MU Faculty Council supports voting rights for non-tenure-track professors

Thursday, November 8, 2012 | 10:01 p.m. CST; updated 4:20 p.m. CST, Friday, November 9, 2012

COLUMBIA — The MU Faculty Council approved a proposal Thursday that brings non-tenure-track faculty a step closer to voting in campus decisions.

The next step is to hold a full faculty vote of all tenured and tenure-track faculty. If it passes, the proposal will go to the UM System Board of Curators for final approval.


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Also at the meeting, the Faculty Council was presented with the first draft of MU's strategy statement. The short statement, required by the University of Missouri System, must describe how MU will define itself within the system and achieve national prominence in particular areas during the next five years.

Beginning in fiscal year 2015, UM System President Tim Wolfe has said he plans to withhold 5 to 10 percent of state resources from the campuses and redistribute the money based on the institutions' successes in meeting the goals defined in the strategy statement.

On Friday, UM System spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead added that the redistribution will not occur until 2015 because each campus is still developing its strategic statement.

If the UM System receives more funds from the state legislature in 2014 than it did in 2013, Wolfe plans to redistribute the additional funds toward strategies identified in each campus' plan.

Vote on non-tenure-track faculty voting rights

The council passed the non-tenure-track proposal with a vote of 15-3. The decision affects about 36 percent of assistant, associate and full professors at MU who cannot vote in university policy decisions because they are designated non-tenure-track faculty.

Non-tenure-track faculty members are hired under one- and three-year contracts and do not have the potential to receive tenure.

At the end of 2011, MU had 1,949 full-time faculty members; 708 were non-tenure-track, according to MU Institutional Research.

The proposal would change the language in the University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations to define "faculty" as all full-time assistant, associate and full professors.

This change would also allow a revision in the Faculty Council's Rules of Order, allowing the non-tenure-track faculty representatives to vote in council matters, except on matters relating to promotion or tenure.

Right now, there are four non-tenure-track representatives serving the five designations for non-tenure-track faculty: research, teaching, extension, professional practice and clinical. But they cannot vote.

Associate teaching professor Nicole Monnier, an non-tenure-track representative, said she has received positive feedback from her non-tenure-track colleagues since voting rights were discussed at a Faculty Council meeting two weeks ago.

Monnier said non-tenure-track faculty are integrated into all structures of the university. She listed non-tenure-track faculty who are directors of theses, chairs and co-chairs of departments, and one — Lynda Kraxberger of the Journalism School — who is an associate dean.

"I like to call the NTT faculty 'the Canadians,'" Monnier said, "We walk about you, and you don't know the difference."

Much of the discussion about the proposal on Thursday centered on the role of non-tenure-track faculty compared with tenure-track faculty.

Vitor Trindade, an associate professor, was against the proposal. He said tenured-track faculty came to the university with a "broad mission," one that included teaching, research and service. He said he didn't think non-tenure-track faculty focused on all three of these aspects in their fields.

Trindade's point highlighted a broader issue. Several faculty members said they sensed a misunderstanding about the contributions of non-tenure-track faculty in one department compared with another.

Faculty Council Chairman Harry Tyrer said the council's task is to inform the general faculty on how much influence non-tenure-track faculty has in curriculum, in research programs and with students.

"It's an educational issue," Tyrer said. "Our colleagues need to understand that indeed NTT faculty have an impact on campus."

Before the proposal sees a full faculty vote, the council will host a faculty forum to discuss concerns faculty might have.

Tyrer said this forum has yet to be scheduled.

Strategy Statement

Also during Thursday's meeting, MU professors Pat Okker and Tom Phillips, co-chairs of the UM System Strategic Planning Committee, introduced the strategy statement draft for comment from the council.

MU's proposed goals in the draft are: Grow the student body, add tenure-stream collaborative faculty, increase revenue, increase sponsored research and offer more competitive faculty and staff compensation.

Council members tangled with the statement's language and offered suggestions to the planning committee.

Several council members said they disliked the phrasing that MU's "world-class interdisciplinary teaching and research," is "epitomized by Mizzou Advantage."

"Mizzou Advantage really only touches a small portion of campus," A. Cooper Drury, an associate professor, said.

Ratifying a strategy statement is the first step in Wolfe's strategic planning process, introduced in September.

Each UM institution is required to present a strategic statement to Wolfe by June 2013. The short statement should describe how MU will distinguish itself from other UM System campuses in the next five years.

"The statement should be one that not every university can use," Phillips said. "One that stands out from its peers."

Based on the statement's targets, Wolfe will redistribute up to $40 million of withheld state funds to the most successful institutions.

Tyrer said the redistributed funds at stake create competition among and within campuses. It also puts importance on crafting a successful statement.

"The statement should encapsulate our mission," Tyrer said. "We still have a lot of people to talk to and a lot of work to do."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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