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I say this with some caution, but it appears that things are looking up at the University of Washington. After five years of state and federal budget cuts, frozen salaries, increasing teaching loads, and unsustainable tuition increases, we’re finally seeing signs of financial recovery. The state legislature has reversed the downward spiral in state funding for higher education by passing a budget that will allow the UW to begin rebuilding our top-quality education and research programs while sparing students from tuition increases for the next two years. During the past year, we've seen many examples of strong cooperation among the faculty, the administration, the students, and the regents; and shared governance is alive and healthy.
Here are some of the issues the Faculty Senate will be discussing during the coming academic year:
Faculty Salary Policy: A long-standing problem at the UW has been persistent salary compression for long-serving faculty members, which has kept most senior faculty salaries far below those of our peers even as new faculty are hired in at competitive market rates. A 2000 revision of the faculty salary policy attempted to correct the problem, and had some success for a while in the mid-2000s. But with the recession, the salary situation for faculty has again become dire, and we are at risk of losing some of our most valued faculty members. Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, President Young in 2012 appointed a joint faculty-administration working group to recommend an improved faculty salary policy. That group has been hard at work developing a proposal for a major overhaul of the salary system, and will be discussing it widely in the university community this year.
Contingent Faculty: Last year, the Faculty Senate highlighted some disturbing trends in the composition of the faculty, including an increasing percentage of faculty members who are non-tenure-track, and an increasing number of lecturers stuck in one-year-at-a-time, non-promotable, and non-voting positions. Some progress was made last spring toward delineating future hiring policies that will help to reverse these trends, but more work needs to be done. The university will best be able to maintain excellence if we can ensure that most faculty positions are tenured or tenure-track, and that non-tenure-track faculty are treated fairly, predictably, and respectfully.
Intellectual Property: A recent Supreme Court decision (Stanford v. Roche) has prompted many universities to reexamine their policies regarding intellectual property created by faculty members in the course of their work. Members of the UW faculty and administration have been working together to study practices at other universities, with the goal of proposing a new policy that will encourage the development of creative works and promote their broad dissemination, while protecting the intellectual property rights of all involved.
Online Degrees: Last year, the College of Education initiated a new online-only degree program in early childhood and family studies. This year, we expect an online degree in social science to be proposed by the College of Arts and Sciences. The faculty will need to keep close watch on these developments and to ensure that the increasing use of online education is carried out in a way that is consistent with the overall educational goals of the university.
Academic Freedom: Late last spring quarter, the Faculty Council on Faculty Affairs proposed a major overhaul of the Faculty Code language on academic freedom. There was not enough time to act on it in the spring, but we expect it to come to the senate early in the fall.
Chair, Faculty Senate