While this digest is not comprehensive, it will help you navigate through a few of the most significant issues we are addressing this year. You can find reports, minutes, agendas, and documents for each of our meetings here. You can also read the addresses from President Anderson to the Senate and her messages to the faculty here.
We continue to make the case that strong universities depend on tenure and to try to educate the public about how rigorous and rare university tenure is. Many believe that it is simply a matter of time served in the position. The outgoing Board of Trustees added new provisions for System-wide additional post-tenure review in March of 2018. Board policy BT0006 mandated that the review happen every six years, in addition to annual reviews and the triggered EPPR provisions. The campus implementation plans for UTIA and UTK came through the Senate in September after being worked through the AAUP and Senate Executive and Faculty Affairs committees. We have raised concerns about the cost of the review, recommended that the new Board reconsider this policy, pointed out the increased reliance on non-tenure-track positions, and worked with the UFC to prepare a document for the new Board and now Interim President about faculty affairs and tenure. This white paper on the business case for tenure serves as an additional framework for approaching future questions about the value of tenure to the institution. We encourage all senators to apprise themselves of these issues and arguments.
#UTellOurStory and the OpEd Project
The senate is engaged in a series of media efforts to raise the profile of faculty at UTK/UTIA and universities generally, outlined in the presidential address at the Senate retreat on August 24. In September, we hosted the OpEd Project, a 2 day seminar for 20 faculty participants dedicated to an op-ed piece this year under the theme “write to change the world.” Under the leadership of Senator David Keffer, we have initiated a legislative outreach project to cultivate better relationships with our legislators and better understanding of our shared goals; sign ups to “adopt” a legislator are ongoing and include a guide to productive conversation and listening. We are also increasing our social media presence through Twitter and FaceBook, with initiatives like #facultyfunfactsfriday, regular updates, and an emerging series of video PSAs featuring professors who support their students. That series is called “Working for Tennessee” and can be found on the Senate’s YouTube channel, through the #UTellOurStory hashtag, or through social media.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Free Speech
2018 rocked our campus with incidents of anti-Semitic hate speech from white supremacists. The SPLC reports on these groups, who often target universities, and tracks their spread and growth. Within our community, the Senate has responded by denouncing these acts, education efforts, and shows of support for those targeted. Our first United at the Rock event in February of 2018 captured some of that support, and the project continues on February 20, 2019 as United at the Rock: Remember, Serve, and Celebrate. The “Remember” component will include teaching work around racism, free speech, fascism, homophobia, and community dialogues, as well as the painting of the rock. The “Serve” component will feature a service fair with community facing partners. And finally, the “Celebrate” segment will happen in fall 2019, with a community dinner on ped walkway and reports out on the volunteerism and community efforts on the campus. The issues are painful, thorny, and at the intersection of the safety of our community and the importance of free speech. President Anderson addressed some of these issues in her September 25 address to the new Board of Trustees at the announcement of Randy Boyd as the next interim President of the UT System. On November 19, 2018, we passed a resolution calling for a chief diversity officer, something every other SEC school has, at the Chancellor’s cabinet level. We continue to push for that outcome and to support campus services like the Pride center, the Veterans Center, the Play it OUT project, and STRIDE training, among other things, as material evidence of a welcoming and inclusive campus.
As the university begins conversations about a new budgeting model, we continue to press for budget and documentation transparency. The Senate Budget Committee’s report gives a current glimpse into the issues, which include our faculty salary survey, our living wage report, and an outline of the questions around System and Campus budgets. As a related issue, we also continue to press for more timely agendas and materials before the Board of Trustees’ meetings, something to which Chair John Compton has committed himself.