University Council and Faculty Senate


February 2012, Volume 1, Issue 1

In this issue:
University policies
Plus/minus grading system
Guests in class
Office privacy
Position Announcement - FSPSPA

Welcome to Faculty Matters

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Faculty Matters. Faculty Matters was created to keep the faculty informed about relevant policies and issues affecting the faculty at NIU. Each year, the University Council makes new policies and revises, or eliminates, old policies. Some of these represent changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of NIU, while others concern changes to the Academic Policies and Procedures Manual (APPM). Both of these documents can be accessed from the University Council homepage, but many faculty might not be reading them regularly.

Historically, the print predecessor of Faculty Matters was The Faculty Bulletin which served some of the same purposes. The Faculty Bulletin was first published on April 1, 1940 and included the following items:

Students who are absent from class are to be readmitted to class upon the presentation of an "excuse card" from the Office of the Dean or may be readmitted to class for a conference with the instructor upon the presentation of an "admit card" from the Dean's Office.

I suspect fewer students were missing class in 1940.

Stencils used during:
1936 - 1937
1938 - 1939

If stencils and mimeographing are to be continued at the rate now desired, we will find it necessary to have not only additional money to buy supplies, but we will need to find additional space for mimeographing and additional help in the office to do this work...We would like to ask the faculty to be more careful in the use of stencils and mimeographing.

Anybody remember stencils?

The final issue (Volume 62, Number 2) was published in November, 1998. By then it had become a much longer, more elaborate publication that included articles, original poems and the minutes of University Council meetings. Of note, then president John La Tourette voiced his concern that the state comptroller's office was not processing vouchers against Educational Assistance Fund monies that had been appropriated to the various state universities. "We did not want to reach a point where we found that we would not be able to draw on the remaining $9 million of the $90 million of funding that we were guaranteed from the state for the Educational Assistance Fund." More evidence that some things never change.

Faculty Matters will not be as elaborate as The Faculty Bulletin eventually became. We will try to publish twice a semester for starters, and add special editions as necessary. I hope to keep it brief and informative and live up to our motto: All the NIU faculty news that's fit to email.

Alan Rosenbaum
President of the Faculty Senate

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A word about finding university policies

There are a number of places in which to find the various policies of the university. These include the Constitution and Bylaws, the Academic Policies and Procedures Manual (APPM), the Board of Trustees Regulations, and Employee Conduct, Accountability, and Ethics in the Workplace manual. The Constitution and Bylaws and the APPM can be accessed from the University Council homepage. There is a link to the BOT regulations on the BOT homepage, and the Employee Conduct, Accountability, and Ethics manual can be accessed from the HRS homepage. Policies related to student performance and behavior can be found in the undergraduate, and graduate, catalogs and in the Student Code of Conduct. The Student Code of Conduct is accessible from a link on the homepage of the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct.

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Graduate Council approves plus/minus grading system

At its November 2011 meeting, the Graduate Council approved a change to the NIU grading system that includes some plusses and minuses. The approved grading system adds the grades of A-, B+, B-, C+ and C- to the existing A, B, C, D, F, S and U options. Grades of C-, D, F and U are considered deficient/unsatisfactory and do not earn graduate credit. The changes apply only to graduate students taking courses for graduate credit. It is anticipated that the graduate grading system described above will be in use by the fall 2012 semester.

A recommendation for making similar changes to the undergraduate grading system was approved by the Faculty Senate but has not yet been adopted by the Undergraduate Coordinating Council. At present, a joint committee of the Faculty Senate and the Admissions Policies and Academic Standards Committee (APASC) is working to craft a system that is satisfactory to both groups. A poll of NIU faculty members taken by Faculty Senate representatives indicated strong support among the faculty for a grading system that allows for the assignment of plus and minus to the existing letter grades, at the discretion of the course instructor.

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Guests in class policy approved

While attendance at a class is generally restricted to registered students, there are many instances where non-registered individuals might attend. Examples are prospective students or visiting friends, parents, siblings, infants and young children of registered students. The assumption has been that these guests may attend class only with the permission of the instructor; however, NIU did not have a written policy to that effect. At its November 30 meeting, the University Council passed the guests in class policy by a vote of 29 to 13. The policy is as follows:

Guests in the classroom must have the permission of the instructor. When deciding whether a guest is appropriate, the instructor should take into consideration the effect the guest will have on the learning environment. Guests do not include those present on behalf of departmental, and/or university supervisory or security, duties. Those present for supervisory and/or security duties must, prior to class, notify the instructor of their intent to be present, except in emergency situations.

While this policy specifically excludes police and security, as well as those present for purposes of evaluating the class and/or the instructor, from the "guests" category, it does require that any police or security personnel and/or supervisory or evaluative personnel intending to be present in class (for security or evaluative purposes) must inform the instructor prior to class, except in emergency situations. Working dogs and personal assistants also are excluded from the "guests" category and may not be denied admission to the classroom.

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Office privacy policy to be included in the APPM

Here's a blast from the past. The office privacy policy was actually passed by the University Council on December 10, 2003, but somehow fell through the cracks and never made it into the Academic Policies and Procedures Manual (APPM). Nevertheless, it is university policy and will be placed into the APPM, Section I, Item 12, as it should have been nine years ago.

Access to the personally assigned offices, spaces, vehicles, tools and equipment, furniture or storage areas of NIU faculty (including emeriti), staff, or student employees is normally based on business need, balanced respect, common sense, common decency, and civility. Subject to established principles for stewardship of publicly owned resources, faculty, staff, and student employees are accorded the privilege of reasonable privacy with regard to their immediate university workplaces.

Representatives of the university may access its offices and all other areas for official reasons such as efficient operation, cleaning, inspections, repairs, maintenance, safety, security, property inventories and other similar business or operational purposes. These accesses should entail minimized intrusion to the operations of such areas. Except for routine cleaning, other limited accesses, or for emergencies, faculty, staff, and student employees will be provided notification of such access and, whenever practical, notification will precede access. In addition, the affected faculty or staff member or student employee will be offered an opportunity to be present during access, unless circumstances prevent it or make it impractical or unsafe. After an emergency access the office occupant will be notified in a timely manner about the reason for the access and the actions taken unless there are compelling reasons why this cannot be done.

Faculty and staff members are responsible for securing and clearly labeling any sensitive or confidential material, and are responsible for their own personal property.

Questions concerning application of this procedure may be addressed to the university privacy offier.

So, your office is your domain except when it isn't.

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Position announcement:
Faculty & SPS Personnel Advisor

The term of the current Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor, David Wade, is ending and he is not eligible for a second term. At its April 25 meeting, the Faculty Senate will elect a new FSPSPA for a two-year term to begin July 1.

The FSPSPA provides advice, advocacy and counsel to both faculty members and SPS employees. The duties and particulars of the position are described in Article 9 of the NIU Bylaws. The FSPSPA must be a full-time, tenured member of the faculty and, as noted in Article 9, should have "some experience with the personnel process at NIU and be familiar with the administrative structure and operations of the university."

Note that this is an 11-month appointment and is compensated. If you have questions, contact Alan Rosenbaum at (815) 753-9306. Interested faculty members should send a letter of self-nomination describing their interests and qualifications to Alan Rosenbaum, President of the Faculty Senate, 103 Altgeld Hall, by March 14.

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Important Links
University Council
Faculty Senate
2011-12 Meeting Schedule
Academic Policies & Procedures Manual
Statement of Professional Ethics for Faculty
State Pension & Budget Update
Vision 2020

University Council and
Faculty Senate

Altgeld 103