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MU Faculty Council reacts positively to non-tenure-track voting proposal

Thursday, October 25, 2012 | 8:45 p.m. CDT; updated 10:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — Members of MU Faculty Council expressed support for extending voting rights to non-tenure-track colleagues during its Thursday meeting.

Faculty Council discussed a proposal that would expand the faculty bylaws' definition of "faculty" to include non-tenure-track, or NTT, faculty. These faculty are hired on temporary contracts without the possibility of permanent job security, which is known as tenure.

What is Faculty Council?

The Faculty Council is an elected body that represents all MU faculty to the public and university administrators, including the University of Missouri System Board of Curators. The administration and faculty share governance of the university, with the faculty having primary responsibility over curriculum and scholarly matters.

 


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Four NTT representatives sit on Faculty Council. The proposed change would revise Faculty Council's Rules of Order, allowing the four NTT faculty representatives to vote in council matters. It also would allow all NTT faculty to vote in campuswide decisions previously limited to tenured and tenure-track faculty.

"We have representation of our staff on staff council and representation of our tenure-track faculty on faculty council, and then we have this huge group of people who are sitting out there in never-never land of shared governance," associate professor of journalism Clyde Bentley said during discussion at Thursday's meeting. "Personally, I think that's very unfair."

One of the four NTT representatives on Faculty Council, assistant professor Sam White, said he received overwhelming support for the proposal from his NTT colleagues. A letter was sent to all NTT faculty Tuesday explaining the proposal and asking for feedback.

Research professor Richard Guyette, one of the other NTT representatives on Faculty Council, also said he was in favor of the measure.

"I've been an NTT research guy for 20 years, and I know for a lot of NTT folks this would be a huge morale boost," Guyette said.

Tenured council members also supported the proposal, bringing up the fact that some schools — including MU — have large percentages of NTT faculty. NTT faculty teach 24 percent of all student credit hours at MU, according to data from MU Institutional Research.

As of November 2011, there were 708 NTT faculty at MU and 1,241 tenured and tenure-track faculty. The School of Health Professions has the largest percentage of NTT faculty at 66 percent, closely followed by the School of Journalism and School of Medicine.

On Thursday, many faculty members expressed support for allowing NTT faculty to vote, but some council members raised concern about whether having four NTT faculty members on council was truly representative of the entire NTT population.

The four non-voting NTT representatives on council each represent different types of NTT faculty — teaching, research, extension and clinical and professional practice faculty.

While NTT faculty account for 36 percent of the entire faculty at MU, the four seats make up only 11 percent of the current council, according to data from MU Institutional Research.

Professor Doug Wakefield with the School of Medicine said his school's faculty affairs council was interested in extending faculty rights to NTT faculty but was concerned about "muddying the waters" by changing another element of the proposal.

The NTT representatives said at Thursday's meeting that they support the proposal as it is — with four seats — and plan to save the question of proportional representation for a later time.

Associate teaching professor Nicole Monnier, another NTT representative, said it was important to find out how the rest of the faculty members feel before council votes on the proposal.

"We might feel warm and fuzzy here at Faculty Council, but we have been given lots of non-warm and non-fuzzies from the general faculty," Monnier said.

She said it's important to know what the objections are and address them before council votes so its position accurately represents the opinion of the faculty. Monnier has previously expressed that some faculty members prioritize research over teaching and service, so they might not agree with including NTT in the definition of faculty.

Faculty Council Chairman Harry Tyrer said he would present the proposal at the general faculty meeting Tuesday. The meeting will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Jesse Wrench Auditorium, Memorial Union South.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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