Meeting Minutes: October 28, 2014 Fall Semester General Faculty Meeting
The Fall Semester General Faculty Meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. by Chancellor Loftin in Jesse Wrench Auditorium, Memorial Union. Approximately 120 people were in attendance.
Opening Remarks & Introductions – Chancellor Loftin
Loftin greeted those in attendance and recognized new faculty members introduced by department heads and deans of various colleges.
Report from Faculty Council – Craig Roberts
With the aid of a Powerpoint presentation, Roberts acquainted those present with the major issues Faculty Council has been addressing since the Spring General Faculty Meeting. He began with an introduction of IFC, its members, function, and recent agenda items, notably those dealing with workload policy, job titles, and tenure issues. Addressing changes precipitated by the recent focus on Title IX caused work on the last two topics to be postponed.
Additional updates extended to: the extraordinary number of administrative positions recently filled or still pending; diversity enhancement in terms of the COACHE survey, which revealed that faculty of color were less satisfied with their positions than white faculty; and the appointment of a fact-finding committee formed by request to gather information about the School of Medicine and their negative impact on AAU metrics. Members of the committee are: Art Jago, Cheryl Heesch, Sarish Nair, and Carlos Wexler. Roberts also discussed recent work on Title IX priorities, President Wolfe’s response with Executive Orders 40 and 41, and the search to hire a Title IX Coordinator. While student vs. student cases have been addressed with Executive Order 41, similar rules governing faculty are still in discussion. The most immediate need is for faculty to receive training on fulfilling their new roles as mandatory reporters.
The next topic of discussion was the MU Strategic Operating Plan, which Roberts introduced in terms of “The 3 Rs: Rewards (Raises), Rescission, and Reallocation.” In general the plan had not been subject to much faculty input because of time constraints for finalization. Yet, Roberts noted, the document is all important to President Wolfe in meeting with various constituencies. The plan must also support improving AAU standing, a priority already established by the Board of Curators. While it was acknowledged that Chancellor Loftin inherited this plan, it was also urged that he make it his own as faculty will ultimately be judged and rewarded on how well the AAU target is achieved. Roberts also drew attention to the historically low faculty raises and the pros and cons of the more recent high performance increases, along with the demoralizing effect on the majority of faculty caused by continuing low compensation. The final concern voiced was in regards to the impact of the five-year 2% rescission plan on weaker areas of the university (a status calculated in terms of contributions to AAU metrics). Roberts suspected these areas would not be limited to the humanities.
Report from Chancellor Loftin
Loftin recapped enrollment numbers in terms of total students, degree of diversity, preparedness, and comparison to target established at system level. Undergraduates accounted for the majority of growth, with the increase in graduate students limited to online enrollment. Numbers of on-campus graduate students are most likely tied to stipends offered, an area where Loftin suspected we are not very competitive. The Chancellor also updated the group in terms of funding for facilities renovation and the amount of state support expected. In addition, system will receive $8,000,000 from the state to fund mid-range high-impact faculty hires. Finally, Loftin is considering joint hires with others in the UM system that will advance AAU metrics.
Adding to information regarding administrative positions and Title IX concerns introduced by Roberts, Loftin indicated it is the hope that a provost will be hired by mid-November to start at the beginning of 2015, and that an Interim Title IX Coordinator (Linda Bennett, who was introduced to the group) has already been meeting with various constituencies. The remainder of Loftin’s remarks were limited to strategies that address financial management at MU. A budget committee to advise on reallocation will be formed by the Chancellor, with recommendations for membership submitted by Faculty Council. In addition, retirement-eligible faculty will be offered a voluntary separation incentive to retire early, freeing up funds for other uses. Loftin also wanted to make clear that the Strategic Operating Plan should not be “his” plan but “our” plan. He is currently putting together questions to invite ideas for a statement of what we want the university to be at age 200 (25 years from now). Once that long-range goal has been articulated, it will be possible to develop Strategic Operating Plans accordingly. After clarifying the total number of individuals awarded performance raises, Loftin closed by affirming that tough decisions will need to be made regarding reallocations. Across-the-board cuts are not the intent. Consequently, the provost will look at how deans are making decisions and make sure those decisions align with the strategic plan.
Q&A Session: Concern was expressed that the message received by faculty in the goal to improve AAU metrics was to focus on research, not on teaching and students. Loftin reminded those present that the overriding criterion for membership in AAU is to be a comprehensive research institution, a fact that guarantees the importance of the humanities. STEM fields address four of the AAU metrics; the humanities can contribute to two (citations and academy participation). With regards to teaching, Loftin added that we cannot afford to be less adept in terms of our students.
Concern was also expressed over continually decreasing salaries. Loftin reminded those present of the raises that had been given in 2014 (of 1,171 tenure-earning faculty, 1,055 received some raise amount; the average raise was 4.33%, a total acknowledged to have been skewed by the higher raises. Increases in addition to regular raises are not to be awarded again unless a positive effect is apparent. Loftin also expressed that he wants to see the university hire younger faculty as older faculty retire.
A disconnect was noted between research and teaching goals. The failure to hire necessary faculty has left gaps in critical areas of the curriculum. With rescissions, faculty hires will continue to be on hold. Loftin stated that the directive was to raise up strong areas and eliminate weak ones but also acknowledged that the failure to hire faculty in areas critical to delivering strong programs was disturbing. A member of the audience suggested a return to the older method of hiring faculty, i.e., where we need them for teaching. The Chancellor reminded those present that administration is only committed to the hiring of twenty impactful mid-career faculty. Decisions for other hires with rate money must be made at the department or college level. No hiring freeze has been imposed either by the Chancellor or at the system level. If this is happening, it is occurring at the department or college level.
With regard to NTT positions, the concern was raised that productive faculty were not being incentivized or recognized. Loftin noted that of 713 NTT faculty, 561 received some type of merit increase in 2014. The average raise was 2.65%. The choice that needs to be made is how to use rate money (new hires versus rewarding present faculty). Quick decisions are needed as hiring takes several months. It was also pointed out by a member of the audience that departments at MU are better than the rankings show. One problem is the failure to market areas well. Loftin agreed, but noted that we already have vehicles in place for self-promotion and must use them.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:20 p.m.
Judith Mabary, Recorder for the Faculty