- Some decisions at the academic unit level MUST be subject to shared governance per our union contract.
- In addition to review by an Advisory or Executive committee and/or vote of the full faculty, many of these policies must comply with specific standards across the university.
- UICUF leaders and staff are available to work with members on understanding and applying shared governance rights in your units. Contact UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if interested.
Last week we discussed some of the rudimentary structures of shared governance at the academic unit level, such as the requirements that all units have accessible bylaws and elected advisory or executive committees. This week we will consider the types of decisions our latest contract mandates be subject to shared governance at the academic unit level, and what guidelines those processes must follow.
Our contract, as well as university statutes, have always indicated situations in which shared governance MUST be applied, like the curriculum, faculty hiring, and standards for tenure, and promotion. Other decision making processes commonly incorporate shared governance by tradition if not contractual obligation. To ensure that faculty are able to get the most out of their right to participate in shared governance, we highlight three new issues below.
Per the new UIC United Faculty contract, every academic unit is REQUIRED to set a workload policy through shared governance processes. This is something university negotiators strongly resisted, and we had proposed this precisely because we had seen areas where administrators had been imposing increased teaching loads unilaterally. In some areas this will take assertive action, and UICUF leadership and staff stand prepared to assist you with implementation. Specifically, per Article XII.B of the faculty contract, these policies must “include a teaching statement that sets clear expectations for the teaching assignments, including course load and class size.” Moreover, these expectations can’t be changed without review via shared governance, so they can’t be updated unilaterally by administration without consultation.
Annual evaluations are another area for shared governance that units need to (re)visit in light of our latest contract. Our contract reiterates prior university policy that there be “a formal process that is open and equitable,” and goes on to establish that “student evaluation data shall not be considered in isolation….” The specific criteria included in teaching evaluations in your unit will depend upon what you determine through the shared governance process, though its important to remember that UIC does have guidelines on evaluations that must be followed.
New to our contract this year is the requirement that all units have procedures written into their bylaws that govern the reappointment of non-tenure track faculty. We have seen some cases in the past where a lone administrator made what appeared to us an arbitrary decision to not reappoint a faculty member. This decision making ought to be guided by clear policies, and be accountable to faculty.
But isn’t it All “Merely Advisory”?
The exact nature of the shared governance process will differ from unit to unit, based on what faculty think they need, but must ultimately involve decisions/recommendations being made by a vote of the full faculty, or by an elected Executive/Advisory Committee. Processes and resulting policies must be transparent and accessible to faculty. As the above matters are contractual obligations for university administration, failure to set such policies through appropriate shared governance principles is a contract violation which could be grieved by the union.
We understand that being “advisory” does not assure an executive officer for a unit will follow what faculty develop. However, we believe that the fact that the administration resisted contract language requiring shared governance in setting workload policy indicates that they do take it seriously. And we know that for most units on our campus, these things in fact do matter to many administrators. It is our responsibility to bring forward these requirements and self-organize our faculty to get them implemented. We have seen how the shared governance process can be an effective means for organizing your colleagues, and UICUF leaders and staff can help advise and support you around the specifics of your issues and processes.
If you have questions about how assert your rights to shared governance driven decision-making, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.
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