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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
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Faculty Senate covers academic honesty, IT at September meeting
Discusses creating deadlines for responses by the administration to resolutions it passes

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 19, 2006) -- Faculty Senate heard updates on several crucial university issues such as academic honesty and information technology Monday night at its first meeting of the academic year. It also discussed language that would give Faculty Senate the ability to create a deadline for responses to resolutions it passes. 

Information technology

Committee reports

Some highlights of what to expect from Faculty Senate committees this year:

* Educational policy and student affairs -- David Ingram said this committee will monitor improvements in academic advising, grading appeals and changes to the academic catalog.

* Professional relations -- Norma Pecora reported that this group will bring forth resolutions regarding the Family Medical Leave Act and language in the faculty handbook about sexual harassment. It also will work on faculty categorization language in the handbook and faculty workload policies.

* Finance and facilities -- Joe McLaughlin reported that this committee will monitor Vision OHIO-related investments in faculty and the new responsibility-centered budget model. It also will provide an annual benefits update.

* Promotion and tenure -- Annette Graham said the committee will work on faculty handbook language regarding faculty classification and look at language about non-tenured faculty.

Compiled by Elizabeth Boyle. 

President Roderick McDavis distributed copies of a Sept. 6 letter he and Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt sent jointly to the faculty. It outlines four goals for the upcoming academic year: improving faculty recruitment and retention, assessing general education, giving faculty members a voice in information technology decisions and strengthening academic integrity.

McDavis also reported that progress is being made on the 20-point plan rolled out in July for strengthening the information technology function. Creating a perimeter firewall and phasing out the use of social security numbers are very high priorities. He also noted that the university is on track to hire a new chief information officer this fall, and faculty members are serving on the search committee. "This summer we focused our attention on moving forward with fixing our problems," he said. "We'll be updating you with reports throughout the year."

Also at the meeting, the senate agreed to work with Marjorie DeWert, director of the Center for Innovations in Technology for Learning, to create a faculty advisory board that will focus on academic technology issues. 

Academic honesty

Provost Kathy Krendl reported that she has appointed two academic honesty committees, one charged with considering the university's current practices related to academic honesty and recommending changes. "Our main focus at our last several meetings has been the Day of Discussion," committee co-chair Susan Sarnoff said. The universitywide event, set for Sept. 28, will involve discussion of policies, procedures, education and support for faculty and students. The group also has been discussing the implementation of a universitywide honor code as well as use of the online plagiarism detection program Turnitin.

Krendl charged the other committee with considering evidence against each individual accused with committing plagiarism in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, deciding if plagiarism occurred and, in those cases where violations did occur, recommending penalties. 

"Penalties will range from the possibility of rewriting, however it will be noted on their permanent record that there was a violation," she said. "In more egregious cases, degrees may be revoked."

Krendl added that the hearings are being held outside of University Judiciaries to prevent a backlog in that area. The hearings will be closed because they are protected by federal law. 

Also in her report, Krendl explained that with input from Vision OHIO's executive implementation team, she has announced three key areas that have been identified as priorities for funding and implementation: undergraduate education, graduate education and research, and faculty. 

As part of investing in faculty, she said the university will look at a variety of reports that have been compiled regarding faculty salaries. Over the next year, it will look at how many years it will take to increase faculty salaries in relation to peer institutions. "We do lag very much behind our peer institutions," she said. "Our goal was to raise our competiveness with those institutions."

Timeline for response to Faculty Senate resolutions

In other business, the senate discussed a resolution that would give it the ability to create deadlines for responses by the administration to rulings it passes.

"There is nothing in the handbook that says anything about what the timeline is for response to a resolution," Bernt said. Some resolutions require a signature from the provost, but there is no set period of time in which response is necessary. "Quite often, the status of a resolution is really not clear."

Senator Charles Smith responded to Bernt's request for input on the topic, saying nothing the body passes is binding. "Isn't this a gentlemen's agreement between Faculty Senate and the administration? It doesn't matter what we put in the resolution if it's non-binding."

Senator Ken Brown added, "What we don't like is when six months go by and we get no answer." He was referring to McDavis' comments during his update that he will have a decision for Faculty Senate in October regarding last spring's resolution calling for faculty representation on the president's cabinet and the appointment of a nonvoting faculty member to the Board of Trustees.

Bernt clarified that the conversation on creating timelines for resolutions is not a response to any specific resolution. It also was suggested that the senate be able to write specific deadlines for certain resolutions.

In other news shared at Monday's meeting: 

  • Faculty Senate will have an opportunity to present its concerns about university issues such as shared governance and faculty workload to the Board of Trustees in October. 
  • McDavis reported on the fiscal health of the university based on its composite score related to Senate Bill 6, which created a set of financial ratios that the Ohio Board of Regents compiles to track the fiscal health of the state's public universities. He said Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur will attend the October meeting to share more information on this topic. He noted that Ohio University will work to raise its relatively low score of 3.20 out of 5. The score is based in part on the amount of debt an institution has in relation to its expendable net assets. Before the institution takes on more debt, it must improve its year-end fund balances, McDavis said.
  • Plans are being made for the undergraduate catalog to be produced in a digital format, Provost Kathy Krendl announced, with a limited number of hard copies being printed each year.

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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