Senate clears up bugs

The Academic Senate convened Monday in UC 200 to iron out several complications of policy for sponsored grant programs.

After reviewing a brief presentation of some important points in the senate’s constitution, Senate Chairman Michael Botwin opened the floor to Provost Jeri Echeverria, who reminded senate members that some questions concerning Policy on the Assessment of Teaching Effectiveness (AM322), were yet to be answered.

Student evaluations of faculty deemed ‘broken’

This policy dictates and determines the results of faculty evaluations that students will fill out at the end of the semester.

Botwin said that the issue of an accurate faculty-rating system will be one of the biggest that the senate will have to grapple with this year.

“The faculty are very concerned about how they are evaluated by students,” Botwin said in a later interview. “It’s very apparent that the older system of rating faculty is broken.”

Senate seeks to clarify policy language

The Policy on the Administration of Sponsored Programs (APM 501) ultimately needed the most clarification. Vice Chairman Michael Caldwell offered his advice on how to phrase the document in terms that are short but concise. Caldwell’s suggestions had the aim of reducing redundancy and confusion in university policy.

Jeffery Cummins, Chair of the Research Subcommittee that evaluates policy at Fresno State, addressed and considered Caldwell’s recommendation until it was agreed that the matter should be postponed for further review by senate members.

Another miscommunication arose over an issue in the policy regarding indirect cost recoveries (AMP 503). The indirect cost recoveries (ICR) of a grant or contract award is the portion of the award that contributes to projects and expenses that benefit the university. Essentially, it is a charge to the sponsoring agency for use of space and other services that the university provides. It can be up to 40 percent of the total grant depending on amount and impact, but it is usually less than that.

Confusion came from the floor over an article concerning the wording of certain passages in the document. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeri Echevarria attempted to clarify a section of the policy allowing that a surcharge be assessed to the university “may not exceed 1 percent of grant or contract expenses.”

Senate member Jim Henson of the Department of Information and Decision Sciences was unclear about the word “expenses” in the text. Both Echevarria and Cummins explained that the passage referred to the entire grant, and not what was spent on its behalf. The senate passed the policy with the appropriate wording changes, but further revisions will be done by Cummins’ office to make the corrections.

‘Minor’ details require vigilance

Some of these issues in policy were discussed in the Academic Senate’s last meeting during the Spring 2008 semester and were put on hold until the recent meeting.

The Academic Senate typically meets the first Monday of every month. Most of the business of the senate is either handled outside of the meeting hall or waits until senate members can assemble to vote.

Botwin said that no matter how minor the concerns of the senate over policy-related issues, the goal remains to reach a consensus down to the last detail.

“It’s not that difficult of a change, there’s just a lot of language,” Botwin said of the decisions made on Monday.

A policy can go through a series of meetings and subcommittee reviews until it is given permanent status, but any senator can make a motion to change or modify content they deem appropriate.

According to Botwin, closely considering the details of any policy ensures that people don’t get the wrong impression when referring to them. It takes a trained eye to spot every contingency.

“A couple of years back, individuals involved in doing grants and contracts started looking at government requirements and found that we were out of compliance with some policies,” Botwin said, explaining the senate’s vigilance. “Some of our policies were just dated.”

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