Sabbatical leave policy discussed

By Lesley Rogers

The University Council met yesterday for the first time this academic year.

The UC is the central force of NIU’s elaborate governing system, and is comprised of faculty, students and supportive professional staff.

Discussion arose during the meeting dealing with the faculty sabbatical leave policy.

The change which was made yesterday applied to the UC and Bylaws and specified paid sabbatical leaves to include both ranked and non-ranked faculty.

Previously, only tenured faculty members and non-temporary supportive professional staff members were able to take sabbatical leaves.

Faculty members take sabbatical leaves from teaching in order to do research in their particular field. The leaves are one semester at full pay, or one academic year at half pay.

This policy could contradict the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s initiative to streamline higher education by taking further faculty and resources away from its emphasis on undergraduate education.

Added to the Bylaws yesterday was the addition of sabbatical leaves available for equivalent time as agreed among the faculty members, the employing unit(s) and the relevant vice president.

Another issue that was debated concerned the appointment and terms of the ombudsman.

Both students and faculty voiced concern about the ombudsman appointment, questioning the call for a national search and whether term limits should be eliminated.

The ombudsman’s role at NIU is to handle grievances in the university community. Currently, the position is a three-year term, with the option for another two-year term. The UC discussed the possibility of the ombudsman’s position being available for renewable unlimited terms.

Lorys Oddi, associate professor in the School of Nursing, said she was concerned about an ombudsman having unlimited terms.

“There is a danger that the ombudsman would be aligned with one group or another,” Oddi said. “But they are professional people with a code of ethics.

“There is a chance that the power could be abused somehow, and the creation of the review committee will help that,” said Student Association President Abe Andrzejewski. He referred to the Ombudsman Review/Search Committee which will be investigating the reappointments.

Questions also arose about how much power the ombudsman actually has compared to the other positions, provost and vice president of operations and alumni affairs, waiting to be filled.

“The only power he (the ombudsman) has is to assure us to follow our own rules and regulations,” said James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “He might get numb after listening to three or four complaints a day.”

Student membership in the UC is well represented this year, and they made a motion to amend the Committee on Initial Teacher Certification to also include student membership.

The proposal was referred to the UC “A” committee for academic policy.

“I’ve heard from the executive secretary at the UC that there’s never been so many student representatives,” Andrzejewski said. “The voting block of 15 students will give the student body more power.”

“It (the change in leave policy) attempts to clarify the (current) policy regarding professional supporting staff in sabbatical leave.”

Curtiss Behrens

UC executive vice president