Faculty Senate discusses grant policy, SIU reputation

Resolution asks for administrators, faculty to protect university image, refrain from criticism

 Grant funding changes and university portrayal were discussed by the Faculty Senate Tuesday.

The Faculty Senate talked about the effects of grants on campus, as well as its rights to speak about the university, with both topics causing tension among senators.

The senate spent the most time discussing grants, policies and funding.

Research conducted by Sen. James MacLean, an assistant professor in the department of physiology, found that grants for $50,000 and $100,000 per year are actually causing the school to lose money, he said. He pointed to a new policy, implemented in August, which requires tuition costs for research graduate assistants to be funded from these grants, instead of the university’s budget. The downside to this, he said, was that instructors received less money to fund their own research.

MacLean said he submitted the information 10 days before the grant policy change’s signing.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the policy passed through different groups of people, including the Graduate Council, before she received it. Blaine Bartholomew, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, said he was told the Graduate Council had little-to-no input on the policy or how it would affect the university, and the council only collected grant funding facts.

“The concern that I have is that this is an example where input from those who know on campus was not sought, nor asked for, and I think that’s a concern,” Bartholomew said.

Cheng said she attended Graduate Council meetings where  groups of faculty held discussions and presentations, and she did not hear anything regarding lack of input.

Bartholomew asked Cheng to recheck her sources regarding this information.

“If there is a flaw here, then let’s work it out,” Cheng said.

Senators also expressed concern about a resolution to urge trustees and administrators to protect and enhance the university’s reputation.

The resolution states: “The Faculty Senate requests and requires trustees and senior administrators use discretion when making comments concerning the (u)niversity or other trustees or senior administrators and that trustees and senior administrators conduct themselves at all times in a professional manner that will protect and enhance the reputation of the university.”

Some senators said they thought the resolution was a good idea, and it is good for faculty and administrators to not say things that hurt the university’s reputation. Other members argued the resolution would cause the school to look bad. They said the resolution appears as if it is asking faculty and leaders to refrain from criticizing SIU, claiming the resolution is a means of censoring university members.

“In regards to the issue of free speech, there’s absolutely nothing in this resolution that in any way addresses or affects free speech,” said  Ken Anderson, a professor of geology. “Don’t confuse free speech with public speech. … To preform your duties (as Faculty Senate members), you don’t have to get into … public pissing matches.”

The senate voted to discuss the matter on a later date.

Meera Komarraju, associate professor of psychology and senate president, said the topic of faculty welfare is the most important issue the senate needs to deal with.

Komarraju said the chancellor is trying to project a positive image for the school, and she thinks the resolution is a good idea because faculty should not talk poorly about the university because it hurts everyone.

 

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