Faculty Senate Minutes: Special Session

June 6, 2007

 

Officers attending: Nick Reeder, President; Jackie Myers, Vice President; James Brooks, Secretary

 

Senators attending: Derek Allen, Jennifer Barr, Moez Ben-Azzouz, Mark Echtner, Eric Kraus, Amanda Romero, Cindy Schoonover, Tom Singer, Charles C. Williams

 

Senators not attending: Mohamed Ali, Luis Gonzalez, James Houdeshell

 

Others attending: Laurel Mayer, Jim Shimko, Dona Fletcher, Sheri Rethman, Steven Johnson, Helen Grove

 

Nick called the special meeting to order at 2:30 pm in Rm. 7342.

 

1. Approval of Minutes

           

As a special session, no minutes were presented for approval. However, Nick recommended that the officers be allowed to approve the minutes for the meeting of May 30 and the special session on June 6.  Senators agreed.

 

2. Report from President Johnson

 

Dr. Johnson had requested time at the meeting ostensibly to discuss a proposal from the Board   of Trustees with respect to the Faculty Handbook.  He mentioned that he had a resolution from the Board to share, but first he wanted to use his time to provide an update on the state budget picture.  Essentially, he highlighted points from an email he had sent to Sinclair leaders on June 2.  The salient points of his discussion included the following: higher education is a high priority item for the upcoming state budget.  The legislature and governor see higher education as a force that will drive Ohio’s economy, but this will require becoming more efficient and more effective.  It looks as if the state will mandate a tuition freeze for the next two years. This will be a challenge for Sinclair, but the fact that our tuition is the lowest in the state should work in our favor as we head into the levy campaign. As the state budget goes into committee, the funding potential for Sinclair looks better than it did at the outset.  As part of the budget, the state is expected to call for “1% efficiency reductions” the first year, and “3% efficiency reductions” the second year.  These terms have yet to be defined.  There will be a “sense of urgency” with respect to completion rates, especially in STEMM (science, technology, math, and medicine) disciplines.  There will be added emphasis from the state to expand distance learning opportunities.  Dr. Johnson emphasized that Sinclair is highly regarded at the state level, noted as a “world class” institution, and that we would continue to build on our success, be on the leading edge of change, and he and others on his leadership team would do their best to advocate for Sinclair at the state and local level.

 

Finally, Dr. Johnson turned to the issue of the Faculty Handbook, noting that as a result of a lawsuit brought against the college by a former faculty member, which the faculty member won, the judge in the case observed that “your Handbook is a breeding ground for litigation.”  As a result, the Board passed a resolution which Dr. Johnson delivered to Senate. The resolution concluded as follows: “Therefore, be it resolved, that in recognition of the College’s vulnerability regarding the terms of the Faculty Handbook, the Board requests the President to implement a process to audit and revise the Faculty Handbook, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate, in order to create a well-constructed employment contract that identifies policies, procedures and general information in relation to contractual obligations and reflects sound, mutually agreed upon terms.”

 

3. FIT Report

 

Senate had received a revised FIT proposal via email prior to the meeting.  The proposal, in draft form, noted that it “does not reflect final decisions regarding compensation, as these decisions are made by the college’s Board of Trustees. Included in this document is a description of the context for [faculty compensation] goals and the future financial and policy conditions that, at this time, are known and understood as necessary to meet these proposed goals.”  The major elements of the proposal are as follows: For FY 2008, an increase in continuing base faculty salaries of 5% (to include shifting half of the current merit pool to base, effective 2008 and beyond); for FY 2009 and FY 2010, increases of 6.5%, respectively.  Contingent on the increases would be the college’s ability to pay, which would depend on a number of factors, including passage of a new levy, increases in enrollment, greater retention, state funding, improved efficiencies, etc.

 

The discussion that followed focused on whether faculty would support redistributing the merit pool, with half going to base, thereby reducing the pool in future years.  The fact that all faculty would benefit from the compounding that would take place from the application of merit money to base in 2008 was considered a positive by most senators.  What to do with the remaining merit pool, how to distribute it, will be addressed next year, assuming faculty support the current proposal. 

 

The major issue of contention with respect to the proposal had to do with the lack of metrics in the document.  Nick pointed out that the administration has proposed quarterly meetings to work on defining the metrics and communicating about any substantive issues related to the conditions of the proposal.  Several suggestions were made as to how to respond to the document, from agreeing to the first year, but suggesting we work on the terms of the second and third years before endorsing those, to agreeing to the three-year proposal as is.  Several senators cited the following passage as a sign of the administration’s commitment to the proposal: “It must be noted that the State of Ohio is moving into a phase of reorganizing and reforming higher education and that state level changes might include some currently unknown policy or funding change that would make reaching this goal [overall average salary of $69000 by FY 2010] impossible.  However, this goal is a firm commitment that will be reached unless doing so proves to be either functionally impossible or substantially unhealthy for the successful continuing operation of Sinclair.”

 

One senator commented, “Trust, but verify.”  Senate recommended to endorse the proposal with the understanding that the faculty and administrative members of the Faculty Issues Team would work on defining metrics in the coming year.  At the conclusion of the discussion, Nick agreed to send an email message to faculty summarizing senate’s comments and asking for feedback on the proposal.

           

The meeting adjourned at 4:00 pm.

Submitted by James Brooks

Approved by Senate officers: June 28, 2007: