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Faculty Senate amends academic articles

Beth Erickson | Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Faculty Senate convened Wednesday, passing a resolution to amend the Academic Articles to create provisions for hearings for severe sanctions against faculty members.

Developed by the Academic Council and the Faculty Senate under the leadership of Professor Tom Merluzzi, the amendment was passed unanimously and will be reviewed by University President Father Edward Malloy.

The University currently has no provisions regarding severe sanctions against faculty members. According to senators, hearings are held at the whims of the administration. They said that members of the faculty are rarely offered hearings – instead, private conferences, in which their sanctions are agreed upon “quietly,” are held.

A resolution to establish faculty grievance procedures was sent back to committee by a vote of 14 to 12. An illustrative list of specific grievances will be added to the proposed amendment.

John Robinson, Senate chair, expressed approval of these amendments at the beginning of the meeting. He said that he hoped the Senate could agree upon “provisions to protect each of us if ever accused of wrongdoing.”

Robinson also laid out the goals of the Faculty Senate in his opening address. “We must contribute to making Notre Dame a better university and a better place for faculty,” he said.

Members unanimously elected Jeremy Fein, director of the Environmental Molecular Science Institute, to the position of Vice-Chair and anthropology professor Karen Richman as Co-Secretary. Sociology professor Rich Williams and computer science and management professor Ramzi Bualuan were elected Campus Life Council representatives.

The Student Affairs committee, chaired by psychology professor Jay Brandenberger, focused on Teacher Course Evaluations and the Honor Code in its first committee meeting of the year.

Members of the committee said that the Honor Code “doesn’t promote honesty, and in fact promotes dishonesty.” They said that members of the faculty are left “out of the loop” in decisions concerning the Honor Code, and that “faculty members themselves are on trial,” particularly in cases where prominent athletes are accused.

The committee proposed a reworking of the Honor Code’s language, as well as a required yearly recommitment on the part of students. A member of the Student Senate agreed with these proposals and said that hardworking students will appreciate attempts to enforce the Code.

The committee also discussed the proposed publishing of Teacher Course Evaluations. Faculty members agreed that these evaluations are becoming increasingly more important in tenure decisions and that the publication of such documents could possibly constitute a violation of privacy. One committee member said that the dean has seemingly interpreted tenure promotion procedures to mean that a professor must be “excellent” to become tenured and then must become “more excellent” to become a full professor. In light of this interpretation, TCE’s are critical in tenure decisions.

Members of the committee questioned the accuracy of the TCE’s and said that the evaluations were “perfectly grade dependent,” meaning that most students merely assess professors based on the difficulty of the class. The faculty members called for changes to be made in the wording of questions on the evaluations.

“The style of the questions is too subjective,” they said.

The committee will reconsider issues concerning TCE’s, the Honor Code, and faculty/student interaction at next month’s Faculty Senate meeting.

In other Faculty Senate news:

u The Academic Affairs committee discussed shrinking library resources. They are looking to develop a better process for faculty input.

u The Benefits committee, having worked with human resources over the summer, announced that North American Health will carry the HMO for the University. The committee is looking into insurance for retirees and disability insurance, as well as issues concerning charges for faculty parking.