U of L makes concessions in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 26 2022 

By Madelin Shelton —

The university has announced flexibility in its course delivery policy after significant pushback from the U of L community.

Faculty are now allowed to temporarily shift their mode of instruction from face-to-face to virtual and use remote work options in accordance with their supervisor or department chair. U of L updated the Emergency Temporary Leave Guidelines to reflect the new standards, along with the policy on flexible scheduling.

Guidelines for faculty are summarized as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate department chair.
  • If you’re concerned that your chair is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact your dean.
  • If you’re concerned that neither your chair nor dean are granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the Office of the Provost (provost@louisville.edu).

Guidelines for staff are as follows:

  • Express your specific request to your immediate supervisor.
  • If you’re concerned that your supervisor is not granting you flexibility outlined in the current policy and guidelines, contact the next level(s) of supervision.
  • If you’ve exhausted all levels of supervision in your chain of command and are still concerned, contact HR’s Employee Relations Team (emrelate@louisville.edu).

“The guidelines and policy mentioned below are in place to support our faculty and staff while still offering the highest level of instruction and service to our students. They are meant to be short-term solutions, and do not suggest that faculty may switch modes of course delivery for the entire semester,” the university said in a statement.

The change of course comes after U of L faced extensive criticism for requiring faculty to teach in-person unless they were sick with or exposed to COVID-19. The U of L Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, College of A&S Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and the United Campus Workers all spoke out against the original policy. A petition sponsored by the UCW demanding more flexibility in course delivery policy and stricter COVID-19 regulations garnered over 1,700 signatures. The UCW also held a rally and expressed opposition to the policy at a board of trustees meeting last week.

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Dean Owen indicates no change in course delivery policy Wednesday, Jan 12 2022 


By Madelin Shelton — 

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean David Owen responded to the uproar from faculty over the university’s policy of mandated in-person courses and reaffirmed the university’s stance.

After U of L Interim President Lori Gonzalez sent out an announcement to the entire university community informing them that the semester would be conducted as originally planned for both in-person and virtual courses, Owen sent out a reminder on Jan. 7 to A&S faculty reminding them to conduct courses how they were described in the Schedule of Courses.

A&S faculty began voicing their frustrations to the dean in an email chain over the weekend.

Owen sent a note to A&S department chairs on Sunday, Jan. 9. “I told them it was their responsibility to make sure these courses were taught as they were advertised,” Owen said. He said he expected faculty to abide by university policy, and failure to follow said policy could result in accountability, including disciplinary action.

Some of the deans and faculty viewed this as Owen threatening the faculty with punishment if they failed to teach the courses through their original method. He acknowledged that some individuals perceived this note as a threat, but Owen claims he was simply referring to the expectation that faculty abide by university policy.

Faculty complained the policy is inflexible for individuals who are, for example, vaccinated themselves but have young children at home who are unable to get one. When asked about this type of specific circumstance, Owen referenced U of L’s ability to maintain face-to-face courses throughout the pandemic the last year by implementing health protocols like masking and social distancing. He also mentioned the university’s vaccination rate of over 90 percent.

“Nothing has changed really in this occurrence,” he said. “You know, it’s a particular spike of a new variant but we’ve dealt with spikes in variants before while remaining on campus.”

He continued, “If faculty or staff have particular health concerns, whether it’s with their own health or health of family members in their household, whether they’re children or parents that might be living with them or somebody who’s immunocompromised, we have a family medical leave policy that can account for that. Folks have applied for that in those circumstances.” Faculty are not permitted to teach, even virtually, should they choose a family medical leave option.

Owen said the university crafts policy that prioritizes equity and accounts for all faculty, staff and students. However, some individuals have criticized this policy as detracting from equity. Dr. Tracy K’Meyer, a Professor of History at U of L, spoke on this point.

“In the dean’s note, he referenced treating everybody equitably. Part of it is that’s kind of a misuse of the term equitably. Equity doesn’t mean treating everybody the same, it means treating people based on their own circumstances.”

More than just faculty have spoken out against the university’s policy. A petition opposing it sponsored by the U of L chapter of United Campus Workers has over 1,500 signatures from faculty, staff, students and other community members.

The U of L chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the College of A&S Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee have released statements in opposition to the policy.

Owen did clarify that faculty were never given the autonomy throughout the pandemic to teach courses in a way that diverged from the chosen method listed in the original Schedule of Courses, unless they were exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 and temporarily needed to move instruction online. During periods when all courses were taught virtually due to the pandemic, it was a university-wide policy.

When asked if the university planned on changing its policy in response to the significant pushback it has received, Owen said “My understanding is there is no intention to change the policy at the university level and that is what I will follow.” However, he did mention that President Gonzalez and her team were constantly monitoring the ever-evolving circumstances of the pandemic and could change policy when deemed necessary.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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U of L AAUP rallies in opposition to new faculty policy Wednesday, Nov 3 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Multiple members of a U of L faculty group rallied Oct. 29 to pressure the Board of Trustees  to reject a proposed Faculty Accountability Policy. Despite objections, the Board of Trustees passed the policy and it went into effect Friday.

The rally, held in Grawemeyer Hall, expressed dissatisfaction with the new policy by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and called on the board to send it back for additional revisions.

“The FAP is a radical administration proposal for the disciplining of individual faculty members, including for various vague offenses, such as ‘disrespect’ and ‘chronic attendance problems,’” the AAUP said in an email to faculty.

Michael Cunningham, Professor and Psychologist in the Department of Communication and the current President of the U of L AAUP chapter, said, “We see that our rights and our prerogatives and the administration’s respect for faculty is being trampled. Then we were asked to endure pay cuts, benefits cuts and retirement plan cuts.”

The AAUP has outlined five problems with the policy. The AAUP claims it is in direct violation of the Redbook, the basic governance document for U of L. The Redbook gives faculty legislative authority over all policies and procedures pertaining to personnel.

This new accountability policy was drafted by a Faculty Accountability Committee created under former Provost Beth Boehm. The AAUP argues faculty control over the creation of this policy was inadequate according to the Redbook.

Dr. David Schultz is a U of L biology professor and the current Faculty Senate Chair. As the Faculty Senate Chair, he sits on the Board of Trustees as the faculty constituency representative. He does not see the new policy as violating the Redbook. “If there’s going to be bad conduct by the faculty which is going to be, and historically has been, a rare event, the administration still has the power under the Redbook to enact then some sort of corrective actions for that misconduct,” Schultz said.

The policy was in response to two separate incidents of faculty misconduct. In one a faculty member is alleged to have provided alcohol to underage students. In the other  a faculty member is alleged to have not completed the mandatory annual human subjects protection training.

Schultz said that part of the reason this policy was created was an inconsistency in corrective actions put upon faculty in different units. “If a faculty member in one unit did something, and another faculty member in another unit did the exact same thing, you could end up with a difference in how the corrective action was applied. This policy is meant to make it a consistent application across all units,” he said.

Second, the AAUP states that the policy embodies unilateral administration decision-making about disciplining faculty. The policy outlines an undefined supervisor who will investigate alleged faculty misconduct and determine the extent of disciplinary action. The AAUP had proposed a faculty peer review step to the committee, but it was not included.

When asked about the extent of faculty input on the policy, Schultz said that faculty feedback was included throughout the entire process. “The policy went through numerous different faculty organizations for faculty input.” Specifically, Schultz mentioned that the policy went through the Faculty Senate Executive Committee multiple times, the Commission on Diversity, Race and Equity, and the Commission on the Status of Women. All of these, Schultz said, have a dominant faculty perspective.

The AAUP  argues the policy lacks explicit due process and procedural justice protections.

The AAUP also says the policy ignores  the need for creative problem-solving in perceptions of misconduct. Instead, they claim, the standards include little more than “administrator-imposed punishments.”

Schultz stated that the policy does not create a new power for the administration to use against faculty and clarified that although the policy has been put into effect, that does not mean it can’t be changed and revised later. “The provost has agreed to report back on how this is being applied and if the faculty senate feels there is problems with this policy, the senate can then take action, request changes, and bring this up to the provost and to the president as well,” he said.

Faculty asked for an emphasis on creative problem-solving to misconduct, but it did not end up in the final version. The policy instead included the following: “Faculty behavior may warrant remedial action. For example, a faculty member may be required to complete University-mandated training.”

According to the AAUP, “Not only does the statement not convey any expectation of insight and creativity, but it conveys a top-down mandate rather than a collaborative solution in which the faculty member is an active and equal participant.”

Finally, the AAUP declares the policy undermines faculty morale by sending the wrong message at the worst possible time.

Cunningham also pointed to the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) report.

“The recent Harvard-U of L ‘Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education’ (COACHE) report documented serious levels of U of L faculty dissatisfaction in nine major areas, including Governance, Leadership and Compensation,” said the AAUP’s email.

Cunningham, who attended the rally, was given five minutes to lay out the faculty’s case in opposition to the policy. Current Provost Lori Stewart Gonzalez spoke in favor of the policy, and ultimately the board approved it.

Once Cunningham and other members of the AAUP saw the board’s intent to move the policy forward, they walked out of the meeting before its official ending.

Work on the accountability policy began in 2019.

To date, the policy has not received an approval vote from the Faculty Senate or any other governing body composed of faculty.

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