Faculty members issued an open letter to university administrators expressing concern about quality education and shared governance, for which, the recent shift in the processing of sabbaticals has raised additional concerns.
In total, 60 members of the university faculty endorsed the letter that was issued on Feb. 5. The letter began by calling into question administration support for faculty research and sabbaticals and then transitioned to broader concerns about quality instruction and shared governance.
According to UVU policy, “[s]abbatical leave is an opportunity offered to qualified faculty to engage in scholarly and creative activities that will enhance their capacity to contribute to the University.”
Scott Abbott, a professor of integrated studies, philosophy and humanities, expressed concern that further limiting of sabbaticals will reduce the ability of professors to conduct research and practice the things that they teach in the classroom.
The concern that Abbott has and what was represented in the open letter is that limiting sabbaticals will negatively affect the quality of education at UVU.
In addition to the possible reasons that the letter provides for decisions, such as those on sabbaticals, Abbott mentioned the possibility of administrators trying to adhere to a teaching-focused approach for employment of faculty rather than a research-focused approach.
According to how UVU is categorized by the the Utah System of Higher Education, under section R312-7 (Faculty) 7.1.2. “Master’s Colleges and Universities: Faculty are selected, retained, and promoted primarily on the basis of evidence of effective teaching.”
The University of Utah and Utah State University can make research a higher priority in employing faculty under USHE policy.
Even if this is the justification for decisions such as further limiting sabbaticals, the administration should communicate it clearly and give the faculty an opportunity to give input, according to Abbott.
The letter continued by referring to a series of additional decisions and changes that have occurred in recent years. Those decisions and changes have caused faculty to feel that administrators are moving away from a focus on quality education to quantity education and doing so without sufficient discussion or input from faculty.
According to UVU’s Policy Office, input from all of the UVU community is important to policy decisions.
“To advance Utah Valley University’s shared governance model, the Policy Office makes policies accessible to the campus community, makes the policy development process efficient and transparent, and fosters collaboration by engaging key stakeholders from all parts of the university community,” the Policy Office Mission states.
In the letter, faculty members acknowledged that they were speculating about the reasoning behind changes and identified the lack of elements of shared governance as the cause for their speculation.
“Absent an open discussion, without real shared governance, we are left to speculate and to respond heatedly and to suspect that you don’t understand or respect the qualities of the university that has been our project for decades,” the letter said.
Scott Trotter, senior director of public relations, issued a statement on behalf of the administration.
“UVU welcomes faculty input,” Trotter wrote. “The comments and concerns addressed in this open letter are being considered carefully and we will reach out to our faculty members to address them directly.”