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Senators pass RIF resolution

By John Ashby

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 26 - March 30, 1995

The Faculty Senate passed a resolution last week expressing its concerns regarding a proposed major revision in the RIF policy contained in the Faculty Handbook.

The proposed policy was printed in draft form in last week's Spectrum. The resolution states that the Faculty Senate recommends that the Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA), which forwarded the RIF revision to the senate for discussion, should postpone passage of the policy. Before final action is taken on the policy by the CFA, the senate further recommends that it should carefully consider issues defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), reconsider issues discussed by the senate and input from other segments of the university community, and approve recommendations for section 2.11.3 (RIF for Programmatic Restructuring) in the Faculty Handbook.

In introducing the discussion of the proposed policy, Tom Sherman, head of the CFA subcommittee, said the Board of Visitors had expressed the need for a revision in the current policy. The subcommittee produced a policy that would allow the university to deal with a financial-crisis situation that would not qualify as financial exigency, Sherman said. He said the proposed policy would emphasize means other than termination in responding to a financial crisis. Program quality would be the primary consideration for the response in either a crisis or exigency, Sherman said.

Senators expressed concern on a number of aspects of the proposed plan. An issue that caused considerable debate was whether the university should "target" certain programs in the process of establishing the institutional goals to be used in long-range planning or in responding to financial problems. Such planning would prevent "a very awkward situation," Kerry Redican said, which would result "if the determination of the university's priorities" is driven by a financial crisis. Other senators said identifying or "targeting" departments or programs in such a planning document would be disastrous for faculty morale and productivity.

This area of discussion led senators to ask if there is a university-wide strategy or plan that defines institutional priorities under normal conditions. Senators also discussed the potential problem of a financial crisis being used to downsize or save money at the university.