MINUTES OF THE OPEN FORUM:  REVISION OF THE FACULTY HANDBOOK - FAIRFAX CAMPUS

FEBRUARY 6, 2006

MASON HALL, rm. D3; 1:00 – 2:05 p.m.

 

Chair Rick Coffinberger welcomed faculty to the meeting.  The Faculty Handbook Revision Committee has seven members; four faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate, three administrative faculty members appointed by the Provost; and David Rossell, Associate Provost for Personnel and Budget, serves ex-officio.  The Faculty Handbook was last revised in 1994.  It is a contractual document binding on the university as well as on faculty members   The Board of Visitors has final approval over the revision of the Handbook   In response to a question raised, Rick responded that the BOV is interested in our work and have discussed the possibility that a member of the Board may attend some Handbook committee meetings.   The Handbook will also be reviewed by legal counsel before presentation to the Board for approval.  Minutes of the Handbook committee meetings as well as Open Forums will be posted on the Faculty Senate webpage for interested parties to review.  Once we make significant progress, a second series of Open Forums will be scheduled.  Appendices may also be included for those items with which the Board may not agree, but which the faculty wish to present as their positions.  A procedure for future revisions and amendments to the Handbook will also be developed. 

 

Note that the Handbook to which we refer today is for instructional faculty.  We have discussed whether there should be a single faculty handbook with parts dealing with different kinds of faculty.  Although the Handbook is posted  on the internet, we have also learned there is no one place in which other documents which directly impact its contents are contained; so we hope to clean this up.  We are very receptive to your ideas and suggestions relating to the Handbook.

 

Jim Bennett,  Chair of the Faculty Senate from 2002-2005,  sees the goal of the Faculty Handbook to minimize conflict:  these are the rules.  In the past, disagreements on several issues emerged where phrases such as “under normal conditions” or “generally” were used.  We need to define the process.  Not to suggest that we list all outcomes, rather to have a well established procedure in which faculty have a voice in deciding, in order to minimize misunderstandings, etc. A contrasting view was expressed by a faculty member that normally speaking, contracts should be very specific, but not the Faculty Handbook – it needs to be as mealy-mouthed and broad to fit individual circumstances, to be as inclusive as possible. 


Secondly, the Faculty Handbook mandates instructional faculty are evaluated on teaching, research, and service.  It is very difficult to persuade faculty to volunteer to do work essential to the functioning of the university.  Lip service is given to service but it is not considered to be a substantial contribution to the community.  If salaries of administrators contained 95% of a service component, they would be well rewarded.  He suggested the committee look at ways that recognition could be given to faculty who provide service, such as a one-course relief given to the chair of the Faculty Senate, but applicable to service provided throughout the university.  Another faculty member disagreed; that one's future can depend on recognition of service.  The need for clarity is very important.  Statements such as “general excellence” or “high competence” are very elastic in what they mean; dependent upon what units and deans consider the meanings of such phrases in operational judgement. 

 

Rick Coffinberger noted that in the committee’s discussion of whether there should be a (one) Faculty Handbook, there are now categories of faculty of which many of us have never heard.  Also there were not many research professors when the Faculty Handbook was last written.  There are now between 300-400 research professor not governed by this Handbook; many of whom teach and do research.  Some are funded by grants, some are funded by E&G budgets.  An example was cited by a faculty member in the audience of a research faculty member who was aggrieved; he had virtually no rights and strongly urged research faculty  be included.  Rick added that if  research faculty are included should they not also be included in calculations for representation in the Faculty Senate as well as in terms of governance?  A department chair present affirmed that she deals with this issue all the time; it is necessary for us to know what voting rights are as defined by colleges.  Adjunct faculty are eligible to be elected Faculty Senators if nominated by their units; although they may or may not have the right to vote in some units.  Should the Faculty Handbook mandate adjuncts can attend meetings and vote?  There are pros and cons on this issue;  many adjunct faculty have full-time employment elsewhere and little interest. 

 

A discussion of the phrase “national reputation” ensued.  There are many ways in which faculty may attain this – through publishing, influence as members of national organizations, visibility in the press, etc.  The phrase needs scrutiny.  Technology is moving so fast.  On-line publishing; proceedings of conferences, and credit for dissemination of knowledge in your field also need to be recognzed in the Handbook.  It was also noted that "national reputation" seems to be left up to the schools, with varying definitions.

 

Why do some items appear in the Faculty Handbook, while others appear in the Faculty Information Guide?  When Clara Lovett was Provost (1988-1992),  a decision was made to separate things by removing information not considered contractual.  Many faculty are not aware of the Faculty Information Guide.  This revision presents an opportunity to unite them in one document.  One advantage to this union would be that a process to change included materials would be in place; that faculty would have a say in the process, although perhaps not a good managerial idea.

 

Another faculty member has searched for a definition of “primary affiliation” all over the place.  You can be primarily affiliated in an infinite number of places – potentially voting two or three times as a participating member in different units.  Acknowledging that the review of the Handbook is an arduous task, it is important to make sure definitions are clear and appropriate.  Rick responded that we have already identified “primary affiliation” as a term to be looked at.  In our last meeting (January 30th) we discovered it is used in the Administrative Faculty Handbook in a different way.

 

A discussion of salary changes which affect instructional faculty who serve as administrative faculty for a number of years, then returning to the instructional faculty ensued.  David Rossell explained we have moved from formula-based conversions to stipend-based conversions. Also, more administrators are coming in externally as deans.  Recent offer letters specify an administrative faculty salary with an administrative stipend and what the instructional faculty salary would be after their service as dean ends.  More transparency is urged by the faculty or else faculty morale will continue to deteriorate.  There are basic salary ranges for administrators – for example, a Vice President’s salary would fall within a certain range, as would deans and department chairs, because they have very specific responsibilities.  No such baseline exists for Full Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors, Instructors, etc.  The AAUP has demonstrated a growing gap between salaries of Full Professors and Presidents over the last twenty years.  The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes national salary data for specific types of administrators.  

 

Who decides whether a single Faculty Handbook emerges?  Within  the committee, a majority or consensus would have to prevail; the Board of Visitors could approve or reject such a suggestion; they would be informed  how the committee reached its recommendation.

 

Another issue under consideration involves the wide gap between services among faculty (phone use, computers, etc.).  Every full time/tenure-track faculty member should have certain basic services.  While recognizing this has financial implications, there are tenured faculty who cannot make long distance phone calls on their office phones.  An inherent risk involves those departments, particularly in the sciences, which spend more money that the administration authorized for computers.  Department chairs have to make hard decisions, particularly when cuts were imposed. 

 

Another faculty member stressed that a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation needs also to be added to conform to the code of the state of Virginia (currently contained in the Faculty Handbook under Appendix A: Documents Concerning Fair Employment Practices).  A  provision contained in the Faculty Information Guide but absent from the Faculty Handbook involves the opportunity of a departmental. study leave offered to instructional faculty; very few people apply for it and may not know it exists.  This is especially important if we wish to become a national institution. 

 

What is the time frame for completion?  At this point, the President expects that our work be completed by the end of the fall term 2006 or spring term 2007.  Whether work will continue over the summer has yet to be addressed.  A process for regular revision needs also to be determined, a five year review is suggested.

 

In closing, Rick thanked everyone for attending and encouraged faculty to call or email any member of the committee with any input they may have.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate