Faculty put past behind them after lawsuits, tension

After an eventful couple of years, Dixie State University faculty and administration are describing the atmosphere as quiet. The 2020-2025 strategic plan’s Faculty and Staff Life section outlines improvements for compensation and other concerns. Graphic by Kelsey Jackson.

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Things are quiet at Dixie State University after years of tension.

The term quiet would not have been a word that echoed the halls of DSU throughout 2019 when two tenured faculty members were terminated and asked to sign controversial Last Chance Agreements for allegedly violating DSU policies.

A federal lawsuit from one of these professors is now currently making its way through the judicial process.

The contents of the Last Chance Agreement resulted in protests, an audit, faculty senate resignations and a Faculty Call to Action.

Now, however, faculty members are attempting to put the past behind them and look to the future.

“You have got to realize when you have lost the battle,” said Professor of Sociology Matt Smith-Lahrman. “For better or for worse, I am over [what happened].”

By serving as faculty senate president-elect this year, and faculty senate president next year, Bill Christensen, professor of business management, said he hopes to make positive changes that will help instill a greater sense of belonging and security among DSU faculty.

One way DSU is figuring out the wants and needs of faculty is by sending out a survey to faculty to find out how faculty are feeling. This survey is funded under the Faculty and Staff Life goal of the 2020-2025 strategic plan.

The last time this survey was done was in 2017. The report found more faculty wanting compensation for their work.

“You have got to realize when you have lost the battle,”

Professor of Sociology Matt Smith-Lahrman

Christensen said he plans to review all policies that directly impact faculty members and suggest changes, specifically focused on maintaining academic freedom, and on protections that come with tenure.

“I am not sure that our current policy [protects academic freedom and tenure] as well as it should,” Christensen said. “It does it, but I think some of those things need to be clarified.

Although the current policy review process provides opportunities for faculty participation and feedback, Christensen said he would like to explore ways in which the voice of faculty is better articulated, and through polling or voting, provide a means for faculty to speak with one voice regarding policy changes and any broadly held concerns.

Smith-Lahrman agreed that it is up to the faculty to go through the proper channels to air grievances with policy, which are open for comment.

“We have avenues through the faculty senate if we want to air our grievances and we can chime in on policy,” Smith-Lahrman said. “There is a system in place for the administration to hear our policies.”

Smith-Lahrman said he feels comfortable with the avenues available to him to get his voice heard.

Tiffany Draper, director of new student and family programs, said the goals planning on being implemented in the strategic plan are to help create a welcoming environment for faculty, staff and students.

“Things are quiet right now,” Smith-Lahrman said. “Quiet is OK.

To see DSU policies under review, visit https://dixie.edu/policylibrary/policies-under-review/.

To learn more about the 2020-2025 strategic plan, visit https://strategicplanning.dixie.edu/.