruiting.
There was a request for having a full Fall Break included in the schedule.
They should be allowed again.
It is not clear to most faculty about how pay raises are given. Chairs are unable or unwilling to address the question. Dean Hayes was able to outline a general perspective about how raises are distributed.
Faculty Town Meeting #4, UCOM (Oct. 18, 2007)
Academic Freedom and Intellectual Diversity—
It was brought up that we, as faculty, should not lose sight of our responsibility to portray an intellectual diversity to the students. We should make sure that various viewpoints and courses in diversity studies continue to be available to students. If faculty are let go or not recruited because of the personal agenda of an individual administrators, it is the students that suffer from the lack of diversity in the classroom.
In departments where few faculty make it to tenure even though top candidates are hired, where there is constant turnover of faculty because of restriction of their academic freedom by senior administrators or their failure to mentor junior faculty,or the lack of recruitment of specialists in diversity studies because job descriptions themselves are not written to include the full range of diversity studies, these are signs of the institutional failure of their commitment to diversity.
Promotion and Tenure questions—
The proposed resolution for revising the policy and procedures for non-reappointment of probationary faculty was discussed. Someone asked whether non-tenure track faculty will be included. Com. Chair Loomis said that issues concerning non-tenure faculty will not be address at the present, though the senate plans to eventually look at all of the phases of promotion and tenure. There was concern by one faculty member that the existing handbook is not followed, though no specifics were given. Part of the problem of establishing weakness in the promotion and tenure procedures is the difficulty in finding examples of faculty who have been denied tenure or promotion, since this information is not given out by the administration. Someone questioned whether the Board of Trustees would have the list of all faculty that went up for P & T, but Chair Tate indicated that only the list of those faculty granted either promotion or tenure or both are given to the Board of Trustees.
Terms of Department Chairs—
The issue about terms for department chairs, whether chairs should be elected by the department faculty for 5-year terms or should be appointed by the administration for an indefinite length of time was discussed.
Safety in the Classroom—
A faculty member brought up a classroom situation where a student who was seriously injuring herself while in class. The police were called and talked with the student, but left her in the class. The faculty member was concerned about the quality of the treatment of the situation. Who is responsible for following-up on students creating a disturbance or could be a threat to themselves or others? A COE faculty member said that they were instructed to first call police, and then call counseling services. Chair Tate said she would try to check on what are the university policies for student disturbances, and for students endangering themselves and others.
Someone brought up the question of whether plus (+) and minus (-) grades have ever been considered. Consideration of this has been given in the past, but no one knew the reasons for not instituting these grading practices. Chair Tate will raise the question again.
There was a question about how credit hours are assigned to class instruction and their potential inequality. Specifically, why are courses that meet 1 hour a day, three times a week given 3 credit hours, while 3-hour lab courses only receive 1 hour credit?
University Club and USA Football—
Chair-Elect Sachs gave a review of the status of the University Club and the Senate straw vote on USA football. SGA will be responsible for doing a survey among the students to determine the support by the students and their willingness to pay for adding football to USA athletics program. Chair Tate outlined the differences between where we were in 2000 and where we are now and how the atmosphere is now more conducive to having football.
A faculty member questioned how the addition of this sport would affect our Title IX status. We currently have more women athletes than men, but this campus also has a higher percentage of female students. Adding football would definitely change this balance. She spoke about the difficulty in getting women’s softball added. Women’s swimming might be a potential sport for adding, but we currently do not have the appropriate facilities for it, nor will the new RecreationCenter be helpful. There was also the question about how much more money would be taken from the general operating budget since some is already being used for the current athletics program.
It has been suggested from the university administration that by adding a football program it may have a positive affect on some academic programs, such as adding a marching band program. The was some question about whether the administration would be willing to adequately fund such a program since it would require several more music faculty. The current facilities for the music department are already stretched to its limits and would not have adequate space to add additional faculty and classroom needs. As a parallel example, we were told that the new pharmacy program would not have a negative impact on our current faculty. And yet it has caused space and personnel problems—class size has double on introductory courses, which has put a strain on biology and chemistry faculties’ ability to teach such large classes.
Email Responses to Town Meetings
College of Education—
There is a serious problem within the College of Education in their requirements for promotion and tenure. Requirements for promotion either need to be unlinked to publication or faculty teaching loads need to be lowered. Equity in teaching workload should be addressed. A teaching load of 5-6 is not unheard of in College of Education, yet is not expected in other colleges. Requirements for tenure have changed, sometimes at the end of the tenure-track and thereby not allowing those making progress towards tenure an opportunity to satisfy the new requirements.
Summer Teaching Policy—
How are contracts to faculty teaching summer course and their compensation determined? If there is a surplus of money, who gets it? Lack of accountability and transparency by the deans to the faculty.
Salary Raise Policy—
How are percentages in raises determined (all merit)? How are equity adjustments due to salary compressions determined? The faculty member wants accessibility by faculty to such information to guard against bias and discrimination. The Faculty Handbook should reflect the policy regarding raises.
Salary issue in general for both faculty and staff—
Staff are paid dismal wages. Faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences lag well behind other faculty in other Colleges. Even with the meager equity adjustments the university has given faculty, they lag behind similar institutions. Meanwhile, upper administration salaries have received the greatest percentage of gain overall over the last decade.
Collective Bargaining or Unionization—
Faculty Senate should seriously consider discussions about unionization or some form of collective bargaining. The university’s position that they won’t negotiate with faculty is not only bad academic policy with regard to the intellectual climate and scholarship, but in terms of morale. It sends the message that we are expendable and that it is about the bottom line.
Faculty should have significantly more power in our university that we have. Shared governance allows the faculty to make the important academic as well as policy decisions. Though the Senate has served as a way to represent the views of faculty members, it does not have this power.
Why can’t USA’s spring break coincide with that of the public education system in the county? It would reduce absenteeism in the classroom that week since many of our students are parents who cannot find child care services for the days they have classes. Many of our faculty and staff also have children. This would give them the opportunity to spend time together as a family, not to mention cut down on the expenses that they incur finding child care that week.