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A look back at the Bloomington Faculty Council this fall



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Lauren Robel, provost and executive vice president of IU, listens during a Bloomington Faculty Council Meeting on Oct. 2 in President’s Hall. The council will meet for their first meeting of the spring semester in January. Matt Begala Buy Photos

The Bloomington Faculty Council covered a lot of ground in the first semester of this academic year, including amending its constitution to allow for a greater number of non-tenure track faculty on the council, key changes in IU’s education policy to benefit students' grade-point averages and a greater discussion to increase IU’s general education requirements. Here’s what you need to know.

Constitution amendments made official

In its first meeting of the semester, the BFC passed 13 amendments to its constitution, a change that will increase the number of non-tenure track faculty on the council. 

The amendments went to a vote for all IU faculty later in the semester. BFC president Moira Marsh announced at the final meeting before winter break that 828 IU faculty had participated in the vote, and the amendments had passed. 

There are currently three seats on the council available for non-tenure track faculty, but the amendments will add approximately 12 new seats, bringing the total representation to 15 non-tenure track members. 

The council consists of 53 elected members, six senior administrators, one representative from the Reserve Officer Training Corps, two staff representatives, two undergraduate students and four graduate students. 

“The proportion of the faculty that is outside the tenure track has been steadily growing,” Marsh said. “It is important to keep faculty governance representative of the full faculty.”

The BFC hopes to have a voting process to elect these new members in place by 2020. 

A new grade policy and a fresh start for students

Throughout the semester, the BFC discussed two changes to its education policy, clarifying the process for course retakes and allowing students to receive a new GPA after an extended absence from the University. 

In a unanimous vote before winter break, the BFC voted to approve both changes.

In the previous grade policy, students could retake any course in which they received a grade below an A, and replace that grade with one received in a different course with similar content. Both grades appeared on the students' transcript, but only the second is added to their GPA.

The changes approved by the BFC clarify the process by giving the deans of each school the authority to choose which courses students can replace. The new policy also states that students can replace a poor course grade with a grade earned in a subsequent honors or graduate course with similar content. 

The BFC also added a new fresh start policy allowing students pursuing their first baccalaureate degree who have taken at least a 36-month hiatus to return to the University with a blank GPA. 

New retirement program for faculty

The BFC announced in a September meeting that it planned to change the retirement program for IU faculty and staff. 

Human resources vice president John Whelan said that by changing the program, faculty will have lower fees, simplified investment options and improved retirement planning and guidance. 

Whelan said the shift away from IU’s current retirement companies, Fidelity Investments and Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, should be in place by January 2020. 

The full timeline for the transition will be laid out over the rest of the academic year, and the vote to finalize this change will occur in the spring semester. 

Progress toward a new general education requirement

Since the beginning of the calendar year the BFC has debated expanding the Diversity in the U.S. course requirement from a requirement within the College of Arts & Sciences to a general education requirement for all students. 

This semester, the BFC came one step closer to making the expanded general education requirements a reality when it established the course learning outcomes for the proposed requirement.

The learning outcomes of knowledge, analysis and interpretive skills, and intra- and interpersonal skills, will serve as requirements for the curriculum of these courses. 

Jack Bielasiak, co-chair of the education policies committee, said the next step in adding Diversity in the U.S. to the general education requirements is determining how the requirement will be implemented into IU’s curriculum.

The BFC will reconvene Jan. 15, 2019, to begin the spring semester.

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