University Council and Faculty Senate - Northern Illinois University

FACULTY MATTERS

September 2015, Volume 5, Issue 1


This newsletter is designed to highlight policies, issues and events of interest to the faculty at NIU. It is shared with all university faculty to inform and stimulate discussion. The president of Faculty Senate, Professor Greg Long, compiles, writes and publishes Faculty Matters. Comments and suggestions can be sent to him at glong@niu.edu. Letters to the editor will be considered for publication. Letter writers must identify themselves and will be identified if the letter is published.

In this issue:
Faculty Senate President's Message
Faculty Club Lunches
Program Prioritization
Emeritus Faculty
Professional Excellence Awards


Faculty Senate President's Message - Greg Long

Thank you for your work to keep NIU strong. As faculty, we are the heart and soul of the university. Our work with students changes lives. Our scholarship and artistry advances knowledge, demonstrates creativity and engages students. Our service keeps the process moving forward. Fulfilling these expectations binds us together.

Appreciating the importance of these roles is particularly important at this time. NIU, like many public institutions, is at a critical juncture. We face crises in funding, recruitment and retention. Our future as faculty depends on successfully dealing with insufficient resources, increased accountability and ever-increasing workloads while maintaining control over core academic decisions and continuing to provide high quality education. The fiscal and programmatic perils we confront are not going away. In my 26 years at NIU, this is the most challenging time we’ve faced. The combination of pressures within (e.g., funding reductions, Program Prioritization) and outside (e.g., state budget impasse) create an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety.

As Faculty Senate president, I wish I could offer absolute reassurance that everything will be fine; however, this isn’t possible. In the long run, I believe we have the collective resources, ability and integrity to weather these crises and come out stronger. In the more immediate future, we will face challenges and hardships. Our lives as faculty members are changing.

In response, I would offer three suggestions. First, we need a renewed discussion of shared governance. As faculty, our most direct involvement rests at the program and department level. We have the preponderance of responsibility for policy decisions involving curriculum, admissions, academic standards and personnel. At the local level, most of us are very familiar with this type of participation in governance. In contrast, many of us are equally unfamiliar with the structure and function of governance bodies at the university level (i.e., Faculty Senate, University Council, Board of Trustees) and the specifics of NIU’s Constitution and Bylaws. I do not mean to offend with this comment. During my first 13 years at NIU, I was that person. I had little awareness of (or interest in) the bigger picture of shared governance. My focus was on scholarship and teaching. I mention this because we, as faculty, would benefit from developing a deeper background knowledge of faculty governance in higher education. Without that knowledge, our power and influence are limited. Through the Faculty Senate, we will address this by devoting a portion of each senate meeting to review and discussion of a shared governance topic. In addition, the Faculty Club luncheons (described below) will include a brief presentation and discussion opportunity about shared governance. Finally, each faculty senator has been asked to meet with me to share concerns, ideas and interests.

As faculty members, my second suggestion is to remember that we are scholars. When people are anxious, scared or uncertain, the tendency is to think rashly and respond emotionally. Again, this is not a criticism. As human beings, emotion often precedes thoughtful consideration. As emotion wanes, the importance of scholarship cannot be overemphasized. Our faculty are resources to be consulted. As scholars, our task is to find out what others have done to be successful. How can we modify what we learn from other settings to address NIU’s challenges?

Finally, I would encourage a renewed focus on civility. For example, when I am stressed and anxious, these feelings limit my ability to see and appreciate others’ perspectives. Based on what I observe, I’m not alone in this response. Recognizing this, I would encourage us to take the extra moment to remain calm when we feel upset. Responding emotionally to a student, staff member, or colleague can do significant damage to morale and trust. In these most difficult times, I urge all of us to remember the effectiveness of patience and respect.

I wish you the best of luck and success this academic year. The Faculty Senate/University Council office is located in 103 Altgeld. We are open M-F during regular business hours. If you would like to drop by or make an appointment, I encourage you to do so. I welcome your input because the only way I can represent the faculty’s concerns is to hear from you.

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Faculty Club Lunches

NIU faculty members are invited to join their colleagues throughout the university for lunch. Six Faculty Club lunches are scheduled this fall semester, targeting a consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday each month to accommodate varying schedules.

Time:
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dates:
September 8 & 9
October 6 & 7
November 3 & 4

Location:
Holmes Student Center Blackhawk Annex (located just east of the Blackhawk Cafeteria). Feel free to grab lunch at the Blackhawk or bring your own. No reservations are necessary.

Program:
Lunches will feature an opportunity to interact informally with colleagues and participate in a casual discussion about an article of interest. This month, we will discuss, “Understanding the Culture of Higher Education: What is Shared Governance?” This is a two-page blog that provides an overview of shared governance and includes several questions for discussion. Both lunches will discuss the same information. Hopefully, you will have time to read the article prior to lunch. If not, please come anyway because we will begin with a summary of the article.

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Program Prioritization

The Program Prioritization process is led by a Coordinating Team facilitated by Vice Provost Carolinda Douglass. Throughout the summer, the Coordinating Team met regularly. As president of the Faculty Senate, I attended these meetings as a non-voting participant observer. The committee appears to be taking a formative approach to the program prioritization process. That is, they are adapting it to meet the unique needs of NIU.

Significant effort has been made to communicate the team’s efforts through the Program Prioritization web page. The page includes links to NIU Today articles, FAQs, evaluation criteria, and additional information. Please be encouraged to review the page to learn more.

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Emeritus Faculty Recognition

Emeritus faculty were recognized by the Board of Trustees on August 27. Based on current NIU policy, the title “emeritus” or “emerita” is provided without a vote as long as the faculty member has retired in good standing at the institution. On behalf of the Faculty Senate, I offer sincere thanks to those granted emeritus status during 2014-2015.

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Professional Excellence Awards for Faculty and Staff

Each year, the university sponsors a variety of awards to recognize excellence in faculty and staff performance. Because our success as faculty members often hinges on the support and collaboration of our staff colleagues, I would like to recognize and thank everyone who received university awards during 2015. Congratulations to Northern Illinois University's newest VIPs.

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University Council and Faculty Senate
Altgeld 103 • 815-753-1732