The University Record, November 23, 1998

Faculty Handbook gets first overhaul since ’94

By Jane R. Elgass

It was a daunting task. Some may have predicted it couldn’t be done. But 12 months of effort by a committee of faculty and academic administrators has paid off handsomely in a new Faculty Handbook that is actually “user friendly.” The current handbook was last updated in 1994.

Committee members knew when they were charged by Provost Nancy Cantor a year ago to “produce a useful and accurate guide to areas of interest to faculty members” that the task would not be easy. As a “Note to User” at the beginning of the 140-plus-page book states: “. . . the University of Michigan is a highly complex and decentralized institution. It would be virtually impossible to capture in detail all of the many issues that can affect faculty, and to attempt to do so would in most cases duplicate existing resources. With this in mind, the drafting committee has attempted to provide a navigation aid rather than a complete set of charts.”

Congratulations are due to the captains. The comprehensive table of contents—a sextant of sorts—lists the sub-sections in 21 categories, making it a valuable resource that can be checked at a glance. And the text is easy to understand, not bogged down in “bureaucratise.” That language is still available, as the reader is directed to appropriate primary resources, such as Regents’ Bylaws and the Standard Practice Guide, for the definitive word.

“We wanted to make information accessible and easy to find, we wanted to present complicated information in a welcoming way,” explains Katharine B. Soper, chair of the Faculty Handbook Revision Committee and assistant associate provost.

“We looked at many issues that are of interest to faculty—including such key areas as scholarship and research, teaching, service and tenure—and developed broad outlines of information to address these areas. Readers are referred to primary sources for more detail,” explains Soper, who adds that the Handbook is not intended as a substitute for official University policy. “Our charge was to provide a guide to current policies, procedures and resources.”

“We also tried to give a realistic and accurate perspective. This is a complex institution. Things are not always done one way, and even if they are, that can change. Faculty are encouraged to check with their chair or dean for how individual units handle some activities.”

The drafting committee also flagged areas in transition and indicated a resource for faculty who want more information about a given area.

In addition to Soper, committee members were Patricia W. Coleman-Burns, assistant professor and director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, School of Nursing; Sheila C. Feld, professor of social work; William R. Martin, associate dean for academic affairs, College of Engineering, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences and director, Laboratory for Scientific Computation; Terrence J. McDonald, LS&A associate dean for academic appointments and professor of history; and Thomas E. Moore, professor of biology and curator of insects, Museum of Zoology.

Each chapter of the Faculty Handbook opens with a statement of general principles about the topic and then provides some detail and references to more complete sources. Soper notes that the online version (available now at has hyperlinks to the referenced primary sources, again making it easy to use.

The six-member committee received help and support along the way, in both reviewing drafts and in drafting material from the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) over a two-year period (1997–98 under the leadership of Louis D’Alecy and 1998–99 under the leadership of William D. Ensminger), the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action and the Office of the General Counsel.

In addition, a broad range of units, both academic and administrative, were asked for help in drafting and reviewing material in their areas of expertise in an effort to ensure accuracy.

The final draft was ready earlier this fall and faculty were asked in October to review the draft, available to them in deans’ offices, at the Library and Media Union and in the Provost’s Office and SACUA’s office. A number of suggestions were received and incorporated in the final version.

Since the University is not only a complex institution, but also a dynamic one, care was taken in structuring the new version to make subsequent updates and changes easy, accomplished by the way the information is arranged in definable sections. Information on a single topic, for instance, is not scattered in various sections. This also makes the publication easy to use even for those unfamiliar with the many elements of the University.

In addition to noting areas in transition in the handbook, the committee compiled a list of policies and procedures it felt needed review or, in some cases, drafting, and will pass that information to the provost.

While intended primarily for Ann Arbor campus faculty, the Handbook includes some information about the Dearborn and Flint campuses, in particular key differences among the campuses and information on local resources. Flint is undertaking a project to rewrite a handbook for its faculty and Dearborn expects to revise its faculty handbook supplement.

Paper copies of the Faculty Handbook will be available by Dec. 22 and can be obtained from Human Resources Records and Information Services, 4073 Wolverine Tower. That office will be closed Dec. 25–Jan. 3. In addition to being distributed to new faculty members at orientation sessions, the books will be distributed to deans and directors and their staffs and units using them, such as human resources offices and the Office of the General Counsel.

21 chapters put information at your fingertips

The topics below are covered in the new Faculty Handbook’s 21 chapters. The Handbook also contains a listing of acronyms, helpful to just about anyone.

• Fundamental Tenets of Membership in the University Community

• Diversity and Nondiscrimination

• Administrative Structure

• Faculty Roles in Governance

• Appointments

• Tenure

• Scholarship and Research

• Teaching and Faculty Interactions with Students

• Faculty as Representatives of the University/Service

• Resolution of Disputes

• Sexual Harassment

• University Records, Privacy and Access to Information

• Faculty Awards

• Compensation and Budgetary Procedures

• Benefits and Services

• Leaves, Absences, Holidays, Vacations and University Closures

• University Travel and Reimbursement

• Campus Health and Safety

• Retirement, Emeritus/Emerita Status

• Technology and Communications

• Additional Resources

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