University Council and Faculty Senate

FACULTY MATTERS

May 2012, Volume 1, Issue 2


In this issue:
Revised grade appeals policy
New requirements for sabbatical leaves
No second serve
The FAC rep to IBHE
New faculty and SPS personnel advisor
A few words about disabilities

Revised grade appeals policy

At the April 11, 2012 meeting, the University Council (UC) approved a revision to Section III, Item 7 of the Academic Policies and Procedures Manual. APPM III. 7 is the policy for grade appeals and until this revision, the only basis for a grade appeal was capricious (arbitrary) grading. At the request of the Undergraduate Coordinating Council (UCC), the UC considered whether (and how) to develop an appeal process for grade penalties resulting from academic misconduct. The UC voted to revise the existing grade appeal process to allow appeals of grade penalties resulting from academic misconduct. In order to qualify, the grade penalty assigned must be alleged, by the student, to be excessive and/or inappropriate. The procedures for the appeal remain the same, except that deans can no longer compel a faculty member to change a grade. If, as the final arbiter, the dean feels the grade should be changed, the dean can authorize the registrar to change the grade; this only at the end of an exhaustive process which occurs almost entirely at the level of the department. Faculty are advised to read the new policy in the APPM, which is easily accessible from the A-Z directory on the NIU homepage. Here are some suggestions for faculty:

table Your syllabus should specify exactly how grades will be computed and you should strictly follow your own rules. If you followed your rules, it is not capricious.
table Your syllabus should also include a statement regarding academic misconduct and the penalties you will apply should a student be guilty of misconduct.
table Try to be reasonable regarding offenses and penalties. Cheating and plagiarism are clearly worthy of more severe penalties than is leaving a cell phone turned on during class.
table The most severe penalty a faculty member can impose is an F in the course. Anything more severe (e.g., expulsion from the university) can only be imposed by the Student Conduct Board. You can, of course, request that the Student Conduct Board impose a more severe penalty.

A final note: Grade changes as a result of an appeal are very rare owing to the fact that most faculty are fair and reasonable, and pay careful attention to their syllabi.

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New requirements for sabbatical leaves

The NIU Board of Trustees, the provost, and the president have always been very supportive of sabbatical leaves for faculty. President Peters has defended sabbaticals to the legislature as a merit-based professional development program which is essential to the quality of the faculty and the university. This year, once again, the BOT approved all the sabbaticals that were put forward by the provost. For their part, when they return from sabbatical, recipients are expected to make a written report describing their scholarly activities during the sabbatical leave. This report must also include a brief statement of the scholarly purpose for which the leave was granted. At its February 22 meeting, the University Council approved a revision to Bylaw Article 8.4 (Sabbatical Policies). The following requirement was added:

At the request of the executive vice president and provost approximately two years after the sabbatical leave, each faculty member will submit a report on the sabbatical outcomes related to research and artistry, teaching, and/or engagement and outreach. This information will be compiled for a report to the NIU Board of Trustees.

The purpose of this requirement is to allow enough time for the books, articles, and artistic products of the sabbatical to be vetted, published, and/or exhibited so that the BOT can get a full appreciation of the scholarly productivity resulting from the leaves. The faculty, in fact, produce an impressive body of work as a result of the sabbatical leaves. Provost Alden presented the following to the Board of Trustees:

This year the report is over 60 pages long and, just so you know, our faculty are very productive. Out of the 43 faculty that took sabbatical as of two years ago, there were 389 significant works spread between publications, presentations, and major curricular revisions.

It is very important to us all that faculty on sabbatical submit the reports, both the report upon return from sabbatical and the two-year follow up, in a timely fashion. APPM Section II, Item 18.8 has also been revised and now includes the caveat:

The UCPC will not approve a sabbatical request if a copy of the report for any previous sabbatical leave is not on file in the Provost's Office or if the faculty member cannot produce evidence that there is a linkage between the previous sabbatical proposal and scholarly or artistic activities or if the faculty member did not submit the outcomes two years after a sabbatical leave at the request of the Office of the Provost to report the outcomes to the Board of Trustees.

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No second serve

Every department is entitled to at least one representative to the Faculty Senate. Some departments also have a member who is a University Council (UC) representative, although UC representatives represent their college and not their department. And all UC representatives are automatically voting members of the Faculty Senate. However, since they are only senate members by virtue of their membership on the council, and since they represent their colleges, not their departments, their departments are still entitled to a Faculty Senate representative. When someone who had been representing their department on the senate is elected to the UC, their department is asked to elect a new Faculty Senate representative. In the past, that request was always accompanied by a statement that the UC representative was not also eligible to be that department's Faculty Senate representative. While this makes perfect sense from a conflict of interest perspective, we could not find any language in any of our policy documents supporting this provision. Therefore, at its May 2 meeting, the UC voted to amend Bylaw Article 13.2.2.1 to state that no University Council faculty representative may simultaneously serve as a department representative on the Faculty Senate.

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The Faculty Advisory Council representative to the IBHE

The Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) consists of representatives from public universities all over the state and provides faculty input to the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). Since the IBHE controls many university functions from the degrees we offer and approval of our programs, to our budget from the state, this is a very important position. The FAC meets once a month at rotating locations throughout Illinois. Earl Hansen, who has been our representative for the past four years, is retiring and the Faculty Senate elected Sonya Armstrong from the Department of Literacy Education to complete the one year left on Earl Hansen's four-year term. She will be eligible to run for her own four-year term next spring.

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New faculty and SPS personnel advisor

The faculty and SPS personnel advisor (FSPSPA) provides confidential consultation and advocacy to members of the faculty and SPS on all matters relating to personnel issues such as tenure, promotion, and merit evaluations. The FSPSPA can help mediate conflicts between faculty, faculty and SPS, faculty and chairs or deans. The FSPSPA is elected by the Faculty Senate to serve an initial two-year term. At its April 25 meeting, the Faculty Senate elected Toni Tollerud from the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education as faculty & SPS personnel advisor. Toni succeeds David Wade from the College of Business who completed his term and is retiring from the university. Contact information for the FSPSPA can be found on the Faculty Senate homepage. Toni will be available beginning June 21.

We thank both Earl and David for their many years of service to the faculty, and wish them a long and happy retirement.

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A few words about disabilities

NIU has a Presidential Commission on Persons with Disablities chaired by Greg Long. Many faculty are unaware of their responsibilities to students with disabilities. Visible disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments are obvious, but many more of our students have invisible disabilities such as ADHD and learning disabilities. Just because their impairments are not obvious, these students are no less entitled to appropriate accommodations. Accommodations are regulated by the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). If one of your students has been approved for accommodations by the CAAR, you must comply with them, whether or not you agree with them. This is not optional and it is not an infringement on your academic freedom. It's the law. Further, common decency and the law (FERPA) both require that you protect a student's confidentiality regarding these accommodations, meaning that you may not disclose them or discuss them in public (e.g., not in class, in front of other students or faculty, in the hallway, etc.).

Further, "the commission encourages university-wide adoption of a common syllabus statement acknowledging the availability of disability support services." This is the recommended statement; please feel free to use it:

Northern Illinois University is committed to providing an accessible educational environment in collaboration with the Center for Access-Ability Resources [CAAR]. Any student requiring an academic accommodation due to a disability should let his or her faculty member know as soon as possible. Students who need academic accommodations based on the impact of a disability will be encouraged to contact the CAAR if they have not done so already. The CAAR is located in the 4th floor of the Health Services Building, and can be reached at 815-753-1303 [v], 815-753-3000 [TTY] or email at caar@niu.edu.

Plese note, you are not required to provide accommodations that have not been authorized by the CAAR. If you have questions, don't hesitate to call the CAAR yourself.

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Have a healthy, restful, and productive summer.
Faculty Matters will return in the fall.

 

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