Faculty Handbook Nearly Ready for a Vote

Faculty President Marianne Poxleitner
Faculty President Marianne Poxleitner has led efforts to update the Faculty Handbook.

November 03, 2023
Spirit Magazine

Some may ask how many faculty does it take to revise their handbook?

But despite the jest in that question, faculty know the process has been a long, demanding and sometimes tedious one.

Members of the faculty have spent more than nine years revising, sharing, editing, sharing, reworking and reviewing again this 82-page document, which outlines such things as
rank and tenure, evaluation measures and academic freedom. The Faculty Handbook is a contract between the Board of Trustees and the faculty.

Faculty President Marianne Poxleitner, a biology professor, has spent a good share of her two terms helping move this process along. It has not been easy, understandably so.

Trying to represent the wishes of 460 faculty members is an arduous task.

Section 300 of the 2023 Faculty Handbook is the handbook faculty will be voting to approve in January, Poxleitner says. Sections 100 and 200 do not require approval to change, so when faculty talk about “the handbook” they mean section 300.

The faculty handbook committee summarizes improvements to the new handbook:

  1. New ranks offer new opportunities for promotion (professor of practice, three new clinical ranks, and distinguished professor).
  2. A new provision allowing lecturers to be appointed for more than three years.
  3. Many improvements to rank, promotion and tenure (RPT) sections:
    • Clarified and improved criteria; for example, the term “excellence” is replaced with “teaching effectiveness”
    • Scholarly and creative work criteria offer tremendous flexibility, giving new opportunities for different disciplines and evolving scholarly interests.
    • Clearer statement of RPT processes
    • Department/school documents describing RPT criteria will more strongly protect faculty and disciplines.
  4. Clarified Post-Tenure Review criteria and processes, where the criteria are “professional responsibilities” (section 300.05) rather than “excellence” via RPT criteria.
  5. Strengthens and expands academic freedom
  6. Termination process is better defined, providing stronger due-process protections to faculty
  7. Section 315 and 316 commit to regular updating and improving of the handbook.
“If the new handbook passes, we should never have to go through a complete revision again,” Poxleitner assesses.
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