Faculty Senate President, Rémy Lequesne's Year-End Report
Faculty Senate President’s Final Report to the University Senate AY22
After a year of ups and downs, I begin my report by repeating Lua Yuille’s AY21 summary, which remains true: there are reasons to be hopeful, but there are just as many reasons to be concerned.
WORK DONE BY THE 2021-2022 FACULTY SENATE:
Advocating for faculty. Throughout the year, the Faculty Senate worked to advocate for
faculty interests at all levels. We conveyed to campus leaders and the Board of Regents
(KBOR) the urgent need for salary increases and investing in people. We advocated for more faculty involvement in centralized decision making and more deference to the expertise of faculty and unit leaders whenever feasible. The Faculty Senate also did the following:
- The Faculty Senate and members of the SPPT and FRPR committees worked closely with the Provost’s Office to draft and workshop an instructional workload policy for campus. The process of soliciting input from a broad range of campus constituencies produced a policy that was ultimately supported by a majority of the Faculty Senate.Our aim was for this policy to satisfy KBOR’s concerns about workload without disadvantaging any particular group of faculty.
- Faculty Senate leaders worked with the Provost’s Office to gain approval from KBOR for a one-year tenure-clock extension for any faculty who began their employment in the Fall of 2020. This extension was already approved for those employed during the spring of 2020, and it was important to treat those beginning later that fall similarly.
- In the summer of 2021, the Provost’s Office proposed revising the Faculty Rights Board procedures for hearing appeals from tenured faculty challenging an administrative action of dismissal. FacEx responded by creating an ad-hoc committee that took ownership of the effort and worked to arrive at mutually beneficial policy revisions. This assertion of ownership and the efforts of the committee members ensured that governance would maintain control of the revisions. I am grateful for the work of that committee even if no changes were made.
- The Faculty Senate approved Faculty Senate Rules and Regulations 7.5, which articulates the conditions under which tenured faculty may be dismissed and places the burden on the University to establish grounds for dismissal. This amendment was aimed at strengthening the protections of tenure.
- Faculty Senate leaders have, for years, advocated for faculty to have the option to defer a portion of academic year pay to the following summer, when many do not receive a paycheck. This option is available at many peer institutions. KU leaders instituted this option as a one-year pilot in AY22. After some advocacy from Faculty Senate leaders, we are pleased that the one-year pilot has been extended two additional years until AY24. The value of the program will be reevaluated at that time.
- The Faculty Senate updated University Senate Code 2.1, which articulates eligibility requirements for Faculty Senate membership. Though the changes were largely editorial, once approved by the Chancellor they will more clearly communicate that the Faculty Senate welcomes contributions from all teaching and research faculty, regardless of tenure status or seniority.
Academic program discontinuance. Although under the purview of the University Senate, several members of the Faculty Senate contributed substantially to efforts related to academic program discontinuance.
- In the summer of 2021, the Provost’s Office proposed revising the program discontinuance policy. SenEx responded by creating an ad-hoc committee that took ownership of the effort and worked to arrive at mutually beneficial policy revisions. As with the work on the FRB procedures, this assertion of ownership and the work of the committee members ensured governance involvement. I am grateful for the work of that committee even if no changes have been made.
- In the fall of 2021, AP&P and the University Senate dedicated considerable effort to evaluating administration proposals to discontinue 42 academic programs. The conduct of the AP&P committee and the University Senate gave the process the seriousness and openness necessary to arrive at well informed decisions. The senate’s recommendations to continue several programs were ultimately not supported by the Provost, who elected to discontinue all 42 academic programs in their current form.
Supporting students. Faculty in governance, and especially those on the AP&P committee, sought opportunities to support and demonstrate care for students. Examples include:
- Amending FSRR 2.5.4 to allow more credits to transfer from community colleges, consistent with new KBOR policy.
- Amending several sections of USRR to articulate a pathway for students impacted by sexual assault to request supportive measures from faculty. This effort included important contributions from both faculty and staff in support of students.
- Amending USRR 1.3.12 to require that faculty work with students to reschedule final examinations that conflict with a mandated religious observance.
- Amending USRR 2.3.3 to streamline the process for retroactive withdrawal from courses for medical or other compassionate reasons.
Strengthening ties with staff. I have observed this year that faculty and staff interests are often well aligned even though we have different roles at KU. Faculty Senate leaders have endeavored to engage with Staff Senate priorities and help advocate for key issues throughout the year. This culminated in the Faculty Senate passing a resolution in Spring 2022 expressing solidarity with staff dealing with problems of compensation and workload demands. As the resolution states, KU only works when faculty and staff do. We are in this together.
Increasing openness. For varied reasons, I have frequently heard KU faculty express a lack of trust in campus leaders. With the aim of increasing trust in leadership, Faculty Senate leaders worked to increase openness in two main areas:
- Policy development process. I was pleased in the spring of 2022 when the Policy Office began producing a list of policies under active development or revision. This list will be shared in some form with faculty governance leaders moving forward, allowing for dialogue and information gathering earlier in the process and, hopefully, well before the public comment period. If this functions as intended, it is an important step in the right direction.
- Use of data in campus decision making. Faculty representatives have advocated for more openness about how data are validated and used, and more faculty input into selection of metrics. We have advocated adoption of campus policies addressing selection of metrics and data use. These conversations are ongoing.
KU Libraries. Healthy libraries are central to the functioning of any major research or
teaching institution, and KU faculty and student success is linked to that of the libraries. The Faculty Senate worked to strengthen ties with the KU Libraries by passing a resolution in Fall 2021 that expressed our strong support for our library colleagues as they enter into ‘big deal’ negotiations with Elsevier in 2022. Through the University Senate Libraries committee, governance has also expressed its support for expanded use of open access publishing, and for open access to be an aim in upcoming negotiations with publishers.
Shared governance at KU. In the Spring of 2022, the University Senate adopted a resolution describing the Provost Office’s problematic handling of requests for academic program discontinuance, which culminated in the Provost declining to support the University Senate’s recommendations against discontinuance. The resolution asserted that this departure from norms and lack of deference to the established functions of governance is evidence of a troubled state of shared governance at KU. Campus leaders should establish and engage with the task force on shared governance requested in the resolution.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We have numerous challenges related to diversity and
equity on our campus. One example is with retention of non-white faculty. In Spring of 2022, KU’s Faculty Development office released a report that, among other things, quantified the problem: non-white faculty leave for reasons other than retirement at approximately twice the rate of white faculty. I have discussed this with several campus leaders including the interim VP of DEIB, who I have reason to believe takes it seriously. I hope there are opportunities for faculty and faculty governance to work with campus leaders on this moving forward.
COVID. Fall 2021 began with a shift to mostly in-person instruction without faculty input.
KU continued to require masks until mid-spring 2022 and, for a moment in the fall, required vaccination. Campus is now mostly mask-free and life is approaching normal for many as we near Spring 2022 graduation. Although variants of COVID continue to circulate and many of us remain concerned, I have heard from many who gladly welcome the return to normal.
Campus Finances. After a decade that seemingly included more years with budget cuts than raises, campus leaders have taken an important step in the right direction by developing a detailed 5-year budget plan. Senate leaders and campus were briefed on the plan in Spring 2022. Considerable financial challenges remain, but there is reason to believe that fewer surprises await us. I hope this apparent rigor is a new norm and that campus constituencies will be increasingly consulted in the choices we have ahead.
rpkGroup and program review. KBOR has an active contract with rpkGroup Consultants. As I understand it, rpkGroup is creating a system by which KBOR can more readily review academic programs and faculty workloads across institutions. It is not clear how this might affect KU, but we should know more relatively soon. My understanding is that rpkGroup’s work will be completed by the end of 2022.
COACHE survey results. The COACHE survey results should be received by KU midsummer. I understand KU will receive a report on overall trends relative to peers and gain access to deidentified faculty responses. I hope these results point to actionable steps KU can take to improve working conditions.
KBOR general education policy. Considerable effort has been dedicated at the state level to establishing a set of “general education” courses that will readily transfer across the KBOR system. The process has been slower than anticipated, but all indications are that this will be implemented in the next few years. KU faculty have not yet had much of a voice in the process; perhaps opportunities will arise in the next year.
Governance committees. I want to acknowledge the considerable work of dozens of
colleagues who contributed to University and Faculty Senate committees. This document
includes primarily items that involved the Faculty Senate and Faculty Senate leaders, but it would be considerably longer if expanded to include the work of our committees. End-of-year committee reports will be posted on the governance website. I encourage you to review them to appreciate the full scope of your colleagues’ work in governance.