FCC opens up faculty legislation job to public

The University advertised the faculty legislative liaison position for the first time in hopes of diversifying it applicant pool.

Olivia Johnson

Breaking a 20-year tradition, the University of Minnesota has decided to make applications for two vacant spots, which facilitate faculty-legislator communication, open to the public.

The role of the position — faculty legislative liaison — is meant to share faculty concerns with state officials when the Minnesota legislature is in session. Traditionally, applicants learned about an opening for the position from other faculty members and the University’s Faculty Consultative Committee, but leaders decided to cast a wider net and publicly petition to fill the influential position.

Vickie Courtney, the director of the University Senate office, said the opening was advertised to faculty on the president’s website.

“It [was] important to make sure that the faculty in the University community are aware of [the position] and to really open it up so that more people know about it,” she said.

The deadline was Sept. 30, and the positions will be filled by the end of the month, she said, adding that interviews are currently being scheduled.

University president Mark Yudof created the faculty legislative liaison to connect the faculty with the state legislature. Applicants are interviewed by the FCC and the president’s office, then appointed by the president.

Previously, the position was filled by word-of-mouth within FCC. The group would then make recommendations to the president, Courtney said.

Colin Campbell, chair of the FCC and pharmacology professor, said they wanted to diversify the position and get faculty more involved.

“There are terrific people that we were word-of-mouthing with, but there are terrific people that we weren’t aware of and we didn’t know them, we didn’t know they had an interest,” he said.

At Thursday’s FCC meeting, vice chair Joe Konstan said many of the schools in the Big 10 do not have a faculty legislative liaison and that the University is unique in how it communicates with the state.

“The faculty voice is critically important for the students, and the student voice is critically important for the faculty,” Campbell said.

Michael Kyba, a member of the FCC and pediatrics professor, said that, though he is newer to the FCC, he’s seen the importance of having liaisons to the legislature.

“It’s important that the legislature understand what’s going on at the University. What our strengths are, what our concerns are, because they are the ones who fund the University,” he said. “Having a dedicated couple of legislative liaisons is one way in which that function is achieved.”

Campbell said the job is a big commitment that requires faculty to make known their perspective to the state legislature.

“It’s something very different than what professors do,” he said. “I think it’s just one of those things … I think it is unusual.”