"We need to keep this as neutral as humanly possible," associate professor of nursing Rebecca Johnson told Faculty Council at Thursday’s meeting.
Johnson was one of many staff members to express concern about plans for the online non-tenure track faculty vote. The vote, which was discussed at a Feb. 19 general faculty forum, would extend campus-wide voting rights to NTT staff members. The vote was originally set to take place on a program called SurveyMonkey.
SurveyMonkey, an online survey service, allows users to create and distribute free questionnaires. It offers surveys "made easy" and access to different templates, the website states.
Johnson pointed out that the proposed program can allow a user to change selections and could be “very bad” for the NTT vote.
“This is a hot issue,” Johnson said. “And people are going to be very, very skeptical.”
Mathematics professor Stephen Montgomery-Smith, who was put in charge of organizing the vote, said that he noticed potential problems with the website when he started exploring it. He said he quickly realized he could change a person’s vote. He also pointed out that it was possible for someone to clear their results and vote again.
The vote could use paper ballots, Montgomery-Smith suggested. He also acknowledged that someone else on the council could watch over the survey or, if possible, they could put off the vote for another week.
“We could look for other software or shop around,” Montgomery-Smith said.
Professor of Biomedical Sciences Cheryl Heesch, a member of the Faculty Affairs Committee, said she thinks the council should consult with an information technology employee first. She emphasized that one of their systems could be more accurate.
“It seems like there would be a possibility that someone in information technology would have a system that they collect votes on,” Heesch said.
The situation ultimately needs to be locked down, Associate Professor of Political Science Cooper Drury said. He said that regardless of whether or not SurveyMonkey will be accurate, or even if someone was there to watch over Montgomery-Smith, it still creates a bad situation.
Douglas Wakefield, director of the Center for Healthcare Quality, mirrored this sentiment. He told Faculty Council it needs to be sure it has the process right.
“This has potential to be nasty,” Wakefield said.
NTT staff currently make up 36 percent of full-time assistant, associate and full professors on campus, according to MU institutional research. If passed, the vote will change the definition of faculty to include those who identify themselves as NTT. At last week’s general faculty forum, staff in attendance almost unanimously supported the vote.
This vote needs to be handled carefully, Johnson told the council. She said it shouldn’t come from Montgomery-Smith but instead from Faculty Chairman Harry Tyrer. He should be a central source, Johnson said.
Johnson also said that measures need to be taken to ensure people remember to vote.
“Faculty need a reminder about what the vote is giving them,” Johnson said. “What they’re going to get if they vote yes (or) if they vote no.”
Tyrer said that eligible faculty will be sent reminders. The vote was originally scheduled to take place from March 4 to 8 but could be delayed until later. There will be further discussions on voting options in the near future.