Faculty Senate votes to amend staff benefits and pays tribute to late former President Ed Hughes at Wednesday meeting


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Rebecca Crown Center. Faculty senate discusses potential mental health telehealth services for students and undergraduate admissions rates Wednesday.

Iris Swarthout, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Faculty Senate passed a joint resolution on Wednesday calling for the University to amend staff pay and increase transparency on the status of position fulfillment. 

Biology Prof. Fred Turek and Kellogg Prof. Martin Lariviere co-sponsored the resolution. Lariviere said the joint resolution will increase staff compensation and make job design, like hybrid options, more accommodating for potential hirees. It will also give Faculty Senate reports on the number of open positions and the length of time it takes to fill them.

Lariviere said University support of staff is vital for faculty function, and current economic conditions have made positions even more competitive than before.

“Staff salaries were largely frozen for years before the pandemic, undermining the University’s standing in the local labor market,” Lariviere said.

While the resolution passed unanimously, some Faculty Senate members discussed discrepancies in staff hiring and differences between the humanities and STEM departments. 

For instance, STEM staff overseeing their laboratories often have difficulty garnering funds to pay those working under them, especially students who are not sponsored by grant money. Turek said the proposed amendment would provide more funds to these staff members to pay employees not sponsored by grants.

However, Lariviere, who doesn’t run a lab and therefore does not sponsor students, said he still worries about being understaffed. 

“The staff I deal with are all departmental staff, and right now the thought that anyone is and will quit is a little bit of a cliff to stare over,” Lariviere said.

Other senators from understaffed departments supported the motion in hopes of gaining more employees. McCormick Prof. Luis Amaral said an amendment should be made to hold the people who made the “terrible” decision to fire IT staff in 2020 accountable.

Though other senators also disagreed with the decision made in 2020, Faculty Senate President and biological sciences Prof. Robert Holmgren said he wants to avoid circling back to mistakes made in the past in finalizing the legislation.

Senators also discussed the Open Educational Resources Faculty Grant — which faculty can apply for until March 25 — to make teaching resources free for students to use on multiple platforms. Lauren McKeen McDonald, Open Education librarian and liaison for the communications department, said the grant gives $5,000 to “develop, use and publish OER for an NU undergraduate course by 2024.”

Psychology Prof. David Uttal said textbooks in his course only cost $22 — which he said is a small price to pay for the amount of use students get out of it. However, McDonald said the grant was created to accommodate students in highly-enrolled courses with textbooks costing hundreds of dollars. 

Lastly, senators paid tribute to the late former Faculty Senate President Ed Hughes, who died on Jan. 23 at the age of 80 in Falmouth, Mass.

Feinberg Prof. Joshua Hauser said Hughes was a general surgeon and professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, and Faculty Senate was important to him. He added that Hughes was instrumental in transforming Faculty Senate into a forum for “shared governance” and that he paid close attention to detail. 

“I only had the fortune to know Ed for about five years, but I saw in that time his care, his kindness and his humor,” Hauser said. “(Hughes had) analytical prowess paired with the warmth of a friend … and we will do our best to honor Ed and live up to his example.”

A memorial service for Hughes will be held in the spring. Donations can be made in his name to Boston Latin School, Amherst College and the Coalition to Save Buzzards Bay.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the capabilities of Faculty Senate and the purpose of the resolution. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @swarthout_iris

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