Officials firm on research money


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UI officials are prepared to fight to protect research funding for faculty.

The state Board of Regents recently asked the heads of the regent universities to conduct an exploratory conversation with faculty about either eliminating or deferring research awards — called Professional Development Assignments — for next year.

These awards relieve faculty of teaching duties and switch them to full-time researchers for a period ranging from a single semester to three semesters over three years. Faculty in the humanities in particular rely on the awards to conduct research.

UI officials at a Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday said they oppose the possible change, noting the need to protect faculty interests and the research mission of the university.

Faculty Senate President David Drake said he and other officials are committed to making sure the program remains an option for faculty.

“We’re drawing a line in the sand,” he said. “These are very important awards. We’re going to fight.”

UI Provost Wallace Loh said he wanted to make it clear that the administration fully opposes the possible cut, lauding the “intellectual products” that have resulted from previous awards.

“State-supported research is absolutely essential for the research mission of the university,” he said.

In a presentation to the Faculty Senate, Loh said the 56 applications officials will present to the regents next week would cost the colleges an estimated $1.9 million. A majority of that sum would come in staff reallocation costs totaling an estimated $1.6 million — a cost Loh said is more than acceptable.

“I’m more than happy to pay that,” he said. “We should pay that.”

UI Professor Shelton Stromquist said officials need to realize the real cost of the program is not measured in dollars. Faculty put forth extra effort to take on additional students while colleagues are doing research, he said — which several professors noted is done as a courtesy to their fellow faculty members.

“I think the idea that this cost is being borne by the colleges is an illusion,” Stromquist said. “It’s being borne by the faculty.”

Linda Maxson, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in which a majority of the awards have historically been granted, said retention of research opportunities is critical for faculty.

“I really think that faculty need the time away to focus on their scholarship,” she said. “This is the heart of what a research university is about.”

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