MINUTES OF THE FIRST MEETING

OF THE

FACULTY HANDBOOK REVISION COMMITTEE

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mason Hall, room D1 – 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.

 

Present:  Rick Coffinberger, Associate Professor of Business and Legal Studies, School of Management, Chair; Lorraine Brown, Professor of English (CAS) and President of the AAUP Chapter of George Mason University; Martin Ford, Senior Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Development; David Harr, Senior Associate Dean, School of Management; Marilyn Mobley, Associate Provost for Education Programs; David Rossell, Associate Provost for Personnel and Budget, ex-officio; Suzanne Slayden, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry (CAS)

 

Absent:  Kevin Avruch, Professor of Conflict Resolution and Anthropology, ICAR (conducting research abroad)

 

Chair Rick Coffinberger welcomed committee members to our first meeting.  As introductions were made around the table, it was noted that committee members’ combined years of service to George Mason University spans many decades.  David Rossell serves in a unique capacity on the committee as he, probably more than anyone else at the university, has dealt with issues contained in the Faculty Handbook during the tenure of five Provosts.

 

In addition to the text of the Handbook (copies distributed at the meeting), there are a number of additional documents found in front of some copies of the Handbook to be distributed to all members of the committee by university mail.  David Rossell will identify whether additional policy documents germane to the work of the committee exist; these will also be distributed as needed.  Copies of several Handbooks from other doctoral-granting institutions in Virginia are also available in the Faculty Senate Office for review.  Committee members agreed to review the text of the Handbook to identify areas in need of revision for our next meeting.  In addition, copies of the Administrative/Professional Faculty Handbook, GMU Research Personnel Policies and Procedures, and the Part-Time Faculty Guide (which contains some similar appendices) will be examined as well.  It was noted that some material applicable to full-time instructional faculty would not apply to part-time faculty.

 

Rick noted that the Faculty Handbook governs important relationships both for instructional faculty as well as administrative faculty as it impacts upon the Handbook.  There are four key groups which will be informed as much as possible as our work progresses:  first; the Board of Visitors (which has final approval of the Handbook); second, President Merten and Provost Stearns; third, the Faculty Senate, and fourth, faculty members to include both instructional and administrative faculty.

 

Rick outlined his view for four major stages of the committee’s work, adding that it is very much a work in progress and he welcome suggestions from committee members on procedures:

1.      Information Gathering:  we all bring unique perspectives to the table.  The President and Provost have suggested that we have open forums/meetings at each campus in which all interested parties may participate.  The Committee would like to commence the open forums as soon as possible in February.  A review of the basics about the Handbook would precede opening up the floor to questions and suggestions.  Rick requested that the schedule be coordinated so that David Rossell be available to answer questions from the audience; Rick will attend also as chair, other members of the committee may attend as their schedules permit. Minutes of the open forums/meetings will be written and distributed for review.  In announcements of the meetings, the link to the Faculty Handbook on the university website will be included; faculty who are unable to attend but wish to participate will be encouraged to do so by email/mail.  Additional meetings may be scheduled as needed. 

2.      Drafting and Debate

3.      Presentation of Revised Handbook to the Board of Visitors.  As the Handbook is a contractual document, it was agreed that it will be submitted for review to the Office of the University Counsel prior to its presentation to the Board; whether the revised document should be reviewed by counsel in sections or in its entirety has not yet been determined.

4.      Timetable:  President Merten would like to see this completed by Fall 2006/Spring 2007.  It remains to be seen whether this time frame would be sufficient; the group will need to decide whether to continue meetings over the summer.

 

Other procedural matters included the definition of a quorum as four of the total seven members of the committee; excluding David Rossell as ex-officio.  While it is not reasonable to expect unanimity, we hope to achieve consensus where the vast majority would agree.  Rick acknowledged potential issues where consensus may not emerge but noted that it is not in the interest of the committee that this should occur often, if at all. In between meetings of the full committee, we may break into subgroups as needed; conclusions presented to the full committee for review.

 

The question was raised whether the present Handbook reflects the point-of-view of the current Provost.  David Rossell responded that, in general, the Handbook is applicable in some cases but does not reflect the institution as it exists today.  Some areas need to be addressed, but not all.  He cited the example of bureaucratic procedures for the severance of a tenured faculty member no longer be able to perform his duties.  University Counsel (recently deceased) Jeff Brandwine and David Rossell flowcharted the process; a minimum of eighteen months was required to terminate a tenured faculty member.  Other areas, such as the exclusion of a faculty member from the classroom, would seem to fall into gray areas, however the procedures as currently written are “all or nothing”.  A better way needs to be devised to the benefit of both faculty and administration.

 

Should the revised version include research faculty?  Should its definition of types of faculty appointments be streamlined for consistency between units? Terms such as clinical faculty apply to the College of Nursing; field faculty to the College of Education.  How to better define visiting faculty? A lot of new policy regarding term faculty, who used to be called restricted faculty, needs to be addressed.  Should a distinction be made between administrative and professional faculty?  The use of the term contract faculty to define part-time faculty includes those who advise and do research.  Full-time instructional faculty and full-time research faculty are a rapidly growing group.  Should term and multi-year term faculty also include a primary focus on instruction or research?  Whether 9 month or 12 month seems a less critical point. A goal of simplification as much as possible was urged.  It was further noted that some faculty use titles to obtain more salary. In the domain beyond types of appointments, how to better address appointments within or between units – “clean appointment” vs. “joint appointment”; the latter becomes a little murky.  Other terms used such as courtesy appointment (similar to an affiliate appointment) – does this exist? When we invite someone to become an affiliate faculty, what are their rights in terms of governance?  Can they vote in meetings?  Should research faculty be allowed to vote (presently limited to instructional FTE)?    Full-time research faculty has grown significantly, from approximately 100 in 2001 to between 300-400 today.   As a contractual agreement, should parts of the Faculty Information Guide also be included?  Reference to practices at other doctoral granting institutions will be examined.    The inconsistent use of terminology on the website also needs to be cleaned up.

 

Various opinions were raised whether part-time faculty should be included within the revised Handbook.  One view maintained that part-time faculty do not have the same contractual rights as full-time faculty; necessitating a separate document.  Should “best practices” be used as a benchmark?  Twenty-percent of classroom delivery is performed by part time faculty; should they be covered somewhere within the document, possibly in an appendix?  Recent legislation passed last summer gave benefit rights to those employees who work at least .5 FTE.  If an employee is defined as “faculty,” then should they not be covered?  Who would be responsible for creation of a revised Part-Time Faculty Guide?   There are different types of part-time faculty in different units.  The world has changed dramatically from “Adjunct” to .3 FTE, .5 FTE, and non-FTE.

 

The need to clarify terms such as Academic Units and Institutes also needs to be addressed.  Let us try to simplify, to not use so many terms; not to reduce flexibility or limit ability of faculty working across the university.  Previous revisions may have used ambiguous language to achieve consensus.

 

Our next meeting will take place on Monday, January 30, 2006 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. in Mason Hall, room B5.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate