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Members discuss Catholic recruitment, Academic Articles

Marcela Berrios | Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This year, the Faculty Senate has acted as a true liaison between professors and administrators. It has engaged prominent issues, such as revising the Academic Articles and considering University efforts to recruit more Catholic professors, that will affect both faculty and the University for years to come.

The senators began the year proposing amendments to the University’s Academic Articles, which are “like a loose contract between the faculty and the administration,” said Senate Chair Colin Jessop, a physics professor.

The Articles outline the University’s standards for the appointment and promotion of faculty and other issues of relevance to faculty members, Jessop said. Every 10 years the Academic Council reviews and considers amending the Articles. When the Academic Council requested recommendations from the Faculty Senate, the senators started talking to their constituencies about it.

The Senate proposed seven revisions to the Council, which will deliberate in January. One of the Senate’s proposals concerned the notice period the University must give before dismissing a faculty member.

The senators have also reacted to University plans to increase recruitment of Catholic faculty.

At the semester’s final Faculty Senate meeting Nov. 7, faculty members were presented with an Office of the Provost report detailing the conclusions of an ad hoc committee of professors and administrators gathered to address the decreasing percentage of Catholic faculty at Notre Dame and consider University reaction.

“The University must of course appoint leaders who believe in the necessity and value of Catholic hiring, both as deans and chairpersons,” the report said. “… [But] it is imperative that the University maintain an environment where faculty of other faiths and none are included as full members of the community.”

Jessop said during that meeting that many faculty members would be uneasy with the idea of Notre Dame moving away from hiring on academic merit. He said the Senate has been gathering feedback from its constituents and is scheduled to present recommendations to University Provost Thomas Burish Dec. 12.

Before spring break, the Senate hopes to finalize a report on its official recommendations to the Provost about recruiting Catholic faculty, Jessop said.

“This is a very constructive and collaborative discussion between the faculty and the administration,” Jessop said. “It’s not like ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ It’s a dialogue, and a very open one.”

Besides collecting feedback from professors about the Academic Articles and the report on the hiring of Catholic faculty, the Senate has also discussed ways to improve the efficiency of Teacher-Course Evaluations (TCEs). Jessop said the senators are looking into online TCEs that could be tailored easily to better evaluate different disciplines and courses.