Senator proposes academic policies

Tom Petty wasn’t referring to shared governance when he said that waiting is the hardest part. But recently, some USF faculty members have been able to relate to the lyrics.

For the past two months, the faculty union has been waiting to negotiate a new contract. The Faculty Senate, too, has waited for answers concerning negotiation and a clear definition of academic freedom.

At Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Elizabeth Bird, senator-at-large, took the first step to show she is done playing the waiting game.

Bird presented two proposed academic policies in front of the Faculty Senate and USF President Judy Genshaft.

The policies described a set of standards USF should follow, addressing academic freedom and responsibility along with faculty termination, two issues that have been on the minds of the faculty and administration.

“I thought it was important not to wait for the administration to (make changes), but we at the Senate need to initiate,” Bird said. “What the Faculty Senate wanted to do, in the spirit of reaching out to the administration, the president and the provost … is to say we really need to improve and strengthen faculty governance here at USF.”

After the faculty union’s collective bargaining agreement expired Jan. 7, a set of temporary misconduct rules were set in place for 90 days.

The proposed academic policy for a peer advisory committee on faculty termination would play a significant role in the termination of tenured faculty members.

Under this policy, Bird said it follows an AAUP principle that a committee would help judge the decision of termination so it is not left solely to administration.

The other proposal of concern addressed academic freedom and responsibility, which also adopted American Association of University Professors principles. However, Bird said the proposal is not a set procedure, but asserts that they are the principles the Faculty Senate believes in.

The policy states that “academic freedom is the freedom to discuss all relevant matters in the classroom … to speak, write or act as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint.”

“Some of that has not been in the contract before,” Bird said.

Since Genshaft and Provost David Stamps apologized to the faculty union in January for failing to consult with them about the temporary rules, they have long assured faculty that academic freedom is one of the university’s “core values.”

Genshaft has also said she agrees with faculty that there needs to be more shared governance and that a meeting between the Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate could be arranged at the faculty’s request.

The Faculty Senate agreed to pass the policies to Genshaft and Stamps for review.

Because faculty can only make proposals, not policy, Bird said she wrote the principles in hopes that they will become official if the provost agrees to do so.

Bird said USF is not the only university in Florida that has come into a “crisis of shared governance.”

Gregory McColm, professor for mathematics, said the faculty union will present a contract proposal at today’s Board of Trustees meeting regarding bargaining negotiations between the union and the Board.

McColm said he could not further discuss the proposal.

Since the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the faculty union’s certification with the Public Employee Relations Commission has been in limbo, stalling their ability to negotiate for a new contract with the Board of Trustees.

After the inauguration of the Board of Governors, Bird said shared governance has been weak at other universities.

“These proposals are introduced in the context of the crisis of faculty governance,” Bird said. “Faculty governance at USF and other universities have been traditionally rather weak.”