Required syllabus statement gets time on senate agenda

University counsel Michael Norton addressed the intersection of faculty academic freedom and student freedom of expression during the Dec. 8 Faculty Senate meeting.

Norton discussed the university's adoption of the required syllabus statement which instructors should begin using in the winter session. 

"The statement doesn't present anything new," he said. "The statements about academic freedom and free expression contained in the syllabus statement have always been policy and law with respect to these issues. It is just new going into syllabi across campus."

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said the syllabus statement addresses recent issues on campus and free speech issues on college campuses across the nation.

"We have had situations on our campus where there has been confusion or misunderstanding around some of these issues," he said. "This statement is intended to help clarify that for students as well as faculty."

The goal of the statement is to inform the campus community and help faculty, Norton said.

Faculty members select the course material and decide how best to present it. They also have the responsibility to teach in a professional manner while respecting the rights of students to offer differing opinions.

"Students have the right to be evaluated solely on an academic basis and not on opinions or viewpoints that are unrelated to academic standards," Norton said. "But students must maintain appropriate behavior. No matter what their personal viewpoints are, students have the responsibility to learn the course material."

Faculty evaluation

Senators will vote at the January meeting on revisions to the Faculty Handbook that includes documenting equity, diversity and inclusion activities and the impact of that work as an encouraged component of faculty evaluations.

The proposed revisions also align the types of reviews that can be used to evaluate faculty. ISU currently uses annual reviews, preliminary reviews of probationary faculty, and promotion and/or tenure review. The proposal would correct the list by adding advancement reviews for term faculty, post-tenure reviews and renewal reviews.

Other business

Senators will vote next month on a name change for the department of sociology to the department of sociology and criminal justice. It reflects the current makeup of the three distinct majors in the department -- sociology, criminal justice, and agriculture and society. In 2018-19, 376 undergraduates were enrolled as  criminal justice majors and 61 in sociology.

Senators voted to approve:

  • Changes to the Faculty Handbook section on discrimination and harassment to include abiding by ISU's Title IX sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking policy.
  • Changes to the graduation with distinction policy that moves the GPA qualifier from the beginning of a student's final term to completion of all degree requirements. Undergraduates can graduate with distinction if they have at least a 3.50 cumulative GPA after meeting all degree requirements. The recognition is on the student's official transcript and diploma.
  • A beverage management minor in the apparel, events and hospitality management department. The minor, requiring 15 credits, will prepare students to understand the intricacies of beverage development, their use and the operation of a beverage establishment. No Iowa regent university has a beverage management major or minor.
  • A name change for the child, adult and family services major and minor to human development and family studies. It aligns the university with peer institutions and helps students better identify the program.
  • A minor in ethics in the philosophy and religious studies department. The 15-credit minor will explore theories and applied topics in ethics and provide background for students in business, law, agriculture, medicine, psychology, education and other fields.