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Officials express concern for policy revision

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | MARCH 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa Faculty Council members passed a proposed policy revision Tuesday for further review after expressing various concerns.

The proposal was written in response to a research-track faculty desire for clearer requirements. Talks for change have been going on for years, but council members continue to express disapproval of the policy changes.

The revision would alter university-wide criteria for promotion of research-track professors. It would require associate professors to raise 80 percent and professors to raise 90 percent of their salaries from external grants and contracts.

Council members took issue with the defined percentages, saying they are too rigid and arbitrary.

“It’s sort of exacerbated in this particular formulation because there’s really not a lot of context here,” said UI law Professor Christina Bohannan. “It doesn’t say whether these are all strictly required or whether these are factors to consider or whether really great scholarship would outweigh the fact that you’ve only got 78 percent of your salary funded.”

Officials noted the fluidity and uncertainty of grant money, which could make it difficult to determine whether professors meet the benchmark.

“As a statistician, when somebody says 80 percent, I can probably give you five different ways to calculate what it should be,” said UI biostatistics Professor Jane Pendergast.

The revision would also require professors to show evidence of leading research projects.

Pendergast said it is not always possible or even desired for a researcher to have a top position on a funded project.

She believes the revision is too inflexible to account for varying professor jobs across the university.

Officials said specifics about research professor ranking — such as professor or associate professor — should be left to each college. Warren Darling, a UI human physiology professor, drafted the revision.

“It’s sort of a bad marriage of ideas,” said UI psychology Professor Edward Wasserman. “I have sympathy for Warren for trying to be more precise and then getting hammered for the effort … I think people in the colleges would disagree with one another on what the policy should be.”

Instead, council members said, the university-wide policy should include only general requirements for colleges to interpret.

“We usually try to have some sort of flexibility in the generic policy that we then direct the colleges to try certain things that they’re going to specifically require,” said UI chemistry Associate Professor Edward Gillan. “That may be the better path potentially.”

All council members voted to pass the proposal on for further revision and review.


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