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THE
Association for Texas University Professionals
the
TACT Quarterly eBulletin

Jan/Feb/Mar 2004 Vol. LVI No. 3

Texas Association of College Teachers ~ Defending Academic Freedom

President's Column
2005 Legislative Agenda
by Dr. James Puckett, TACT President

We are delighted to welcome Claudia Stuart, President of the Texas Council of Faculty Senates, to our TACT State Board. We look forward to working together as we begin preparing for the next regular legislative session. Read Claudia’s article in this edition of the e-bulletin.

We’ve just completed our cycle of biannual regional Spring conferences, a fun and gratifying experience, visiting campuses and chapters and meeting other faculty who are dedicated to bettering our profession. In addition to the tentative list of legislative possibilities with which we started, two items were added as a result of faculty input at these conferences.

One addition to the list is the need for more diversity in the composition of faculty. The current lack of diversity isn’t for lack of trying to hire minority faculty, but as everyone knows, minority faculty are in demand, and most other states pay higher salaries to faculty. Until faculty salaries rise in Texas, lack of faculty diversity will persist in Texas. Why is this issue important? Faculty serve as role models for our growing numbers of minority students. What can we do about it? We can lobby the legislature to create salary and other conditions that are more favorable for hiring and retaining minority faculty, and we can create more Ph.D. programs in areas of the state where minority students are concentrated so that the pool of potential minority faculty can be enlarged.

A second addition to the list is to educate the legislature and public about higher education. While there may be considerable discussion concerning how to go about such a campaign, there is widespread agreement among faculty that most legislators and most of the public have dim or inaccurate perceptions of the activities, challenges, and accomplishments of faculty members. Why is this issue important? Correcting those perceptions would lead to more favorable legislation for faculty and higher education that would result in improving the state’s economy and maintaining an informed citizenry necessary for democracy to function. What can we do about it? We can start by having every TACT chapter invite the local state representative and state senator to shadow a TACT faculty member as she or he goes about her or his business on a typical work day, as Elizabeth Lewandowski did at Midwestern University. We can invite the media to these visits, as happened at Midwestern University, and TACT chapters can submit letters to the editor of local newspapers. In addition, we hope to be reporting soon on a very promising project that was suggested at one of the regional meetings that the TACT State Board will be investigating.

A list of legislative values and principles and an overly long list of legislative agenda items as it now stands are reproduced below, each alphabetized by keyword. Based on input at the regional conferences, we will now begin the process of narrowing down the legislative list to a manageable and coherent agenda. Please share with Chuck Hempstead, our Executive Director at tactoff@tact.org, any ideas you have as to how to best prioritize or consolidate this list and then promote it.

DRAFT

2005 TACT LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: TO BE REFINED TO THREE OR FOUR ITEMS

79th Regular Legislative Session, 2005

[Note: After further consideration, any of these items

could be moved to the Values and Principles list below.]

Accountability. In addressing the Governor’s mandate for accountability, care must be taken to ensure that enough resources are available to maintain small class sizes, where writing skills and critical thinking skills should be stressed. Weight should be given to the amount of improvement in student achievement over the college career, in order to “close the gaps” between historically privileged and historically under-served populations. Administrators should be held just as accountable as faculty and institutions.

Community Colleges Offering Baccalaureate Degrees. Do not allow locally funded community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees. Faculty at locally funded community colleges were not hired or trained to offer such degrees and do not necessarily engage in research to stay abreast of their fields. Academic standards and preparation of students with baccalaureate degrees would suffer.

Faculty Salaries. Ensure a nationally competitive faculty for the expected enrollment growth through improved compensation. Through legislation or legislative intent, governing boards should follow the existing state law (1987, 70th Legislature, ch. 823, subsection 3.10, effective June 20, 1987) requiring competitive salaries, and the Coordinating Board should provide timely information to permit the national salary comparisons to be made on each campus.

Financial Aid. Encourage the State goal of increasing higher education access by establishing reasonable student costs and increasing financial assistance. To meet the enrollment goals of "Closing the Gaps," financial assistance to students must be maximized while planning for faculty growth to prevent increased student/faculty ratios.

K-16. Make K-16, a seamless transition from kindergarten through college, a reality by ensuring that students have the necessary preparation. Regular public reporting of each college to each school district as to the college performance by students from those districts should occur as is done in North Carolina. High schools should determine their curriculum and course content in consultation with college faculty.

Recoup Losses. Now that the state economy is recovering, recapture higher education funding lost during the 78th Texas Legislature and add 5 percent to accommodate enrollment and cost of living growth. In order to meet legislative priorities contained in "Closing the Gaps," accountability, and quality, additional state resources are needed to prevent further erosion of programs and student/faculty ratios.

Shared Governance. Enact a Shared Governance law such as the one in Arizona. Shared governance on campus assures that sufficient communication and deliberation contributes to quality decision-making, including the preparation of the university budget.

VALUES AND PRINCIPLES

[Note: After further consideration, any of these items

could be moved to the Legislative Agenda list above.]

Academic standards. The quality of a Texas college degree must not be undermined through the good intentions of providing opportunity to the educationally under-prepared. Academic standards must be protected in the design of courses, expectations for students, and grading policies. Over-reliance should not be placed on high-stakes standardized testing.

Adjunct Faculty. It should be the goal of all parties involved in Texas higher education to systematically reduce the use of adjunct and part-time faculty to the level required to teach specialized, periodic courses. Part-timers should not be used as cost reduction devices.

Distance Education. Distance Education programs have a place in higher education in helping career education of the mobility impaired and remote and vocational learners. Other students may also profit by distance education, but we must ensure that campus-based college education is not jeopardized in the pursuit of easy access Nothing replaces interaction among professors and students. Distance education is a potential threat to quality education and requires special efforts to protect against cheating and the stealing of intellectual property.

Diversity of Faculty. Greater diversity of faculty should be achieved in order to provide role models for minority students. This diversity can be brought about by keeping faculty in state with higher salaries and by creating more Ph.D. programs in areas where minority students are concentrated.

Educate the Legislature and the Public. Encourage the legislature and the public to consider accountability measures whose implementation will result in the desired outcomes, namely, closing the gaps and increasing efficiency as much as possible without compromising academic standards, while the same time stimulating Texas' economic competitiveness and preparing the citizen leaders of tomorrow to keep our democratic traditions vitally alive.

Field-of-Study Curriculum. We support reinstatement of "may" instead of "must" in regard to creating a state-wide, automatically transferable, standardized curriculum for field of study beyond the core curriculum, but realize that this is not a feasible goal. We must instead remind administrations and faculty senates that faculty are to be appointed by administrations to field-of-study committees only after consultation with faculty senates, and we must be vigilant that non-administrative faculty are represented on the committees in the ratios prescribed by law.

Line Item Funding. We support a return to line item funding of university budget items, including faculty salaries, in the State Appropriation Act. However, attaining this goal may not be feasible at this time.

Tenure and academic freedom. Tenure, academic freedom, and the encouragement of free expression must be protected to attract the best faculty and guarantee students a creative, broad-based education.

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