University personnel plan review underway

The plans hadn’t been updated in several years.

by Natalie Rademacher

University of Minnesota administrators are working to strengthen college personnel plans. 

Many colleges in the University hadn’t developed these plans — which detail how many faculty members are tenure and non-tenure-track — for several years. Faculty hope to make these plans more detailed than in years past to ensure administrators are aware of colleges’ needs.

“These plans are an opportunity for colleges to stop and think about what their long-term strategies are and show where there is a lack of resources and problems that are going beyond the capabilities of the college,” said Phil Buhlmann, chair of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, which is reviewing the new personnel plans. 

Under University policy, deans are responsible for drawing up personnel plans every few years. However, the policy doesn’t specify exactly how often they must be re-evaluated.

When Rebecca Ropers-Huilman became University vice provost in January 2016, she realized the existing plans were outdated and instructed deans to come up with new plans. 

Now, members of the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee are working with the provost’s office to ensure the plans contain enough detail. For example, past reports lacked information about why colleges exceeded recommended employee ratios, Buhlmann said.

“There was not a lot of things in these plans about how to make the colleges better,” said Jerry Cohen, a member of the committee. “We are trying to change that now.” 

The committee and provost gave a list of specific questions for the deans to answer in their personnel reports, Buhlmann said, including a request for plans to offer professional development opportunities for non-tenure-track instructors.

“The goal is to make sure great people are teaching and make sure they have the support they need to do that,” Ropers-Huilman said. 

This month, Ropers-Huilman and Provost Karen Hanson have met with the deans to discuss the plans using feedback from the committee. 

“This [process] is meant to be a form of communication within and between colleges and central administration,” Ropers-Huilman said. 

Ropers-Huilman hopes creating these plans will show central administration where improvements and additional resources may be necessary.

“Some colleges think we know what is going on already… but the University is so wide,” Buhlmann said. “Sometimes colleges need to make more of an effort to explain their local situation.”

Going forward, Ropers-Huilman hopes to create a system that cycles through the colleges to prevent another gap of personnel plan inactivity.

She anticipates the final revised versions of this year’s plans will be completed in spring 2018.