Faculty Senate touch on current topics, including student health insurance change


By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — The Faculty Senate held its last meeting of the semester Wednesday to discuss upcoming awards granted to faculty, the recent change in student health insurance and the Open Access Policy.

Cindy Hellyer-Heinz, visual and performing arts professor, spoke on behalf of the Committee for the Improvement of the Undergraduate Academic Experience [CIUAE].

Hellyer-Heinz said CIUAE contributes to the first and second-year experience at NIU and follows classes such as UNIV 101, which 70 percent of first-year students are taking.

Hellyer-Heinz presented the three awards students can nominate teachers for, including the Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award [EUIA], the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award [EUTA] and the David W. Raymond Grant for Use of Technology in Teaching.

Hellyer-Heinz said these awards provide opportunities for students to recognize the strengths in teaching throughout the university.

“We have not received a lot of nominations so far,” Hellyer-Heinz said. “The reason why I’m here today is because students are completely unaware of this opportunity.”

Hellyer-Heinz said she knows students are overloaded at this point in the semester, but it’s also a time when students may feel appreciative of the faculty.

Hellyer-Heinz also said the nomination process can be found online, and deadlines are coming up next January. The deadline for the Raymond Grant is Jan. 15, 2019, and the deadline for the EUIA and EUTA awards are Jan. 31, 2019.

The Faculty Senate also discussed the changes to be implemented to student health care next semester.

Acting Provost Chris McCord made note of the questions which arose as to why dependent care for student health insurance was no longer available.

McCord said student health insurance is a requirement, and if students don’t have proof of health insurance, they’re required to purchase health insurance through NIU.

McCord said over 4,000 students purchase health insurance through NIU and 100 of them have dependent care.

“NIU negotiated with vendors providing health insurance to universities, and there were not a lot of vendors,” McCord said. “We negotiated a price and the package coverage that will work best with students.”

McCord said FY18 had a premium of $1,039 per semester but Aetna, the current vendor, would have increased the premium to $1,487 per semester for FY19. 

“Those were the hard choices and trade-offs we had to make as we were evaluating this,” McCord said.

McCord said the message about dropping the dependent care was out there, but it wasn’t aggressively pushed out.

“We didn’t go out of our way to make sure everybody might need to know about the change,” McCord said. “That’s where I think there was an improvement needed, and we have a number of plans in place on how to get the message out better.”

The meeting also discussed the Open Access Policy, which was passed in December 2014, and how to make the policy more known.

The Open Access Policy is made to increase the accessibility of NIU’s scholarly outlet, while also using an innovative platform which publishes these models, according to the NIU library webpage.

Dean of University Libraries Fred Barnhart presented a report on what they could do to get the word out about the policy.

Barnhart said 606 faculty articles are in the Huskie Commons currently, but there can be up to 2,300 articles.

“We would like to see that number increase,” Barnhart said. “Some possible issues why that number is so low might be due to the lack of knowledge about the policy.”

Barnhart said the library plans to survey faculty to better understand why articles aren’t being published.

“It’s close to my heart as a librarian that Open Access allows for people who may not have access to extensive journals to access these scholarships online,” Barnhart said.