UI faculty approves policy changes

BY DANIEL SEIDL | APRIL 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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In a changing landscape at the University of Iowa, the role of some faculty members has been revised.

At the Faculty Senate’s Tuesday meeting, the members approved various revisions to the university’s research-track faculty policy. The policy allows for the hiring of faculty members to focus on research as opposed to a faculty member focused more on educating students.

The policy was permanently adopted last April. Earlier this month, the UI Faculty Council approved several revisions to the policy, and the Senate considered these same revisions on Tuesday.

The first change is in regard to research-track faculty’s ability to serve as the chair of a dissertation committee.

“The bottom line there is that they’d be permitted to co-chair, but not be sole chair of a dissertation committee,” said Erika Lawrence, the past president and UI associate professor of psychology. “In the original policy, they could not.”

This policy is the same one employed by the Graduate College, Lawrence said. This change passed unanimously.

The second proposed revision did not come to a vote, but was nonetheless the most controversial change discussed. This was in regard to whether research-track faculty would be allowed to teach classes.

Under the current policy, they are permitted to give an occasional lecture but are not permitted to teach courses. The proposed amendment would have allowed research-track faculty to teach their own classes rather than only giving guest lectures but not every semester.

Not allowing research-track faculty to teach could be robbing students of a vital resource, said Christina Bohannon, the Faculty Senate vice president and a UI law professor.

“There are times when that faculty member might be an expert in an area and might benefit students,” she said. “I think that the university and students are just losing out. They’re losing out on the ability to learn.”

While UI biostatistics Professor Jane Pendergast agreed the issue is worth looking at, she said there are arguments for the other side as well.

“In many ways, if teaching becomes part of the job … you start wondering what’s not part of the job,” she said.

Bohannon said she hopes to see the issue looked at again.

“I think it’s something we need to evolve, we have something to sort out,” she said. “I think we will potentially revisit that at some point in the future.”

The third item up for revision was the representation of research-track faculty on the Faculty Senate. By the original policy, these faculty members could not serve on the senate. This was changed to allow at least one research-track faculty member to serve, but no more than 10 percent of the senators from any one college can be of the research track in the senate. This change was approved unanimously.

The final revision regards the promotion of research-track faculty. In order to be promoted to associate professor or professor, research-track faculty must have salary support from research grants. While the Senate made some changes to the language of the promotion requirements, Lawrence said overall, this would be left up to individual colleges. This revision passed unanimously.

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