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1999-2000 - March 29, 2000

Faculty Senate Minutes

March 29, 2000

Present: Darlene Bay, Richard Brucher, Tom Byther, Ted Coladarci, Richard Cook, Chris Cronan, Shirley Lee Davis, Bill Farthing, Ed Ferguson, Marc Girard, M. — for Michael Grillo, Theresa Grove, Diane Haslett, Knud Hermansen, Peter Hoff, Jim Horan, Keith Hutchison, Richard Jagels, Melvin Johnson, Richard Judd, Harvey Kail, Justin Kelleher, Roger King, Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, Irv Kornfield, Jan Kristo, Judy Kuhns-Hastings, John Maddaus, Chuck Maguire, Cynthia Mahmood, Ivan Manev, Kathleen March, Kyriacos Markides, Jim McClymer, Jim McConnon, Chris Moody, Bruce Nicholson, Harlan Onsrud, Howard Patterson, Eric Peterson, Paula Petrik, Robert Rice, Donijo Robbins, Alan Rosenwasser, Steve Sader, Thomas Sandford, Jane Smith, Owen Smith, Gloria Vollmers, Ione Hunt von Herbing, Anatole Wieck, James Wilson, Don Zillman

Absent: Bruce Barber, Paul Bauschatz, Phyl Brazee, Hsiang-Tai Cheng, Steve Cohn, Daniel Dwyer, Rebecca Eilers, George Elliott, Ray Fort, Michael Greenwood, Timothy Griffin, Dana Humphrey, Leonard Kass, Judy Walker, Lynn West

I. Welcome and Sign in

The meeting was called to order at 3:15.

II. Approval of Minutes

Paula Petrik moved and Jane Smith seconded that the minutes from last month’s meeting be approved. The motion passed by clear majority.

III. Announcements

a. The President’s Council on Student Service: The purpose of this committee is to promote, evaluate and monitor student service projects. Oversight of service learning projects that are completed for credit as well as those that are carried on without receipt of academic credit is contemplated. Faculty named by the Senate is needed.

b. Promotion and Tenure Minimum Standards: As a result of inconsistent minimum standards across units of the campus, the administration is currently in the process of setting a floor level of standard, which can then be added to by each unit. Richard Brucher wondered what would happen if the administration’s floor were in conflict with the department’s floor. Jim Horan stressed that this is a contractual matter.

c. Update on Chancellor’s call for help to promote the liberal arts. A group of faculty has indicated interested and has already met with the Chancellor. Another group within the College of LAS is working on gathering data useful for this project. Other interested faculty should contact Gloria Vollmers.

d. Inform your colleagues that upcoming motions appear both on the Faculty Senate Web Site and in first-class in the Faculty Senate Folder. Gloria Vollmers stressed that the faculty senate cannot adequately represent faculty members who are not kept apprised on motions and studies under consideration of the senate. Elected members need to find a way to keep their colleagues informed. Use of the first-class folder provides a means to make comments.

e. William Wells of USM is chair of a system committee on writing and revising the System’s policies on Intellectual Property. These policies are far reaching and involve the responsibilities and rights of the University and the creators of properties (from books to bacteria) created with University support. It is important for faculty from this campus to read the proposed document and return comments. Nicholson stated that the “15% of net income” generated from intellectual property (broadly defined) which goes to the faculty/creator is very low compared to what colleagues at other schools receive. Knud Hermansen moved, and Kathleen March seconded that the Research Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee take responsibility to review the document. The motion passed. Anyone else who would like a copy can send an email to Gloria Vollmers. Don Zillman stated that if the committees believed that substantial revisions are necessary, the approval process could be delayed to allow time for the necessary discussions.

f. Harvey Kail announced that two activities related to the class book are upcoming. On April 5 in 107 D.P.Corbett at 7:00 the writer/producer of the video, “A Midwife’s Tale” will be speaking. On April 11 in Minsky Recital Hall at 4:00 and on April 12 in Bangor Lounge at 12:15, the author of the class book, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, will speak.

g. Kathleen March announced that work on the Faculty Handbook is proceeding. Some parts are available at www.ume.maine.edu/facsen. Comments are requested. Also, Kathleen March provided some history about Maine Day.

IV. Presentation: Gloria Vollmers presented Senate Resolution thanking those who work for the Onward program and introduction of Onward Personnel: The plaque was presented to Jerry Ellis, Director of Onward and he presented his staff.

V. Questions of Administrators

Owen Smith expressed the concern of many faculty members that there is no progress in a contract for staff. Hoff replied that the process is forced to wait on legislative action. Additional compensation may be possible if the legislature approves that use of the budgetary excess.

VI. Committee Reports

a. University Environment: Ed Ferguson. No report.

b. Research and Public Service: Harlan Onsrud. Members are requested to read the report on indirect cost allocations on first-class.

c. Academic Affiars: Owen Smith. At the next meeting, the committee expects to have completed a motion on Faculty review of administrators and will have a report on its review of residency requirements.

d. Finance and Institutional Planning: Bob Rice. No report.

e. Constitution and Bylaws: Michael Grillo. No report from Rome

f. Committee on Committees: Jane Smith. There are still 4 vacancies. Interested faculty should contact Jane Smith.

VII. Old Business

None

VIII. New Business

Motion on Workers Compensation Pool for Research Assistants on Funded Research Grants: Harlan Onsrud.

Summary of Problem

The workers compensation approach used on campus in regard to student

Injuries related to research grants appears to have a “chilling effect” on the research efforts of at least some faculty members. This faculty is choosing to avoid research proposals in certain areas due to the perception of greater economic risks for their grant or department budgets in the event that an injury to a graduate student research assistant should occur.

Summary of Recommendation

Beginning as soon as possible, a fringe benefit rate of 2% will be applied to the salaries of all graduate students on all externally funded research and grant proposals. The 2% fee on student salaries charged of funding agencies will be used to accumulate a pool of funds. These funds will be used to pay workers compensation claims by graduate students working on all future research grants (i.e. those to which the 2% fee has been applied). Robert Duringer has indicated that this approach may be implemented with a simple letter directive to the Office of Sponsored Programs with no need to seek approval from off campus administrators.

Background Discussion

“Workers compensation” laws cover all employees of the University. When students employed by the university are injured on the job, it is the responsibility of the university to cover the costs of the injury as opposed to the individual or the individual’s insurance company. This applies to all research assistants, teaching assistants, student hourly wage earners, faculty, staff, and indeed to all employees of the University.

Workers Compensation in Practice: The UMaine administration has taken the stance that it is the responsibility of individual academic and research units employing teaching or research assistants to cover the costs of on-the-job injuries except in the case of “extraordinary” expenses. This applies to on-the-job injuries of all faculty, staff, and employed students. A minor injury resulting in a couple hundred dollar medical expense (e.g. stubbing your toe on your office desk) is typically not considered an extraordinary expense and the cost would typically be covered by your department or research unit funds (although exceptions may apply). A major on-the-job injury (e.g. broken leg) would typically be considered an “extraordinary” expense and the campus currently has a $50,000 annually budgeted pool to handle the extraordinary medical expenses for university employees (some eligibility exceptions apply).

Appeals for assistance from the central pool must be made in writing to the Director for Human Resources. On rare occasions, even a single on-the-job injury might exceed $50,000 (e.g. $30,000 medical expenses for knee surgery plus wage replacements over a number of years) but this typically would then be considered as a specific item in the university’s overall budget. Each campus in the University of Maine System is self-insuring. On very rare occasions the University of Maine System (UMS) may cost share in some settlements concerning employee injuries.

Individuals covered by workers compensation typically are not allowed to sue the university for damages for their on-the-job injuries. However, there may be instances when liability exposure arises (i.e. a professor advises a research assistant to follow a procedure that is inappropriate and results in physical injury to the student). The university has liability insurance for these situations and as long as the professor is acting within the bounds of their employment they are unlikely to incur personal liability for such unintentional actions that cause injury.

A Few Examples:

1. If a faculty member is sitting at his desk at the university grading homework and a spider bites him on the head resulting in $200 medical damages, the academic department must pay the expenses and the department is typically not reimbursed from the central pool … although an appeal to the pool may be made. The same holds true for employed teaching assistants grading class assignments or employed work-study students working at their jobs.

2. If a faculty member is sitting at his desk working on a research project (for which he charged fringe benefits for professional and classified employees to the funding agency) and a spider bites him on the head, the research account is charged the $200 medical expense but is automatically credited back $200 to the same account in the same month. Thus no increased financial burden accrues to the research account.

3. If a graduate student research assistant is sitting at her desk working on the same research project and a spider bites her on the head, the research account is charged the $200 medical expense … although an appeal to the pool may be made. However, the appeal typically will be frowned upon since it is the university’s position that any externally funded project should completely support itself and thus use of the centralized pool (approx. $50,000 in recent years) to pay off student research assistant injury claims is inappropriate.

4. In any of the above three scenarios, if your desk is at home rather than physically at the university when you are injured by the spider, your insurance company or you typically are responsible for the costs since the university does not have the responsibility of maintaining a safe work environment in your home. If a formal agreement exists between the employee and the administration to accomplish work at home, workers compensation is more likely to apply for an injury while “on-the-job” at home.

5. In any of the above three scenarios, if you are at an on-the-job field location teaching or doing research when you are injured (or on your way to or from), the results of 1 though 3 don’t change.

6. Some principal investigators have budgeted the direct costs of additional insurance into their research grants in order to cover extra dangerous research tasks (i.e. working on the ocean, working with certain machines, etc.). This is not typical since workers compensation applies and any injury damages over a few hundred dollars typically would be considered “extraordinary” and typically would be paid from the pool. However, there is no guarantee that any amount, large or small, will be approved by administrators from the pool (i.e. any amount might be thrust back on the department or research account for payment) and therefore some researchers have been more comfortable buying additional insurance in some instances.

7. If you cut off your finger at the university carrying out a job-related task, that injury typically is covered by worker’s compensation. If you have a heart attack in your office, that injury is typically caused by many other than work-related factors and therefore the university will argue that the claim should be covered by your insurance, not workers compensation. Numerous other issues may come into play in specific injury situations.

Further Comments:

1. If the recommended approach is used, a fringe benefit rate of 2% will be applied to the salaries of all graduate students on all externally funded research proposals. Some units on campus have seldom or never had on-the-job student injury claims filed against the unit (e.g. students are typically engaged in very low risk research activities in the library or sitting in front of a computer). The new approach will increase agency costs of doing research with these units. The counter argument is that all units on campus are better off in knowing that all workers compensation claims charged against their research activities will be covered by a central pool of funds.

2. We explored the possibility of applying a fringe benefit rate to externally funded student research assistant salaries that would cover health insurance in addition to workers compensation as is done at many other universities. Most UMaine graduate students currently enroll in the current campus student health insurance program (all foreign students are required to enroll), obtain their own health insurance (often through their parents), or do not have health insurance. In the long term, a fringe benefit rate that covers health insurance probably makes sense. In the short term, it is probably better to deal with workers compensation immediately and address the far more complex issue of health insurance over time.

Motion:

Beginning as soon as possible, the university should apply a fringe benefit rate of 2% to the salaries of all graduate students on all externally funded research and grant proposals. Graduate students working on future research grants and contracts will use the 2% fee on student salaries charged against funding agencies to accumulate a pool of funds against which workers compensation claims may be paid (i.e. those grants and contracts to which the 2% fee has been applied).

Discussion

Harlan Onsrud stated that the 2% figure in the motion was computed by Bob Duringer. McClymer asked if a similar rate is used at other institutions. Since those rates typically include other fringe benefits, it is difficult to compare.

The motion passed by clear majority.

Motion on Mid Semester Student Evaluation Form: Harlan Onsrud.

Background:

The Special Committee for Further Development of a Faculty Evaluation Form has concluded the following:

1. Many faculty are unsatisfied with the student teaching evaluation form circulated and encouraged for use by the University of Maine administration at the end of each semester.

2. After numerous attempts at arriving at a replacement end-of-semester evaluation form that would better meet the needs of students, faculty and the administration, no consensus on an appropriate replacement has arisen.

3. Encouraging instructors to voluntarily solicit mid-semester information from students towards improvement of their teaching seems to make some sense.

As such, the Special Committee for Further Development of a Faculty Evaluation Form recommends that the Faculty Senate pass the following motion.

Motion:

The President of the faculty senate shall send electronically the attached message (or a very similar message) to all faculty members at the University of Maine on or about the third or fourth week of each new regular semester.

BEGINNING OF SAMPLE MESSAGE

Subject: Mid-semester Teaching Evaluations

Dear University of Maine Faculty Members,

At the end of each semester the university administration requires the completion of teaching evaluation forms by students in each of your courses. However, the faculty senate is very concerned about the lack of systematic use of formative teaching evaluations on our campus. Formative teaching evaluations are more suitable for aiding instructors in improving teaching and communicating with students.

In addition, many faculty have found early and mid-semester evaluations to be valuable tools in improving their classroom, teaching, and learning experiences. Although the use of mid-semester teaching evaluations is completely voluntary, we highly recommend that you try this assessment technique if it is not already a part of your regular teaching assessment routine.

Therefore, we encourage you to use a “formative” teaching evaluation form with your students one or more times during the semester in each of your classes. One such form is available at http://www.ume.maine.edu/facsen/eval.htm but many others also might be used. Since the purpose of the form is self-improvement and communication with students, the form should be returned by students directly to the instructor rather than to the administration.

No matter what purpose they are put to, student evaluations represent only one source of information about teaching performance: student opinion. Student evaluations, self reports, reports by colleagues, and measures of student learning all contribute to a body of evidence useful for self-improvement decisions by instructors and for comparisons among professors. If you are interested in additional techniques for improving and assessing your teaching, we highly recommend that you contact the Center for Teaching Excellence at 581-3472 or www.umaine.edu/teaching and the general literature.

Sincere wishes for a productive and exciting semester,

Gloria Vollmers, President

University of Maine Faculty Senate

END OF SAMPLE MESSAGE

Discussion:

Richard Judd expressed concern that, according to the sample form, students would not have anonymity. Onsrud replied that every instructor could make that decision, but that the sample form had been used successfully.

The motion passed by a clear majority.

IX. Adjournment.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:05.

Respectfully Submitted,
Darlene Bay
Secretary

 


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Faculty Senate
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E-mail: kimberly.junkins@umit.maine.edu
The University of Maine
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