Concerns of the Faculty Senate

A Report from Faculty Senate President John Nolt

to Chancellor Jimmy Cheek

February 13, 2009

 

Loss of Faculty

            The foremost concern of the faculty senate is cumulative loss of faculty.  During this past year UTK suffered base budget cuts exceeding nine percent.  Simultaneously we have received what are in effect further base budget cuts in the form of substantial increases in fixed costs—and most especially in the costs of coal, electricity and natural gas.

            These new losses have added to the losses we suffered from budget cuts in the second half of the 1990s, from which we have never fully recovered.  In my college, Arts and Sciences, for example, the number of tenure-line faculty peaked at 523 in 1995.  The cuts of the nineties reduced this to 463 in 2000.  Beginning in 2002, we witnessed a slow recovery.  But as of fall semester we were down to 455.  (This number includes faculty from the department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, who remain for now in the college.)  That’s a net loss in tenure-line faculty of 13% since 1995.  The pattern is similar across the campus.

            These faculty losses have resulted in substantially decreased functionality.  The Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, to take just one example, lost last year and has been unable to replace its only tenure-line teacher of Chinese—a language crucial to the curriculum of any twenty-first century university.  As a result, it cannot offer courses normally required for the Chinese minor or for the Chinese concentration in the Language and World Business major.

            Everyone agrees that tenure-line faculty and faculty lines should receive priority protection when jobs are lost.  But there is also widespread concern about potential losses of lecturers and instructors, to whom the heaviest teaching loads fall.  We cannot adequately staff classes with the teaching personnel we have now.  Additional losses of lecturers and instructors would shift greater teaching burdens to the faculty who remain.  Since lecturers and instructors are, moreover, the most cost-effective teachers, their loss does the greatest damage per dollar saved to the teaching mission of the University.  One further point:  about 58% of lecturers and instructors are women; yet women are a minority among all tenure-line ranks, from assistant to full professor—and their proportions decrease as rank increases.  Losses of instructors and lecturers would therefore increase the gender disparity among teaching personnel.

            Concomitant with this loss of faculty has been a steady decline in instruction’s share of the campus budget.  Five years ago, in 2004, instructional expenses at UTK were just over 49% of total E&G expenses.  In each of the succeeding years this percentage dropped.  By January of 2009, instruction’s share of E&G expenses was under 40%.  Part of this decline has been due to increasing energy costs.  But part has been due also to expanding costs for administration. 

 

Administrative Costs

            From 2004 to 2009 expenses for institutional support (administration) at UTK increased from 2.5% of the total to over 6%.  Part, but by no means all, of this increase was due to transfer of some functions in HR, IT and other areas from the system to the campus between 2007 and 2008.

            But we are also concerned with escalating expenses for institutional support at the system level, which have jumped from $25.9 million in 2005 to an estimated 52.5 million this year.

 

Salaries

            As recently as last spring, the main concern among the faculty was stagnant salaries.  Salary increases in recent years have generally been sub-inflationary.  That is still a major concern, of course.  But it has been eclipsed by concern for losses of numbers of faculty.

 

Tuition

            Faculty Senate supports tuition increases when necessary to alleviate losses due reductions in state appropriations and supports the principle of differential tuition for UTK (compared to other Tennessee campuses).

 

Program Closures and Reorganization

            The Faculty Senate recognizes that program closures and administrative reorganizations are sometimes necessary—especially in lean times.  But these should be achieved not by administrative fiat but by shared governance.  In particular, the Faculty Handbook, which governs faculty rights and responsibilities and is approved by the Board of Trustees, stipulates that the Faculty Senate, though its Graduate and Undergraduate Councils, “gives approval for establishing new programs and for terminating existing ones.” 

In cooperation with the Office of the Provost, the Faculty Senate has established a Task Force on Program Review, Reallocation and Reduction to devise criteria and procedures for budget-based reductions.  The need for these criteria and procedures was made evident by the controversy surrounding the proposed closure last year of the minor in Dance, the graduate program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.  The procedures developed by the Task Force recognize the need for faculty participation in all decisions regarding program closures or reorganizations.

 

Cumulative Performance Review and Faculty Evaluation

            This year we have seen a substantial increase in Cumulative Performance Review (CPR) cases.  CPR is triggered when faculty receive poor performance reviews over a period of five years.  One possible outcome is termination of tenure.  Consultation with the Faculty Senate is a crucial part of the CPR process.  But the process is muddied by conflicts between descriptions of it in the Faculty Handbook and in the UT Board of Trustees Policy Governing Academic Freedom, Responsibility and Tenure.  The Faculty Senate Faculty Affairs Committee, chaired by Joan Heminway, has been working with the Office of the Provost to resolve these conflicts.  The Faculty Affairs Committee has also been working on a number of other Handbook revisions involving faculty evaluations.

 

Faculty Senate Effectiveness

It has long been evident that some of the committees of the Faculty Senate are unnecessary or ineffective and that others have too much work to do.  To correct this I have this year appointed a Faculty Senate Effectiveness Task Force chaired by Candace White.  The Task Force has surveyed the faculty for input and has proposed sweeping changes to the Faculty Senate Bylaws, which will be voted on by the Senate this spring.

 

Research Policies

The Research Council, a committee of the Faculty Senate, has drafted new policies regarding the use of research data and tangible research policy.  The Senate will vote on these policies in the spring.

 

Honorary Degrees

As required by the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate created this year a campus-specific policy on Honorary Degrees.  I have appointed five faculty members to the Nominating Committee in accord with this policy.

 

Lobbying

Though the Faculty Senate once had a Legislative Committee, it was relatively ineffective and was abolished several years ago.  This year the Senate Executive Committee created a Faculty Senate Legislative Task Force, chaired by Jon Shefner, which has been working with Anthony Haynes and Hank Dye to take to the legislature our dual message of keeping teachers in the classroom and having flexibility in setting tuition.  We have had a number of direct discussions with Tennessee legislators and will continue to do so throughout the legislative session.

 

Tennessee University Faculty Senates

The UT Faculty Senate is a member of Tennessee University Faculty Senates (TUFS), a statewide independent organization of Faculty Senates.  It includes all the UT system schools and all the four-year Board of Regents schools.  Its focus this year has been on lobbying.  I am President Elect of TUFS.

 

UT Faculty Council

The UT Faculty Council is the Faculty Senate’s representative body to the UT System.  Our elected representative to the Council is Beauvais Lyons.  As Faculty Senate President, I also serve on the Council, though on several occasions this year I have delegated my responsibility to President-Elect Toby Boulet.

 

Energy Conservation

My main motive for becoming President of the Senate was to move UTK toward sustainability.  Last year the Faculty Senate voted for the creation of an Office of Sustainability.  We have been supportive of the work of that office since Gordie Bennett was hired as UTK’s first Sustainability Manager in August.  I have encouraged the faculty to participate in the Switch Your Thinking Campaign and to comply with the Energy Policy that Interim Chancellor Simek announced last fall.