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AF.07.01
December 4, 2006

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN SENATE

Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure
(Final; Action)

AF.07.01, Resolution on Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Shared Governance Pertaining to the Proposed Global Campus Initiative

Background

The Global Campus initiative has generated much concern amongst faculty members of the University of Illinois. Concerns coalesce around issues of quality of academic and professional programs, feasibility of the business enterprise as conceptualized in the May 2006 Global Campus Report, and questions about shared governance, transparency, academic freedom, and tenure. In accordance with Senate Bylaws, Section D.2.(a) the UIUC Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure has examined these issues and offers a rationale for shared governance. The Committee asks that the Global Campus planning process become more substantively invested in values and procedures associated with the principle of shared governance, as prescribed in the University of Illinois Statutes. We maintain that in order to ensure that the educational programs offered through a UI Global Campus are of the highest standards, and that the Global Campus is both relevant and competitive in the on-line education marketplace, that the faculty members of the University of Illinois must believe in this initiative, must have a real hand in its development and implementation, and must be genuine partners in maintaining its academic reputation. Shared governance, academic freedom, tenure, and quality are intertwined within this great university.

The University Statutes are clear in both intent and procedure.  The UI Global Campus, operating as an educational entity affiliated with the University of Illinois must be envisioned, organized, and governed according to principles contained in the Statutes. Shared governance is our way of conducting our academic business at the University of Illinois. Many of the concerns that have been raised by faculty members about the viability, potential profitability, and educational quality of the new Global Campus will be addressed when the Global Campus is so conceptualized. We note with disappointment that the Global Campus Start Up Team, whose names the Senate is not permitted to know, proposes a plan for an educational entity that circumvents our Statutes and truncates faculty authority in both the planning and the administration of the Global Campus. Under these conditions such an entity will fail to realize its UI potential for providing the highest quality educational opportunities to its distance-education students. Asking the University to launch any educational enterprise to be operated outside the Statutes closes out the checks and balances central to the Statutes, disengages the wider faculty body from its responsibility to ensure the academic quality of all of its educational programs, and compromises the integrity and security of the entire University of Illinois academic enterprise.

Faculty representation and shared governance fosters academic excellence, creativity, growth, diversity, and integrity. The value of faculty governance is self-evident. We have one of the best educational systems in the world. Faculty governance does not exist without both elected faculty representation and openness in decision-making procedures. Without a transparent and faculty-driven organizational structure and an administrative mindset that is invested in and mandated toward building consensus in consideration of varying perspectives from diverse individuals, we run the risk of creating a business enterprise subjected to the will of a limited number of selected individuals. We observe from business and political sectors outside of the university that top-down, authoritatively managed enterprises and agencies are sometimes prone to concealing decision making processes, withholding information, suppressing discussion and debate, and disregarding critically important perspectives. Shared faculty governance not only provides an alternative to such a scenario, shared governance is the hallmark of great civilizations and organizations. Innovation, growth, and diversity thrive in entities so organized. Moreover, with shared governance comes shared responsibility. With shared responsibility the entire UI academic community becomes vested in the organizational structure, operations, and educational programs integral to the reputation and financial success of the Global Campus.

Academic freedom is an essential component of good educational practice. The educational quality and integrity of programs of study are closely linked with academic freedom. Academic freedom creates the best conditions for both pushing forward inquiry and practice within specific courses, disciplines, and professions and for fostering cross-disciplinary ventures. Academic freedom is critical to ensuring the relevance of curricula, and helps insulate academic content from fads, short-term thinking, uneven power relations between faculty and administrators, and pressures in competition with issues of educational quality and intellectual rigor. Educators charged with delivering the content of a curriculum must have the knowledge, ability, power, and support mechanisms to make sound educational decisions based on their informed judgments, in order to provide the best educational opportunities for students. These educators must have the ability to modify courses, to challenge content selections, to make courses more responsive to student needs and interests, and to have an impact on decisions about both the programs of study and the students enrolled. The unfettered exchange of ideas among highly qualified faculty and between faculty and their students is essential to producing educational programs that are the mark of distinction of our world-class university. Anything less reduces the UI Global Campus to a mere degree factory.

Tenure promotes high academic integrity and quality, fuller participation in a community of scholarly and disciplinary inquiry, professional growth, and best practices in teaching. Global Campus faculty members and part-time instructors must have high credentials in order to be recognized as valued members of the University of Illinois academic community, with the rights and responsibilities comparable to tenure-track faculty. Full membership in an academic community promotes cross-pollination of ideas, shared problem-solving, and high regard for issues associated teaching, inquiry, and professional practice. This cross-pollination adds vitality to the programs of study serving various disciplines/professional practices. Membership in a scholarly community also promotes the professional growth of the individual educator and enriches the instruction afforded to those students/clients enrolled in GC programs.

Process matters. We ask that the next phase of the UI Global Campus initiative engage a planning process more aligned with a partnership model of development. Specific recommendations toward this goal follow this rationale. Recommendations request development of a GC plan that reflects the University of Illinois way of conducting its academic business and a timeline that places quality over urgency. We believe that a Global Campus guided by the values inherent in the Statutes is not merely preferable. We posit that a Global Campus so conceptualized will be more entrepreneurial, competitive, and profitable. We offer these insights and recommendations with great optimism and look forward to working together to develop a Global Campus we can all be proud of.

Resolution

Whereas, The continued observance of the accepted principles of academic freedom, tenure and shared governance have established the University of Illinois as a world class institution of higher learning; and

Whereas, These principles and agreed upon procedures have been set forth in the University of Illinois Statutes; and

Whereas, The Global Campus initiative is by its own definition an educational entity that relies upon the reputation of the University of Illinois academic community; be it

Resolved, That the principles and practices of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance be applied to the proposed Global Campus initiative, and

Resolved, That any proposal for a Global Campus be submitted for approval by the Senates of the University of Illinois in a manner prescribed within the Statutes, and

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to Chancellor Herman, President White, Special Assistant Gardner, and members of the UI Board of Trustees.

 

Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure
Elizabeth Delacruz, Chair
Clifton Brown
Karen Ferneding
Harry Hilton
Peter Loeb
Lynne Rudasill
Patrick Weatherhead
Jason Webber
Wen-Hua Yang
John Yu