Deaton, Wolfe discuss AAU rating with MU Faculty Council

Thursday, October 31, 2013 | 9:40 p.m. CDT; updated 6:04 a.m. CDT, Friday, November 1, 2013

COLUMBIA — Alice and the Mad Hatter were in attendance, but that didn't keep the MU Faculty Council from delving into some serious topics.

Some faculty members were in full costume for the meeting on Halloween, which University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton (neither in costume) attended. Wolfe gave a presentation about MU's transition team after Deaton retires on Nov. 15, and Deaton spoke about MU's Association of American Universities rating.

Wolfe said that although he does not have many specifics about the candidates for chancellor, the search is on schedule.

"We're encouraged, and hopefully we can make that announcement before Nov. 15," Wolfe said. "If not before Nov. 15, then shortly thereafter."

UM System General Counsel Steve Owens will serve as interim chancellor, with MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton as the transition leader.

In regard to MU's trajectory amid changing leadership, Wolfe said successful chancellor candidates are those in support of MU's plan for the future. He said candidates who do not share the university's values, such as improving MU's AAU ranking, will not be chosen.

"The charge to the search committee was very, very clear," Wolfe said. "AAU is critical, and if you don't understand it as a candidate, or you don't buy into the importance of it, you shouldn't be applying for this job."

AAU is an invitation-only association of 62 leading research universities. MU joined in 1908 and is currently one of the lowest-ranked members, council members said in previous meetings.

Deaton presented a report about the four principal measures by which AAU members are evaluated. Radiology and physics curator's professor Kattesh Katti compiled the report with a committee containing members of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Deaton said. Universities are evaluated based on federal competitive research, national academy members, faculty awards and citations of scholarly publications.

Deaton said the committee found that to strengthen MU's position in the AAU, it needs more "top flight" faculty, more infrastructure and support for those faculty, reallocation of funding and more faculty published in high-impact journals.

"Faculty are the only group that can drive us up, in the end," Deaton said. "You look at your colleagues at these public universities — they're all very hungry. They're also addressing this same issue. We have moved up, modestly, in some areas, and that's very good. So we're not at the bottom in most of the four key categories that we have."

The report gave possible reasons for MU's low rating in the four categories, including agricultural research not being seen as competitive, and faculty declining awards or exclusive memberships because of their fees in an attempt to save money.

"I appreciate that, in a sense, because of the budget environment that we've been in," Deaton said. "Our faculty have forgone some enormously important steps in order to save a penny, and it ends up costing us thousands of dollars. … We should never allow a penny to rob us of bigger funds that can improve the university."

Citations of scholarly publications represent the impact scholars have on their field, Deaton said. Raja Gopaldas, an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, said some faculty in the School of Medicine have criticized his focus on research because it doesn't count as billable hours and does not generate revenue for University Hospital. He said he has written 15 papers in the past three years with 307 total citations.

"I know for a fact there are people who have been on this for three years and have published zero papers," Gopaldas said.

Deaton said that issue isn't unique to the School of Medicine. In many other areas, faculty are faced with balancing research and teaching. He said effective balancing acts require good leadership on all levels.

Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts said Gopaldas' case is an example of administrators discouraging research. He said the report "has to carry weight."

"This report will be there to arm everyone," Deaton said. "It will arm faculty. It will arm administrative staff. It will arm the discussions that will continue on the campus."

The last Faculty Council meeting of the semester is Nov. 14. The UM System Board of Curators will meet Nov. 21 and 22 in St. Louis.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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