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Welcome to Faculty Senate

Kate O'Neill, Chair of the Faculty Senate

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to a new academic year! I’m honored to be chair of the Faculty Senate for 2014 - 2015. It looks like this year will be a period of relative stability, both in terms of the economy and the UW administration, and that gives us an opportunity to complete three significant projects begun under the leadership of my predecessors in this job – Susan Astley, Jim Gregory, and Jack Lee.

Faculty Salary Policy.  The biggest action item likely to come to the Senate this year is a proposed amendment to the faculty code to implement a new faculty salary policy. The policy is designed to ensure that excellent faculty will be consistently and appropriately rewarded for achievement over the course of their career. The Faculty Council on Faculty Affairs is now drafting the proposed legislation. In the meantime, I urge you to take the time to learn more about the proposed policy. You can find more information here on the Faculty Senate Website.

Hiring, Promotion, Retention & Mentoring of Instructional Faculty:  All three campus administrations, and all appointing units, need to clarify and improve their policies and practices for instructional faculty appointments. Last year, task forces from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma collected data and studied numerous issues pertaining to Lecturers, and the Provost and the Senate appointed a tri-campus committee to recommend university-wide policies for hiring, retention and promotion. The task forces identified a host of problems, including inconsistent and opaque appointment, reappointment and promotion processes, and low morale among many lecturers.

Lecturers are the fastest growing cohort of the faculty. Many have short-term, contingent contracts. Some units lack clear criteria for determining whether a need should be met through a tenure-track or an instructional appointment. Unpredictable funding has made some units reluctant to offer long-term appointments even though the instructional need may be long-term. Faculty often delegate authority for quarterly and annual lecturer appointments to administrators, paying little attention to the appointees or the effects on a department or its students.

I will charge multiple Faculty Councils to follow up on these reports, also on the Senate Website, and recommend necessary code changes and best practices for ensuring that instructional faculty are appropriately recruited, appointed, and rewarded for excellent teaching. We will need to monitor progress on this issue because it will require a culture change in some units.

Intellectual Property Ownership and Management:  UW faculty basically generate intellectual property for their livings, but UW policies have not kept pace with the many changes in law, technology, and the academic economy. Patentable inventions are just one kind of IP. On-line course materials, websites, big databases, and software are also potentially very valuable IP. Dwindling public financial support, escalating costs, and resulting pressures on university budgets have increased incentives for faculty to do outside consulting for pay. Faculty and the UW are also pursuing various kinds of public/private partnerships. These outside relationships require clear policies for intellectual property rights and management.

The UW administration has embarked on an essential comprehensive review and update of its intellectual property policies and management practices. On behalf of the faculty, the Senate’s Special Committee on Intellectual Property (SCIPC) will pay close attention to the details, working with the administration to protect faculty interests and academic freedom, and the public interest in access to information and inventions. We will be working to educate faculty on these complex issues and we will be reporting periodically to the Senate.

There are many other important topics that I can’t cover in this space but that we will be working on this year. In particular, I am interested in helping the faculty as a whole to develop a long-term, coherent strategy for advocating for public education as a public good. I also am committed to maintaining Susan Astley and Jim Gregory’s leadership on faculty demographics. Their work reveals that we have a lot of work to do to increase and retain a truly diverse faculty and to eliminate unjust disparities in working conditions, rank or status, or compensation for any member or cohort of the faculty.

In closing, I want to welcome Norm Beauchamp (Radiology) as incoming vice chair of the Senate. His understanding of south campus issues will be invaluable. I also want to thank the Secretary of the Faculty, Marcia Killien, and the Staff of the Faculty Senate Office – Nancy Bradshaw, Jed Bradley, and Grayson Court. Their brains, experience, diligent work, and good humor, make shared governance possible and my job enjoyable.

Kate O'Neill, Chair of the Faculty Senate

Kate O'Neill
Chair, Faculty Senate
Professor, Law