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Updated 1:30 PM November 24, 2004




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Quality of life top concern of faculty, SACUA chair tells regents

Quality of life issues—child care, parking, health insurance and benefits—as well as evaluation of the University's top administrators are two of the most important issues faculty members want addressed in 2004-05, the head of the University's faculty governance system told the Board of Regents Nov. 18.

Stanley Berent, professor of psychiatry and psychology and chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) and Senate Assembly, said in SACUA's annual report to the board that a recent poll of the faculty also indicated a high interest in the importance of tenure; grade inflation and alteration; research support for junior faculty and Institutional Review Board issues; and the growth, ratios and representation of non-tenure-track faculty.

"As data related to these issues are constantly changing, especially in the area of health care, it has not been easy to arrive at definitive answers to the dilemmas," Berent said. "Quality of life issues were highest across the board for all faculty. SACUA and its committees will continue to address these issues in the coming year."

Berent referred to former SACUA chair Charles Koopmann Jr.'s 2003 address to the regents in which Koopmann advised the board that rising costs and declining budgets would create increasing issues for the institution and the faculty.

"These issues are no less pressing today," Berent said. "While this situation affects all levels and classes of those who work for or are retired from the institution, it is those at the lowest end of the income range and those on a fixed income that are likely to be the most adversely affected."

SACUA and its committees have been active in faculty tenure-related issues in years past, and they will be discussed further this year, Berent said.

"We are interested in two aspects of tenure that we believe to be extremely important, for the institution as well as for the faculty," Berent said. "We want to clarify the functional significance of tenure to the institution, and also we want to determine the consequences, if any, of the growth of non-tenured faculty at the institution."

On the topic of faculty review of administrators, Berent said it has been a controversial issue for both the faculty and administration. "We will see how this works," he said of the first round of evaluations that will begin Dec. 1. "Faculty evaluations of administrators is not a new concept, but this is a new approach."

SACUA meets monthly with President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Paul N. Courant, and Berent and SACUA vice-chair Silvia Pedraza also convene once a month with the president and provost. Berent said those meetings have helped keep the administration in touch with faculty issues.

"The relationship between formal faculty governance and the University's executive officers, at this time, is exemplary," Berent said. "Both President Coleman and Provost Courant have shown themselves to be sensitive to faculty issues and to meaningful involvement of faculty in decision making and institutional planning."

Berent highlighted several SACUA and Senate Assembly activities, including:

• The annual Faculty Governance Luncheon Sept. 14

• President Coleman's University address at the Sept. 20 Senate Assembly meeting (see Address to the University community>)

• Completion of SACUA's Child Care Task Force report

• Regents' candidate forum Oct. 25 (see Regent candidates to discuss issues at Oct. 25 forum>)

• The 14th Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic Freedom Oct. 28, which featured Noam Chomsky speaking to an overflow crowd in the Law School (see Chomsky: Unilateral force a frequent historical choice>)

• Courant's annual address to the Senate Assembly Nov. 15 (see Provost addresses Senate Assembly>).

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