Benefits committee for professors may return

The Faculty Senate is in talks with the University to reinstate the Benefits Review Committee after a six-year hiatus, a move that is expected to jumpstart conversations about benefits during current troubled economic times, members of the Faculty Senate said this week.

The committee would be responsible for reviewing faculty benefits and policies that originate in the human resources and benefits administration offices and would “serve as a conduit through which proposed changes to the University’s benefits policy could be vetted,” professor Philip Wirtz said.

Chair of the Faculty Senate Lilien Robinson said the senate would like to address the University’s responsibility to full and part-time employees in offering full benefits. The current benefits package includes an individualized plan for health, medical, dental, life insurance, disability, retirement programs, and a family tuition program, but no other family benefits. Benefits for staff and already retired faculty are other considerations, Robinson said.

Wirtz, a representative of the School of Business, said he does not know why the original committee stopped meeting but said faculty members have been voicing a need for another committee for the past two years.

“Upon the arrival of President [Steven Knapp], several of us suggested to him that the Benefits Review Committee could be resurrected,” Wirtz said.

Wirth said Knapp chose in 2007 to defer discussions on the committee until the appointment of Vice President for Human Resources Louis Lemieux, who was hired in September. Wirtz said the discussions have moved forward since the hiring of Lemieux.

“We believe in enhancing communications with the University community and are open and committed to working with the faculty and building a partnership that would be beneficial to all,” Lemieux said in an e-mail.

Professor David Marshall said he hopes a review of the benefits program will result in offering better benefits to part-time faculty.

Faculty complaints with the University’s compensation policies are not new; part-time faculty worked for eight years to receive pay increases before a new contact was signed in 2007.

In the contract, the University agreed to pay 1,100 part-time professors 10 to 50 percent more per course. The agreement also provides some measure of job security. The University also agreed under the new contract to guarantee part-time professors’ reappointment each semester. Previously, professors had to continuously reapply for their jobs each semester.

The original Benefits Review Committee existed from the early 1990s to 2004. It was not a committee under the Faculty Senate, but members of the committee included members also in Faculty Senate.

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