Reports on Policies that Create Unnecessary Barriers (Sept. 2016)
Dear Faculty and Staff,
This is the monthly email back to you about the reports of policies and procedures that are perceived to create unnecessary barriers to faculty and staff activities. This is a new initiative described in an email to campus on September 6, 2016. For September, we received approximately 30 reports of policies and procedures that are creating unnecessary barriers or not functioning efficiently. I encourage faculty and staff to continue to use the website to report policies and procedures. The website is provost.uic.edu, and click on Report a UIC Policy or Procedure.
The reports addressed here were submitted during the month of September to the website. If you reported something in October, there will be a similar email to the campus in November. Not every report received is addressed here as some of them related to very specific department or unit level issues that my office cannot control or affect. In those circumstances, an email was sent about the issue (but without attribution) to the relevant unit.
The first category of reports is about issues that have resulted, or will soon result, in a change in policy or practice at UIC.
- The first issue is one that was not reported via the website but through other means. There were reports about the fact that in some colleges and departments, faculty cannot perform some administrative functions on their computers without permission from their IT staff member. In particular, the reports were about the inability to download software from the internet or do their own upgrades. This is a campus policy but it appears not to be enforced consistently across campus. This policy has now been changed for departments that are not part of the HIPAA Covered entity (i.e. most departments on the east side and some on the west). If you were affected by this policy and would like to control your ability to do upgrades and download software, please contact the IT staff member in your department or college.
- There were complaints about the current practice that employees paid by grant funds cannot get raises when, because of the absence of adequate state appropriations, there is no salary program at the university. After careful review, we are going to change this practice so that under certain circumstances, PI’s with grants can give salary increases to postdocs and staff who are paid by those grant funds. Further details will be forthcoming to the campus soon.
The second category of reports is about issues that do not require a change in policy and/or can be resolved at the unit or department level.
- There was a report that student workers who do not complete the Title IX training on time are no longer allowed to have a student job for the remainder of their time at UIC.
- This is not a policy, though the training is mandated and very important. Students are reminded several times when they fail to take the training on time and are told that they will be reported to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for possible administrative action, but there is no policy stating that they are no longer eligible for employment at UIC.
- It was reported that it is difficult for faculty to make quick purchases for their research and scholarship because they do not have access to departmental credit cards
- OBFS states that a department can request a credit card for any employee who frequently travels, arranges travel for others, and/or incurs frequent authorized business meals expenses. This is a departmental issue that should be resolved at that level.
- There was a request to change the policy requiring staff members to produce a letter of offer from another employer in order to get a counter offer from UIC.
- This policy previously applied to faculty and staff, but it was changed last spring for faculty, so a college/department now may make a counter offer to a faculty member without the faculty member having to produce a letter of offer from another employer. However, given the number of staff at the university, the different market in which they operate, and the variety of different kinds of work that they do, the change in policy was not extended to staff.
- There was a complaint about the per diem allowed by UIC for faculty who are traveling outside of Illinois for work, with a suggestion that UIC utilize the State Department per diem rate. The per diem rates for UIC employees are mandated by the State of Illinois and are not UIC policy.
- There was a question about the time and effort it takes to update faculty activity each year for the annual review. There is no campus policy that specifies exactly how faculty should report their performance, but there is a campus policy that requires that an annual report on faculty performance be conducted. This is done in different ways across the university, depending on departmental or unit practices. Changes would need to come at that level, perhaps working through the college executive committee or dean.
- There was a concern that UIC lacks a mode of delivering new and updated information to UIC students about the curriculum, particularly new ways of teaching and new courses. The current online course catalogue is not adequate for this and the absence of this line of communication creates a disincentive to faculty to innovate with courses because the students do not have an easy way to find out about them.
- This appears to be on ongoing problem. The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs reports that the Department of Philosophy developed a website (as a pilot template for other departments) to highlight new courses and teaching reforms. Department heads should consider doing something similar so that every department has such a “New and Noteworthy” page along with a list of the syllabi of all their course offerings in the current semester and in at least two previous semesters. This would provide students with a lot of information to inform their decisions about course registration.
- Additionally, a new committee has been formed that is looking at how UIC communicates information to students about courses and other areas of student concern. The committee will include this issue in its deliberations. The committee is headed up by the Dean of Students, Linda Deanna.
The third category of reports is about issues that are under further investigation
- IRB processes for low or minimal risk research.
- The IRB is undergoing review by the Business Process Improvement unit at the University with the goal of making the process more efficient.
- The legal review of research contracts takes too long, and sometimes it takes so long that funding is lost.
- The Office of Research Services (ORS) in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research has begun a process of reviewing the best practices of peer institutions to determine what systems could be incorporated into the unit’s procedures. The ORS works with the Office of University Counsel on an as-needed basis and tries to reduce contract review timelines for those under its control. The ORS’ Impasse Process provides a method to ensure that agreements with problematic terms are executed to allow the Principal Investigator to pursue the research project. The ORS, along with the OBFS/Purchasing and the Foundation, recognizes the need to do a better job of determining which unit is responsible for handling different contracts/agreements.
- Several people reported difficulty in bringing in and paying international scholars who are invited to UIC by our faculty. We are investigating this issue.
- There were reports of problems arising out of the procurement system. These are under review.
- There was a report about UIC departments and units that want to charge for workshops and continuing education and other services provided to outside constituents. The problem is that these units have to accept checks because they do not have access to systems that would allow participants to pay with a credit card.
- There are very strict rules for credit card transactions and it is possible but burdensome to arrange for this. We are investigating this further with OBFS.
- There was a comment about the absence of one place where information about international travel for faculty is located. We are expecting to have a new vice provost for international affairs on board in early 2017 and this will be on the list of items needing attention by that new office.
- Issues with class scheduling were reported. I have discussed this with the Registrar and a committee is being formed in the late spring to take up these issues.
- There were several reports about the amount of time it takes to hire staff at UIC, and a related report about how long people have to wait for promotions. UIC Human Resources is working diligently on this issue and is making progress. If you are in a situation where a search or a promotion process is going slowly, you are advised to call HR and discuss it with them. Additionally, HR is making a concerted effort to provide professional development opportunities for staff and faculty. An email was sent from Human Resources on October 20th describing some of those services and providing links to further information. These are good opportunities for staff and faculty to develop their knowledge and skills about UIC processes so as to be able to better carry out their responsibilities efficiently, and I encourage you to take advantage of them. The link to that email is here http://uofi.uic.edu/emailer/newsletter/108620.html
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs