Policy Board Minutes—25 Oct 2017
3:30 p.m.
UC 402/3

PB members: Nola Agha, Rachel Brahinsky, Brandon Brown, Robin Buccheri, Jen Dever, Joe Garity, Malik Henfield, Richard Johnson III, EJ Jung, Dorothy Kidd, Gabe Maxson, Elliot Neaman, Gleb Nikitenko, Meera Nosek, Julia Orri, Sonya Poole, Christina Purpora Calla Schmidt, Claire Sharifi, Betty Taylor, Brian Weiner

USFFA-FT members: Ja’Nina Garrett-Walker, Rebecca Mason, Annick Wibben, Cathy Gabor, Hwaji Shin, Kathy Nasstrom, Lilian Dube, Justine Withers

  1.                    Open Forum
  2.  During the Open Session of the meeting, Dorothy Kidd relayed some concerns of a member who asked to remain anonymous. The member reported that ITS personnel entered their office and installed a software program (later identified as “LABSTATS”) without the member’s knowledge and or consent. The installation of the software, in some instances, was reported by others to have damaged research they were engaged in on their computers.

The member also asked about the status of the ITS Assessment. The member objected to the fact that the survey instrument used by ITS is pre-populated with responses, skewing the survey results to show a higher level of satisfaction than may be the case. Others recalled that this issue had been brought to the attention of the Director of ITS, who assured the Policy Board when he attended a meeting that the practice would be changed, but it has not been changed. The member also raised concerns about the Academic Prioritization process underway in the College of Arts and Sciences.  This issue was later discussed in depth by the Policy Board. The member also requested assessment of deans and associate deans.

  1.  Cathy Gabor, from Rhetoric and Languages, asked a series of questions regarding the representation of faculty in the Arts and Sciences. She asked why “Arts” representation on the Policy Board as well as Peer Review includes numerous departments and disciplines (Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences) and wondered whether we should revisit this lumping together now that the number of faculty has grown.  

Neaman explained that when the USFFA By-laws were written there was no division between Social Sciences and Humanities. The School of Arts is now divided between Humanities and Social Sciences, each with their own Associate Deans. Given that the College of Arts now has eight Policy Board representatives and that we now have two divisions for Arts, we could amend the Bylaws to make a Humanities/Social Sciences distinction for PB and for the peer review committees as well, if PB wants to go in that direction. That would require amending the USFFA Bylaws.

  1.  Unfinished business—Neaman.
  2. Approved Conflict of Interest Statement for Recusals – should it be signed?   Neaman said that the issue is whether or not signing it would carry more weight. He also suggested that the signed document will be held by the committee chairs and then turned over to the USFFA at the end of the process to be archived confidentially. Dever asked about the signing—since this is a voluntary act, what does it mean that it carries more weight? Neaman said that it could carry more weight before an arbitrator. Nosek said that she has used a sheet where the member acknowledges that they read the document—a way to hold them accountable for reading it. Brown erred on the side of simplicity—he was not in favor of mandatory signing. Maxson asked if the process was all online. Neaman said that the applications are all online now so it could be put online or handed out as a hard copy. The peer review committees could decide. Agha added that the question of whether or not to sign is related to the yet to be determined issue of what rights an applicant has to request a recusal. Maxson agreed.

Neaman asked Agha for clarification. Agha stated there are three options: (1) not signed at all; (2) signed attesting to have simply read the document; (3) signed and affirming the PRC member has no conflict of interest.

Nosek was concerned that this has not been discussed on PRCs. Buccheri said that the chair would say that all biases were left at the door. She has no problem signing it. 

Poole entered a motion, that the document will be signed by all PRC members acknowledging having read the Conflict of Interest Statement.

The vote was 18-0-1 in favor of having all members of the PRC acknowledge that they have read the conflict of interest statement.

  1. Priorities and procedures for 2017-18. Neaman said that this item has been on the table since the beginning of the year. Kidd said that we should figure out our agenda for the next year. She wanted to discuss the budget—what are our priorities? She added that term appointments and prioritization are important to discuss. Garity added that the 4-4 teaching load for new term hires came up with the contract, so we need to keep on top of it. Dever said that there were hires in Biology at 4-4. Neaman said that we can get the data on how many of the term hires are teaching 4/4.

Buccheri said that we should consider allowing some term faculty to serve on peer review. Neaman said that we would put it on as an agenda item. Brahinsky said that the use of 4-4 contracts needs to be tracked. Gabor said that there were some renewals at 3-3 who had previous contracts. Wibben said that it needs to be tracked more. Neaman said that the 4-4 is being adhered to by the administration. Brahinsky asked why the negotiating team had said that most new terms would not be hired at 4/4? Neaman explained that the negotiating team did not make any firm predictions, but rather had heard from various departments that not having terms do any service would be impractical and so assumed that the deans would not hire all new term faculty at 4/4. But apparently Heller had decided to make most hires at 4/4.

Brown said that we may want a subgroup to promote inclusiveness and sensitivity, based on many concerns raised from earlier meetings. Brahinsky said that we should have our own approach to and analysis of the university budget. Neaman said that this was a good idea—maybe CFT can assist with resources. Agha suggested taking the administration up on their previous offers (e.g. last year’s CAS College Council meeting) to have a faculty member involved in all stages of budgeting. Taylor suggested also having an alternate on the budget committee. 

  1. New Business
  2.      University Prioritization Plan—Neaman. Neaman explained that the University’s approach is to prioritize programs in terms of efficiency and revenue—there may be reorganization and some staff cuts. Neaman said that the position of the University is that faculty should be part of the decision making process He said that CAS has established a joint committee to do a review of all programs. Neaman brought up discussion points: (1) Do we buy into the claim that the administration really wants transparency? How do we react to the specifics of the prioritization plan (2) Do we want our members to participate in joint committees?

Jung said that we should ask about the percentages, what numbers are we talking about?. Taylor asked about staff. Neaman said that there may be staff cuts, and there could be cuts in future lines. Dever added that it was not limited to academic programs (CASA etc). Shin said that haven’t they cut everything else? Dever said that there have been cuts—global immersion, center for Philippines, for example.

Brahinsky said that faculty like herself are term who run programs, therefore it is hard to refuse to answer the administration questionnaires that are being sent around. Dever said that this is a workplace issue. Johnson III asked if it is across campus? Kidd said that we should ask the University for a Strategic Plan. We want a planning process—this is anti-labor. Kidd continued, we should say no to this current process but be open to an alternate. Most of the numbers are not on the table. There needs to be a plan that involves all of us.

Gabor added that Rhetoric (from Ewert) discussed this. Their department said no to the proposed deadline of Nov. 15.

Shin was concerned about the long term effect. Kidd added that they received bad data. The process was not equitable, she added. Poole added that this was being rolled out differently across the schools. SOM has not heard of it. Poole added how is this a violation of our existing contract? Neaman said that article 15 (Management Rights) is the key. From a contractual point of view—the administration can cut and re-organize programs but that doesn’t mean we are helpless to do anything about it. 

Taylor asked about another strategic planning model. Poole added how can we support the program directors? Neaman asked what are we recommending here, beyond making a statement?

Maxson said it important to work on faculty solidarity. Schmidt asked if there were enough full professors who run departments to help out the term faculty. Maxson said that it felt “corporate”, targeting static programs. Brown asked if we could invite the members? Perhaps have a general membership meeting.

Kidd suggested saying that we do want to be part of this process. She added that many programs are run by faculty with some protection (tenure). We should invite them to talk about a better process and defer in filling out the form. We need to create an “emergency response team” to help our members who feel under pressure 

Neaman said that the PB should make a statement that the administration delay the deadline. We should request a visit by members of the administration who are in charge of the prioritization.

Agha said there seemed to be three major points from the discussion (1) the faculty are concerned (2) we would like to defer the deadlines (3) we would like to be involved in creating a joint process.  Brown said to vote sooner than later. The deadline is 15 Nov in CAS.

Agha made a motion with her 3 points. Seconded. 19-0-0. This language was later approved by email discussion after it was determined that this prioritization plan was launched solely by the deans in the College of Arts and Sciences:

We, the Arts and Science Reps of the USFFA Policy Board, write to express our serious concerns about the current Academic Prioritization process being undertaken by the deans in the College of Arts and Sciences.

We strongly request that the administration postpone the current timelines and deadlines presented to arts and sciences faculty.

Instead, the USFFA Arts and Science reps would like to directly engage with the administration and appropriate councils to jointly develop a thoughtful process for academic strategic planning, consistent with the university’s mission and vision. 

  1.  Disclosure Statement for Peer Observation—Poole.  Poole explained that faculty may be vulnerable when they are being observed by “peer coaches” in the classroom. She has drafted language to be attached to the Class Visit Worksheet, explaining the risks of being observed and that the process was entirely voluntary.

A discussion began. Poole reiterated that the voluntary process was brought up in May, with a form appearing during this fall semester. A motion to accept the USFFA Disclosure Language to be added to the worksheet was made and seconded.

This is the statement that would be included in any peer coaching document: 

USFFA Disclosure: Please note that participating in peer coaching observations is entirely voluntary. The use of this worksheet is also optional since there exists the risk that it may be used for evaluative purposes. If you prefer to get verbal feedback orally from you peer coach related to this observation, you should make submit a written or verbal notification of your preference to the observer intent beforehand, either orally or in writing. If you choose to use a worksheet, you should receive the completed form after the visit and no copies should be made by the peer coach observer or anyone else administrator.

Weiner asked who has a choice of observer? Neaman said that we would like to take the worksheet with the added language to the dean of SOM—it may be used in other schools as well. 

The motion to add a disclosure statement was approved: 17-0-2.

The meeting was adjourned at 17:00
Submitted by Julia Orri
USFFA Secretary