By Cady Inabinett
Faculty representatives congregated on Aug. 27 for the first Faculty Senate meeting of the new academic year. Together they discussed the academic dishonesty policy and ongoing concerns about COVID-19, as well as elected three new senatorial officers.
The meeting began with some housekeeping, with three new officers being elected. Dr. Claire Edwards was elected president-elect, Dr. Andrea Eckelman as secretary, and Catherine Walsh as alternative secretary. All three were elected with unanimous support.
The COVID-19 pandemic remains a talking point this semester, with the senate discussing the university’s time-off policy for faculty members acting as a caretaker to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The senate also disucssed requirements about quarantining for those who have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Senators expressed concerns with the university’s policy allowing faculty who are acting as caretakers for a child or other family members who have tested positive for COVID-19 to take off work one time without using any of their sick leave. Several faculty members described the policy as being unclear and vague, with Dr. Stefan Forrester describing it as containing a lot of “non-committal verbiage.”
Former Faculty Senate President Emily Gill also expressed concerns that, when the policy was established, it may have been less clear how pervasive the spread of COVID-19 would be in settings such as preschools, thus negatively impacting the effectiveness of the policy.
Forrester went on to suggest an hour system that could be used for COVID-19 related outages, in which faculty members would have a bank of hours they could use for COVID-19 related absences before having to use sick leave and would be able to dedicate the number of hours they could teach and work from home.
Additionally, faculty members who have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be responsible for, “self-quarantining and self-monitoring,” as Faculty Senate President Dr. Ray Ozley put it, but will still be expected to come to work while maintaining social distancing.
Gill provided a report from the university’s COVID-19 Task Force, saying that most reported student COVID-19 cases occurred prior to the school year beginning, and that none of these students are currently on campus.
According to the university’s COVID-19 case reporting dashboard, there are currently seven reported active student cases.
Gill also updated the senate on the Board of Trustee’s appointed working group focusing on building naming on campus. Gill reported that some suggested names for campus buildings still need to be vetted before the renaming process continues, but did not provide a timeline for this process.
Revision of the academic dishonesty policy was another talking point of the meeting, as faculty senators plan to make revisions of the policy one of their focuses this year. Faculty alluded to issues with academic dishonesty around campus during the last academic year, but did not go into specifics of those issues.
Eckelman, as chair of the senate’s Academic Policy and Faculty Grievances committee, described Montevallo’s policy as, “very vague,” and elaborated on some differences the committee found during a review of Montevallo’s policy against other state universities’ policies.
One major difference that several faculty members spoke on was the difference in the amount of time faculty must report suspected academic dishonesty. At most other universities— “almost across the board,” as Eckelman put it, faculty have a two or three week period to report suspected academic dishonesty, however at Montevallo, that period is only five days.
In addition to expanding reporting times for faculty, the senate discussed barring students from immediately dropping a class after being accused of academic dishonesty, preventing any investigation into the charge from going anywhere—a common complaint among faculty representatives.
Overall, faculty want to streamline and improve the reporting process. Eckelman exemplified this desire when she pointed out that some faculty avoid reporting academic dishonesty issues because they, “don’t think it’ll go anywhere.”
Forrester summed up faculty grievances by saying it, “seems like nobody keeps track of this.”