Policy may interfere with Faculty Association’s contract

Some teachers believe the finals week policy being enforced by Provost John Nicklow may contradict the Faculty Association’s collective bargaining contract.

The policy, which dates back to before 1981, states teachers should not distribute final exams before finals week. Nicklow sent out a memo to deans, chairs and directors before the semester began as a reminder to relay the policy to teachers.

Nicklow’s secretary said he would not be available for comment Wednesday.

The memo included additional requirements that any changes an instructor wants to make to a final, including having no final at all, must be approved by the department’s chair or director, which was not in the original policy. The memo also stated that instructors must provide a copy of their syllabus to the chair or director at the beginning of each semester.

Randy Hughes, president of the Faculty Association and an associate professor in mathematics, said the two additions to the policy in the memo contradict the union’s contract with the administration.

After 16 months of negotiations that ended in a seven-day strike, the Faculty Association’s members voted to settle on a contract Nov. 30, 2011.

He said Article 10 of the contract, which is titled academic freedom and faculty responsibilities, states faculty members have the right to select their instructional materials and evaluation processes, including whether they offer a final exam. Faculty members are not required to provide an explanation to their chairs or directors, Hughes said.

Teachers are not required to give a final exam, though, Chancellor Rita Cheng said. The memo only implies that if a final exam is held, she said, it needs to be given during finals week.

Hughes said another issue with the policy is the requirement to provide a syllabus to department chairs and directors. He said according to added material in a section of the Faculty Association’s contract regarding intellectual property, copyrights and patents, the faculty member’s course syllabus is the property of the faculty member. They are not required to provide it to their chairs or directors but only to hand it out to their students.

Tony Williams, a professor in English, said he thinks it should be the instructor’s decision whether he or she gives the syllabus to the chair or director.

“If the instructor feels uneasy about handing over the syllabus to the chair, then the instructor has every right not to do so,” he said.

He said personally, though, once he gives the syllabus to his students he considers it public property, so it shouldn’t matter if the chair or anybody else sees it as well.

The contract, in fact, requires faculty to distribute syllabi to their classes, Cheng said.

“My position is we clearly have a right to ask for a copy, and that’s not contradictory with the requirements that students get a copy,” she said.

It’s not an intellectual property issue, Cheng said, because the intellectual property addendum refers to traditional academic work such as handouts, tests and grading policies. She said the university respects those as intellectual rights, but the syllabus is merely an outline of the semester, so it doesn’t fall under that category.

Hughes said while he thinks his two concerns invade the union’s contract, he also agrees with Nicklow that students should not be given their final exams before finals week.

Williams said he believes the issue could have been handled in a more collegial and humane manner.

“The memo went out before the semester actually began, and rather than deal with a problem and resolve it satisfactorily without making it a big issue, the administration has again shown its capacity for very bad management,” he said.

Cheng said it was necessary to remind faculty of the policy because administration received word last semester that instructors gave out exams before finals week.

“Our purpose is to really ensure that students get the very best educational outcome, and they have the time to do their best,” she said.

 

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About Tara Kulash

You can reach Tara at tkulash@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 255.

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