Faculty Council spring agenda eyes diversity, Title IX, raises

Issues like cultural competency remain an important topic, but council members believe mandatory cultural competency courses are unrealistic.

Faculty Council will kick off the spring semester at its first public meeting of the year Thursday.

Council members said they plan to continue discussions on a myriad of issues impacting faculty and students throughout the semester.

Advancement of Diversity

The council will discuss the advancement of diversity and cultural competency on campus over the next semester.

One of the major ideas students time and again voiced during the Dec. 1 Ferguson Listening Session was a mandatory cultural competency course.

Angela Speck, chairwoman of the council’s Diversity Enhancement committee, said the idea is not new to Faculty Council and she believes it is not realistic to implement.

“We already voted (against) that a couple years ago, it’s not going to happen,” Speck said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t do something that is in the spirit of what is being asked for.”

Speck said one way to address this issue is by enhancing cultural competency on campus.

Speck said MU students have taken a number of voluntary surveys over the past few years and the results indicate a stable level of cultural competency over four years. Speck said the results show incoming students are relatively culturally competent, but move through MU’s curriculum without significant improvement.

“We can do better,” she said. “But we have to think outside the box.”

Speck said MU needs to not only bring cultural competency to its students but also to its faculty. She said this may be a difficult task.

“Faculty are often completely unaware that their students are not like them,” she said. “Or if they are aware, they go about trying to be inclusive in a way that actually calls out the minority rather than including them.”

Cultural competency training and improvement is possible, although it will take some creativity, Speck said. She said that with such a sensitive issue, educators need to be careful about how they approach teaching.

“If I came to you and said, ‘you’re racist’, regardless of if you are or not, you’d be upset,” Speck said. “Nobody wants to be told that they have prejudices. You have to be subtle.”

Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts said he agrees race relations need to be addressed in a thorough and meaningful way in 2015. He said the events in Ferguson brought a litany of pressing social issues to light.

Roberts described the listening session as particularly moving.

“Students spoke into open microphones about mistreatment they suffered because they were black. I believe them,” he said in an email. “They were all saying the same thing. It was disturbing to us — the faculty who were present. It was also disturbing to the administration, including the chancellor, who wants to see this addressed soon.”

Title IX reforms

Faculty Council will continue its deliberation on Title IX policies, which protects students from sexual discrimination in public institutions.

Roberts said the council and the UM System Board of Curators are currently working on a new executive order that will modify and improve the university’s mandatory reporting policy and ways campuses handle Title IX cases.

Roberts said the next executive order, expected to come out during the Board of Curators meeting in February, has been discussed heavily and will likely be the most complete version of the policy to date, complementing previous changes to Title IX policies.

Prior to this discussion, UM System President Tim Wolfe implemented Executive Order 40, which mandates all faculty members who witness or learn about an incident of sexual harassment to report the nature of the incident in full detail, including the names of the victim and perpetrator.

Wolfe introduced this policy after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” report alleged that MU officials mishandled a 2008 sexual assault case involving former Missouri running back Derrick Washington.

The mandatory reporting policy came about very quickly with little faculty input, Roberts said.

“We’re kind of sprinting when we probably need to jog a little,” Roberts said. “I can tell (Wolfe) wants to do the right thing, he’s just plowing so far ahead that the discussion is not there.”

Speck said she would like to see room for confidential reporters in the newest version of the policy.

Speck said such a provision would mean that a victim of sexual harassment could talk through his or her ordeal with a faculty member without having to file an official report.

“Say you want to talk about a sexual harassment issue,” Speck said. “You can’t talk to a professor unless you want to report it. I’m looking for ways to make it so there are more places you can have that conversation safely.”

Raise Distribution

Faculty Council will also spend time discussing the use of Association of American Universities metrics in evaluating faculty performance and allocating raises.

Harry Tyrer, chairman of the council’s Faculty Affairs committee, notes a perception among faculty that some highly productive teachers have been overlooked in the evaluation process when using AAU metrics.

AAU metrics consist of two distinct phases, according to its website.

Phase I indicators are a measure of an institution’s prowess based on faculty awards, citations in published research, membership in national academies and federal research grants.

Phase II indicators consider the number of doctoral degrees awarded to faculty, the quality of an institutions undergraduate curricula, the number of postdoctoral appointees and the amount of agricultural, state and industrial research funding an institution receives.

Tyrer said the university’s abrupt switch to the use of AAU metrics in faculty assessment left many short-changed.

“This is like telling students, ‘we’re going to give you grades and if you guys get high grades we’re going to give you scholarships,’” he said. “And then somebody turns around and says, ‘yeah, but we’re going to give the better scholarships to only those who take physics.”

Raises were given in different pools last year and the 2 percent merit pool, which awards raises to highly productive faculty outside the top 20 percent, was the source of dissatisfaction, Roberts said.

He said many hardworking faculty members in this pool didn’t receive a raise that was big enough to keep up with the cost of living adjustment. In effect heir real salaries went down.

“It’s like you’re penalizing people for doing good work,” Roberts said. “They’re productive, everybody knows they’re productive, but they lose money.”

In order to identify those faculty members who were slighted, Faculty Council created the Ad Hoc Committee on Raise Distribution. The committee is expected to finish its work during the first weeks of March, at which time more information will be available.

Roberts said he doesn’t believe the committee’s findings will affect MU’s future use of AAU metrics.

“AAU (is) here to stay,” Roberts said in an email. “It is an indication of excellence which sets us apart from other colleges and universities. I am told that AAU membership gives MU faculty ‘a place at the table.’”

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