Faculty senators opened their December meeting with a memorium resolution honoring Dr. Steven R. Myers, who passed away on Dec. 4. Myers was a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and had worked at UofL for 25 years.

Senators approved an endorsement of the resolution and offered a moment of silence.

Meredith Cooksey provided an update on the Student Government Association, including the passage of next year’s budget. The election for next year’s leaders is in February and the SGA is aiming for a 20 percent voter turnout. Typically, turnout is under 10 percent.

Finally, the SGA has submitted a proposal to have a student representative on the UofL Foundation board.

Angela Lewis-Klein provided an update from the Staff Senate’s November meeting, which included a presentation from Justin Mog on sustainability initiatives at UofL, as well as Harlan Sands, COO, who provided construction updates around campus. 

An extensive conversation took place with HR Executive Director Jeanell Hughes about the FSLA changes affecting many staff members. And, in response to the news about UofL’s probationary status from the SACS accreditation body, the Staff Senate has reaffirmed its statement sent to Governor Bevin earlier this semester.

Faculty Senate Chair Enid Trucios-Haynes provided the chair’s report, noting her attendance at a Nov. 29 Board of Trustees meeting and the upcoming Executive Committee meeting. Trucios-Haynes also attended a new board member training held by the CPE, which included a discussion about the relationship between foundations and boards. Best practices for boards were discussed, with the suggestion of setting fundraising priorities.

Best practices also suggest foundation board representation be reserved for fundraisers, but it is important to include faculty, staff and students as ex-officio members “at least.” 

Planning meetings are underway for a campus-wide unity event in January. Trucios-Haynes said the objective is to bring together everyone on campus to reaffirm our commitment to /diversity and providing a safe and welcoming environment in response to fears about policy changes from a new administration.

A discussion was held on the growing sanctuary campus movement and a letter about DACA that has been signed by 495 university presidents throughout the country. All ACC presidents have signed the letter except for UofL, Clemson, NC State and Georgia. Trucios-Haynes noted that the letter essentially supports non-citizen students, of which there are about 2,500 in Kentucky. Her full report is available online

Discussion items

An extensive discussion was held regarding UofL’s new probationary status for SACSCOC Accreditation. Many senators expressed their concerns about the status. Acting Provost Dale Billingsley said a handful of students have also asked about the effect this could have on their degree.

“There are obligations that SACS expects us to fulfill and that will require more than a lengthy report from us,” Billingsley explained. “That means a substantive change in university governance and control of external influences.”

He said SACS typically provides a warning and then a sanction before probation.

“Probation is the last step before removal of accreditation, so that they went right to probation sends a message about the gravity of the issue,” Billingsley said. “This is mostly an issue with board governance and in our case it’s related to the governor.”

The objective in the next year is “to remove as much external influence as possible.”

“We have to resolve these issues to continue reaffirmation,” Billingsley said.

One senator noted that he is “scared” mostly because of Governor Bevin’s reaction to the news about UofL’s probation status.

“He said we haven’t done anything to threaten accreditation, which is different than what SACS has said,” he said.

Billingsley said it’s important for UofL to lobby heavily that this accreditation is crucial to our operations.

UofL has until fall 2017 to remedy failures of compliance at which time SACS will clear or continue probationary status. A university cannot be reaffirmed accreditation if it’s on probation.

“The soonest we can go off probation is December 2017. The soonest our accreditation can be reaffirmed is December 2019,” Billingsley said.

He added that the administration does not expect this to affect UofL’s student recruitment efforts. Faculty recruitment, however, could be affected.

“Students are remarkably indifferent about this. Parents are concerned. But the recruitment of faculty could be an issue,” he said.

Finally, probationary status does not affect financial aid for students, but does affect some grants.

This recent development spurred the Faculty Senate to reaffirm its statement sent in early October, “endorsing the Student Government Resolution of September 13, 2016,” which can be found online.   

The Faculty Senate further states that it “emphatically opposes any action by Governor Bevin or the Kentucky Legislature that threatens the university’s accreditation with SACS or represents external influence of the Board of Trustees in violation of SACS standards.”

Faculty senators also discussed Board Chairman Larry Benz’s recent letter to the campus community explaining why a presidential search to replace Dr. James Ramsey has not started yet. Although the Redbook requires faculty consultation on the hire of a new president, the board can adopt its own procedure.

Faculty senators discussed the election of a faculty committee for this presidential search, to aid in that consultation. Senators agreed to ask each dean to conduct a search using the same procedure they use to identify faculty senators. The committee should be in place sooner than later, so when the search starts, those members are involved right away.

Interim Provost report

Billingsley provided a report in addition to the SACS updates, including an update on the Salary Equity model that was initially developed in 2015 and distributed to deans for their input in July. Since then, library faculty has been added and other adjustments have been made. Most increases are small ($100 or so) but together they add up to a large number, Billingsley said.  He also reported that that the equity adjustments would not be retroactive to July 1, 2016.

Staff salary equity has been delayed by FSLA, with a projected range expected sometime in January. Staff members benefiting from this initiative have not been notified yet.

On the personnel front, there are two dean searches – College of Business and Brandeis School of Law. The College of Business recently had a “promising visit” from one of its finalizes, from William and Mary, and Brandeis has received about 20 applicants. Also, Dean Fox, from University Libraries, is up for his 5-year review.

Harlan Sands, COO, is leaving for another opportunity. Acting President Neville Pinto will provide recommendations to the Board of Trustees on how to proceed with this search. The search for ombudsman also continues as Dr. Bob Staat fills in in the interim. The goal is to have the job posted by March 1 and the position filled by July 1.

Billingsley ended his report by encouraging faculty senators to attend December graduation on Dec. 15 to send a positive message to the graduates and their families and the public.

Committee reports

The meeting concluded with the following committee reports:

Academic Programs: Did not meet

Committee on Committees and Credentials: Online

Redbook and Bylaws: Documents have been reviewed for Dentistry and Engineering and hope to be ready for review by the January meeting.

Part-Time Faculty: Members met with Hughes to discuss health insurance issues with some part-time faculty. Hughes plans to bring business manager procedures to HR to help with any other issues for this group. Members asked Hughes to help create a manual for part-time faculty, an idea she liked. Part-time faculty are eligible for the employee assistance program.

Planning and Budget: No report

Executive Committee: Report online

Faculty Athletic Representative: No report

The next Faculty Senate meeting is Jan. 11 in Chao Auditorium at the Ekstrom Library.