A recent proposed change to the way UW regulations are handled has drawn criticism from faculty members concerned that the proposed change could lead to abuses of power and other unforeseen impacts.
The regulation of concern, UW Regulation 1-101, is at the forefront of a move by administration to tidy up university regulations that may be redundant, confusing or even contradictory. The regulation’s text establishes what other regulations, policies and procedures are and what their intent is, and most of it is nothing new—but the proposed addition has prompted some backlash from faculty.
The new text would be added to an existing passage giving the Board of Trustees the power to change and repeal regulations “from time to time and at any time.” The addition reads, “Consequently, no regulation is intended to nor does it confer a property right, contract right, or any other legal right.”
Professor of veterinary sciences and chair-elect of faculty senate, Dr. Donal O’Toole, is among the concerned faculty. He feels that this language is too broad and indicates an overreach of power by the Board of Trustees, and that tenure for faculty is particularly imperiled.
“The perception of the trustees is that tenure is widely abused and that they have no purchase over the faculty,” O’Toole said. “The way to change that would be to go over to short-term contracts or get rid of tenure completely and people are hired on a recurring one-year basis.”
General Counsel Tara Evans, to whom the Board of Trustees has delegated the main task of revising and cleaning up UW’s regulations, sought to address these concerns at the Nov. 7 faculty senate meeting.
“Tomorrow, the Board could amend your tenure process, then what do you do with the contract you got ten years ago when you got tenure? It’s no different,” Evans said. “There is no intent to change tenure right now.”
Other faculty have expressed confusion and skepticism as to why the Board would want to add this passage to the regulations in the first place.
“The language protects the Board’s ability to amend their regulations,” Evans said. “It doesn’t mean they can amend them without due process.”
President Laurie Nichols also spoke in favor of the intent of the proposed change, if not the exact wording. That intent is to put in order the mess that she found many regulations and policies to be in upon her arrival at UW.
“This work is needed,” Nichols said. “If you don’t like the language, tell us, and we’ll work on it.”
Faculty Senate Chair, Mike Barker, stated that while he also had initial concerns about the language (especially after the tumultuous terms of previous university presidents recently), he trusts Nichols’ leadership and is optimistic that administration and faculty can effectively collaborate to produce the all-around best regulations possible.
“There are a lot of rumors going around campus right now about what the Board of Trustees are working towards implementing, in terms of tenure,” Faculty Senate Chair, Mike Barker, said. “I do not perceive this as a threat or attack on tenure to be used as a personnel management tool, we just need to work on the details.”