Faculty Senate finalizes vitalization referendum language

Cassie Buchman, News Editor

The Faculty Senate finalized language for a referendum on faculty confidence in the vitalization project process at its meeting Tuesday.

The original referendum asked faculty to answer the question, “I have high confidence in the process employed by Vitalization Workgroup no.7 in the program review mandated by the president.”

The Faculty Senate voted to take out the word “high” from the statement and to have it followed by a yes/no option.

During the vitalization project, Workgroup no.7 recommended the philosophy, Africana Studies, adult and community education, and career and technical education majors to be eliminated or reorganized.

The referendum on faculty confidence in the Workgroup’s process will be discussed in a letter that includes shared governance concerns, transparency concerns as well as concerns about profit/loss data used in the vitalization process.

The current version of the letter says that the university already has ways to review academic programs.

It also says higher education is needed to help prepare the next generations to become engaged citizens, broaden their intellectual horizons, instill in students a passion for lifelong learning, enable them to seek and evaluate information and hone their ability to analyze events.

“None of these defining goals of higher education can be summarized in terms of credit hours or number of seats filled,” the letter now reads.

The senate did not make any substantive changes to the letter, but it will make changes to grammar and wording on its own.

The senate plans to have its edits done by Friday and send the referendum out by Feb. 15.

The ad hoc committee for reviewing Workgroup no.7’s recommendations was populated after the Faculty Senate made a motion to create it last week.

Senate member Jeff Stowell said the Faculty Senate would also extend an invitation to join the subcommittee to senate members not at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The next step for the committee is to establish a scope of work and timeline,” he said.

The Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review Committee, looking at the programs considered for deletion or consolidation, is contractually obligated to complete its report by March 15. It was suggested the Faculty Senate follow the same deadline.

Senate member C.C. Wharram said the subcommittee will start looking at the recommendations to see what it thinks of them.

“We’ve looked at them, obviously, since we’ve been a part of this process for a while, and we clearly have some difference of opinions with regards to how certain criteria were used to make decisions, but beyond that we’re at the opening stages,” he said.

Wharram said it is not simply a matter of disagreeing with the profit/loss statements; it was also that there are aspects to academic programs the statements cannot take into consideration.

“We need to figure out how to present that information, what kind of research we need to do to document that fact,” he said. “Now’s our chance to sort of articulate in the varying ways in which we disagree with those conclusions.”

When concentrating on the actual recommendations, Wharram said the subcommittee needs to look at the process in the sense of where it thinks they fall short, whether in analysis of the data or omission of important criteria.

He said omissions made by the Workgroup could be simply because it did not have time to consider them.

The Faculty Senate and the subcommittee, on the other hand, have been thinking about them for quite a while, Wharram said.

Wharram said one of these considerations includes the fact that Eastern could have an edge in recruiting students interested in philosophy, since Western Illinois University cut its program.

Senate member Stefan Eckert said the faculty referendum will help.

“The profit/loss (statements) obviously have led Workgroup no. 7 to highlight philosophy, but they were not supposed to use that as their only criteria,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the senate voted to endorse and draft a letter supporting Illinois State University’s Academic Senate.

ISU’s Academic Senate wrote a letter regarding a potential increase of health care costs to state employees as a result of a proposal being discussed.

The proposal would double monthly premium contributions as early as FY 2017 if an employee keeps their current health plan. It would also let the state increase premium contributions up to 10 % for FY 2018 and FY 2019, according to the letter.

“These increases would unduly burden our employees and their families,” the letter said. “…Please do not pass the cost of our state’s budget crisis onto our hard-working employees who daily put the State of Illinois first.”

The Faculty Senate will add a statement at the beginning of the letter reaffirming what ISU’s Academic Senate said and send it to local and state representatives and the governor.

 

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]