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The Daily Wildcat

 

Senate hashes out ‘Academic freedom’

Timothy Galaz / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Timothy Galaz
Timothy Galaz / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Correction:

The Sept. 15 article, “”Senate hashes out ‘academic freedom,'”” about this week’s Faculty Senate meeting, mischaracterized a speech by John Warnock, a professor of English.

The article mischaracterized Warnock’s speech to the senate, saying he was dissatisfied with the administration’s approach to differential funding because faculty in departments bringing large amounts of grant money do less teaching.

In particular, a quote from the article, “”They didn’t choose to become educators. We did,”” incorrectly depicted Warnock as attacking other academic departments for not bearing the brunt of teaching courses at the university.

In actuality, Warnock said special interests outside the university who award grants and contracts “”didn’t choose to become educators.””

Warnock’s actual speech said a department’s ability to bring in grant money shouldn’t be the only factor in determining funding, but that grants and research remain an important part of the university. Warnock said, “”It is necessary to do all we can to increase grants and contracts.””

Warnock’s complete remarks to the Faculty Senate can be found underneath this updated version of this story. The misleading paragraphs have been removed. The Daily Wildcat regrets the error.

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By the end of the year’s first meeting of the Faculty Senate, academic policies were refined, faculty frustration was vented, and a student leader was slightly embarrassed.

The senate opened its meeting last night with a moment of silence for professor of surgery Dr. Charles F. Zukoski, who recently died in a car accident. The quiet, however, did not last long.

Faculty, administrators and students shared the floor, some times more peaceably than others, at the two-hour meeting, which covered a range of issues from faculty inclusion in the UA transformation decision-making process, to the university’s imminent transition to a new information technology system.

Shelton addressed concerns that differential funding has provided “”an incentive to teach less”” for some departments, as funding has been allocated less on enrollment or other student-based factors and more on individual faculty research.

As a few other senators raised similar concerns, Shelton responded by saying that the administration has made an effort to include faculty bodies such as the Faculty Senate and the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee (which is meant to be a faculty consultation group on budget issues) in all decisions.

Nevertheless, law professor Andrew Silverman said after the meeting that he and other faculty remained frustrated by what he perceived to be a dearth of faculty input.

“”I don’t know how the faculty was included,”” he said. “”I’m not sure the faculty was included.””

The issue of faculty inclusion was raised again during discussion of a proposed new method for faculty to report their academic activity known as the Professional Evaluation Tool Sets, which in the past has been done on paper but which may soon move online.

As various faculty members voiced concerns and objections to the proposed system, professor of English John Ulreich said that whether the system would be useful or not, the main issue was that the system could be imposed on faculty without their consent.

“”We’re not voting on this, folks,”” he said. “”This is something that’s going to happen.””

Also on the agenda was a proposal to define the term “”academic freedom,”” which is used on various university policy documents but was, before last night, undefined, leaving the door open to ambiguous interpretations of the term in the context of faculty complaints.

The new definition — which was approved, although not unanimously — states, among other things, that “”academic freedom is essential to the fundamental mission of discovering and advancing knowledge and disseminating it to students and the society at large.””

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Chris Nagata, who sits on the senate, requested that the proposed definition be amended to include more student-specific language, including a clause that would allow students to reject class work they deem offensive.

“”Not to ruffle anybody’s feathers, but I think it should be somewhat of a two-way street,”” he said.

The suggestion was met with widespread laughter, grumbles and even boos from the faculty.

“”It’s not what you said, it is the notion that anybody should get to tell faculty what they should or shouldn’t do,”” said Wanda Howell, nutritional sciences professor and former chair of the faculty.

Howell also proposed a resolution, which passed, condemning a recent revision to the Arizona Board of Regents’ student conduct policy that allows students to bring guns on campus if they remain inside a locked vehicle.

“”This is not appropriate, and it’s important that we get it on the record that we resolve such,”” she said.

Near the end of the meeting, Shelton asked faculty to go easy on students who may need to miss class because of the flu, which has been among faculty unrest and the budget crisis as problems mounting for the president.

“”We need some good news on this campus,”” he said. “”I’m still looking for that.””

 

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Remarks to Faculty Senate, Public Comments, September 14, 2009, John Warnock

I’m John Warnock, Professor of Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English in the Department of English and former faculty senator.

I’d like to address my comments to President Shelton and Provost Hay and would like to begin by thanking you for your efforts to meet the challenges posed by the current financial crisis. I know that you, and of course many others, are working very hard. The options are not happy ones. But of course there are better and worse ways of proceeding under the circumstances.

In your memo to the campus community of August 24, you wrote that making across-the-board cuts to deal with the current crisis would not show much courage. I agree with you. So does every member of the university I’ve talked to about this. The need for “”differential funding,”” to use the term that has become current, seems to be generally acknowledged.

But I hope you will agree with me that it also wouldn’t show much courage if we were to make distinctions simply on the basis of a unit’s record or potential in getting grants and contracts. Making distinctions on that basis alone certainly wouldn’t show anything like an educational vision. It would make of our university not an educational leader but an entity that exists primarily to serve the interests of those who give those grants and contracts. They have their reasons for doing what they do. I take it that those reasons don’t necessarily match ours. They didn’t choose to become educators. We did.

Of course it is necessary to do all we can to increase grants and contracts. And of course there is no point in having a vision if you have no hope of having the means to realize it. At that point, vision becomes delusion. But I believe that in an educational institution, those who are deciding what happens with the means we do have must have a larger program than maximizing means, or, to use the more common locution, “”building on strengths,”” if that means supporting only those of the university’s many “”strengths”” in a position to get grants and contracts.  

In an educational institution, there has got to be more to the story than that. I hope there is more to the story than that. In recent budgetary decisions, I’ve haven’t been able to see this “”more”” yet and would be grateful for any news of it.

Thank you.

 

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