Faculty Senator

All the following is according to my information and belief. This webpage is to share information about the Senate and other information that I believe would be informative to faculty concerned with faculty governance.

The Letter. Recently a letter from some of our concerned faculty colleagues was widely circulated. It seems to have gone out to most faculty, at least those on University Central.  Here is a copy of the letter.

Records. For the Faculty Senate to be aware of what it has decided in the past and the deliberations of our respected colleagues, records are needed. While much progress has been made more is required. But even when they are posted, the records can still be hard to search. Thus, I have had the minutes compiled into two sets – the available minutes prior to 2010 and ones since 2010. Also, here are a number of committee reports available on an internet archive, the Way Back Machine. These both only go up to the end of 2014. More recent records are available on the Faculty Senate website.

Invalid changes in the Faculty Manual. In the late spring of 2012, when the on-line html version of the Faculty Manual was being prepared, changes were made in the Manual that did not go through the required procedure, stated in Part I, Chapter 5 of the Faculty Manual, a part of our contracts with the University. My understanding is that this invalidates the changes. This document indicates two sorts of changes. Those highlighted in yellow were approved by the Senate. Those highlighted in salmon (and bright pink) were slipped into the Manual without Senate approval.

The importance of the highlighted changes is that they make a conflict of commitment into a conflict of interest. The section on Disclosure was moved so that the same disclosure requirement apply to both sorts of conflicts, even for our “forty days.”. This has consequences. But whether or not one agrees with the import of the changes, for the university administration to unilaterally make changes in our contracts is egregious.

I have worked at this matter since 2012. It is a long story. For now, pressed for time, I only include the one document. It has been very difficult to obtain copies of documents. Indeed, the ad hoc committee on revision of FacMan has been very helpful – requests for information are stronger when they come from a committee of the Senate.

A $75,000,000 payout. If you wondered about the$75,000,000 settlement made by VU here is a copy of the lawsuit that was filed.

At the February meeting an important motion was passed unanimously. All voting is to be electronic and anonymous (except for routine matters and when there is some electronic disruption). There is a well-known paper in economics by Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith and his co-authors showing that it can make a difference in behavior even if only the experimenter knows the identity of the subject. The Faculty Senate typically has had non-anonymous voting (in the presence of the Deans, Provosts, and often the Chancellor). Might that make a difference in the willingness of Senators to say Nay after a chorus of Ayes? I suppose so!

This is my second year on the faculty Senate. It is very time consuming but mostly interesting.

Last academic year there were three great motions made by the Senate Affairs Committee concerning improvement of the minutes and records of the Faculty Senate. They have still not been put into effect, but hopefully they will be soon.

Last academic year an ad hoc committee was formed to deal with revisions to the Faculty Manual; I’m now on this committee. (More discussion on the Faculty Manual is below, under “Updated December 2013.”) The Faculty Manual has a procedure for amendments. Sometimes, as I wrote previously, this policy has not been followed. One such instance is, in the spring of 2012, a conflict of commitment (which concerns actual time spent on external activities, as defined in the Faculty Manual) was made into a conflict of interest (which, roughly speaking, concerns money). I have tried to obtain information about when these changes were made but no one, including the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and the Office of Conflict Disclosure) has acknowledged the changes. But they were made. Here is a document recently obtained from the Office of Conflict Disclosure. The yellow highlighted changes are the acknowledged changes made since the 2009 version of the Faculty Manual. The orange (or salmon) highlighted lines indicate changes made but not acknowledged. The unacknowledged changes were not brought to the Faculty Senate so clearly the procedures for amendments to the Faculty Manual were not followed.

Do the orange changes matter? I think so. One example is that, if you are negotiating with another university for a position sometime in the future, under the orange changes you should bring this to the attention of your Dean since you have a potential future conflict of commitment. In contrast, before the orange changes you need only follow the rules for resignation (notification of VU six months in advance, or three under some circumstances). Also, our contracts are not unilateral; the administration should follow the rules.

If you are interested in some case histories, there is an interesting AAUP document entitled “Faculty Handbooks as Enforceable Contracts” here:

In the one case cited from the State of Tennessee, a faculty handbook was viewed as an enforceable contract. My understanding is that all academic year contracts (letters of appointment plus the Faculty Manual – those relevant to policies rather than entirely informational) now include explicit reference to the Faculty Manual.

Concerning intellectual property, there is a lot of info about AAUP policy and essays/articles on intellectual property here:

This is now of some importance since there is a Task Force on On-line Education. Is an on-line course technology (like new software) or a scholarly endeavor? I think that an on-line course is to software like a book is to a printing press or a film is to the technology of making a film, and is thus a creative, scholarly endeavor. But I understand that there is some disagreement about this. If VU provides assistance for the development of an on-line course, then it makes sense that they have some share in any revenues that may result. But otherwise it is just like a textbook.

This academic year, I was elected to the Faculty Senate to serve a three year term and I aim to fulfill the responsibilities of the role.  These webpages are to be a means of communicating about the Faculty Senate and its activities. If you have any comments, please do let me know. My email is myrna.wooders@gmail.com.

The Faculty Senate is an important body of the University.  One of the main tasks of the Faculty Senate is to represent the faculty to the university in changes in our contract.  Along with our letters of appointment, the Faculty Manual serves as our contract with the University and the Faculty Senate represents the faculty in amendments to the Manual. That’s important! So I am happy to have been elected and to serve.

Since beginning my term on the Senate, I was a member of a group making a motion concerning violence on campus, which passed unanimously, and another group making a motion to allow a nine-month pay schedule for academic year faculty (almost all faculty in University Central). That came to a vote, with written (and secret ballot). The vote was 18 for, 18 against, so the motion failed. But it was very interesting; it broke the pattern on unanimous agreement of the members of the Faculty Senate on everything. See here for more information.

My current concern is changes is the Faculty Manual.

Amendments to the Faculty Manual: Amendments to the Faculty Manual for the prior academic year are to be archived and made available on the internet; see http://vanderbilt.edu/faculty-manual/part1-the-university-and-its-governance/ch5-amendments-to-faculty-manual/.

The Faculty Manual available on the internet prior to the summer of 2012 is located here. (This version, from my own files, was “bumped” when the new version was upload. The administration has declined to re-post this version on the internet). The Faculty Manual archived by the University during the summer of 2012 is here. http://vanderbilt.edu/faculty-manual/faculty-manual-archive/]. Some small changes archived for the academic year 2012-2013 appear at http://vanderbilt.edu/faculty-manual/manage/wp-content/files/Vanderbilt-Faculty-Manual-changes-2012-13.pdf.  But there are major changes that occurred for which there is no record in either the archived minutes of the Faculty Senate or in the archives of the Faculty Manual. For example, these changes increase the scope of actions that are designated conflicts of commitment and conflicts of interest. According to the minutes of the Faculty Senate, the Senate was not informed or consulted.

Archives of the Faculty Manual. The office of the Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs has made available some archived versions of the Faculty Manual here. One feature of these archives is that the archived version is not necessarily the version available during the academic year to which they are attributed.  For example, the archived version for 2011-2012 was made available in or about June 2012.  Thus, to the extent that faculty are informed about changes to the Manual, they are informed at the end of the year during which the changes were made.

Minutes of the Faculty Senate:  The Faculty Senate archives minutes of meetings of the Faculty Senate; some of the more recent minutes can be found here.  It is tedious to search these minutes since they are meeting by meeting, so I’ve had created one pdf of all minutes availablefor prior years.  There are some interesting facts that emerge from the minutes.

The Voting Record: It seems that, unless I’ve missed something, all voting has been non-anonymous and all motions recorded from 2010 to the current time have been unanimously approved, with the exception of one on gun control. (One Senator voted against prohibiting guns on campus.) Of course this is prior to our motion on allowing a nine-month pay schedule.

It is hard to understand the archived minutes since often the motions made are not stated in the minutes.  For example, in 2011 there was a report on transfer of technology and commercialization.  This report concerned the commercialization of innovations by Vanderbilt faculty and students and the distribution of returns to this commercialization.  I believe that innovators of profitable technologies would have strong feelings about this (even if they want to use the funds for their labs rather than, say, summer salary). But the report was heard in April 2011, and in May 2011, a motion was made to suspend the requirement that motions are circulated in advance. A motion was then made to adopt the conclusions of the report. The motion was unanimously approved.  (Which means that after a chorus of “Aye’s”, no one said “Nay”.) But from the minutes of the meetings, I do not know what the motion was. [The entire matter of transfer of technology and commercialization is now being considered by the Academic Policies and Services Committee, of which I am a member. Apparently, there has been some negative feedback.]

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, motions are to be included in the minutes.  It is completely reasonable. Roughly, the concept in my mind of the minutes of a meeting is that the minutes are sufficiently detailed so that, if I missed the meeting, I could read the minutes and attend the next meeting reasonably well prepared.  I would at least know what was done.

The current Chair of the Faculty Senate, Donald Brady, assures me that in future motions will be included in the minutes.

On the motion on violence on campusHere is a copy of the motion. I regard it as a signal that the Faculty Senate is well aware of the issues of violence on campus and deeply concerned about them.    For me, an important aspect of the motion is that it does not require faculty to engage in any training programs.   Hopefully it also signals the beginning of an era of more faculty involvement in the Faculty Senate.

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