Faculty mull research track

BY DANIEL SEIDL | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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The role of research-track faculty at the University of Iowa is broadening.

“Life has changed, society has changed,” said UI internal medicine Professor François Abboud. “We are part of it, changes are happening, and we have to remain part of it.”

Abboud is a member of the UI Faculty Council, who discussed changes to the research-track policy at a Tuesday afternoon meeting. The research track allows faculty to be hired with a focus on research as a research-track faculty.

UI psychology Professor Edward Wasserman said the council should be careful when making changes to policy regarding research-track faculty, because they may soon become too similar to professors.

“We were sold something, but now it isn’t that same thing,” he said. “It’s all of a sudden spreading out. It’s morphing; it’s becoming more like a professor.”

Abboud disagreed, saying the group is already very similar to professors in everything but name.

“Those individuals that you refer to … they are professors in every sense of the word,” he said. “They espouse that mission, the discovery, the serving, the teaching.”

The council considered several revisions to the policy Tuesday, including allowing these faculty members to co-lead dissertation committees, allowing them to give auxiliary lectures — though they can not teach classes — in their area of expertise, allowing them to be represented on Faculty Senate, and clarifying language regarding promotion requirements. The council split each of the revisions into a separate vote, though they were all approved unanimously.

On the matter of promotion requirements, the council decided to mostly leave it up to individual colleges to decide their requirements, especially on whether teaching or service will contribute to promotions.

“In my mind, I’m not sure that we ought to take a position substantively on that,” said UI law Professor Christina Bohannan. “I do think maybe we should have a requirement that the individual colleges … follow up with their own guidelines to be clear.”

Whether or not these faculty members should be allowed to teach classes was a much more contentious discussion. Richard Fumerton, a past president of the Faculty Senate, said they should be able to teach classes in their area of expertise occasionally.

“This person [would provide] a real service to students,” he said. “Why exactly do we want to preclude that possibility?”

While it may be beneficial for students, UI biostatistics Professor Jane Pendergast said allowing research-track faculty to teach would erode their research role.

“It’s our duty to protect the students in these courses,” she said. “But also to protect the research-track faculty. It’s … a huge time overload to provide a course.”

After this discussion, the council decided to vote on keeping the current rule, which allows the faculty to lead an auxiliary lecture, only slightly altering the language. Despite Abboud’s and Fumerton’s points, they voted in favor of the revision.

The final issue was the representation of these faculty members on the Faculty Council. The council decided they will be represented by no more than one member, or 10 percent of a college’s Senate delegation. For example, in the case of the medical college, which has 30 members on Senate, no more than three of those representatives could be research-track faculty.

The Faculty Senate will discuss the revisions on April 29.

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