Summary of Senate Meeting, July 9, 2002

The main business of the meeting was presentations on constitutional reform and on research and billing compliance, and reports from the Finance Committee and Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee.

Constitutional reform: Howard Walthall, professor at Cumberland School of Law, spoke about the need for constitutional reform. He observed that the present constitution was adopted in 1901, has been amended 708 times, and is the longest constitution in the world. Professor Walthall characterized the constitution as a 19th century document designed to prevent reconstruction-era practices, particularly regarding finances, many of which are desirable today and can’t be implemented without amendments. Professor Walthall outlined the two approaches being proposed for dealing with the constitution—repair vs. replacement. Questions raised in the discussion concerned the benefits and risks of constitutional reform to various interests in the state, the problem of how to control a constitutional convention, and the idea of the Senate passing a resolution in favor of constitutional reform.

Compliance: Dr. Sarah Morgan (Associate Dean of UASOM for Clinical Research Compliance), Dr. Samuel Tilden (Research Compliance Officer), and Carolyn McDowell (Clinical Trials Compliance Billing Officer) gave presentations on various aspects of research and billing compliance and UAB’s approaches to meeting federal standards. Included in the discussion were the various areas in which compliance is at issue, the penalties for failure to comply with federal standards, and the ways in which UAB is dealing with the issues. Questions from senators suggested that there are problem areas for which there are, at the present time, inadequate procedures. The presenters outlined ways in which UAB will deal with these matters.

Finance Committee Report: Dr. Linda Reed (Nursing), committee chair, reported on the recent meeting of the University Fringe Benefits Committee, which concerned health care plans and rates. Rates are expected to go up by about 15% for VIVA UAB, VIVA Health, and United Health, and about 25% for BCBS. There is a proposal from VIVA Health to extend its network of providers to the Baptist Systems, and to lower VIVA UAB rates by about $14 monthly, if UAB would drop United Health as an option. A decision will be made shortly. The report was followed by general discussion of plans and rates, about conflicts of interest within the university regarding the provision of health care, and about whether the Fringe Benefits Committee has, or should have, more power as a body that makes recommendations.

Handbook revision: Dr. Pat Greenup (Health Related Professions), chair of the Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee, reported on progress in revising portions of the UAB Faculty Handbook. The committee has been working on the parts of the handbook concerning faculty appointments, promotions, tenure, resignation, termination, and grievance, and on the appendices concerning procedures for faculty grievances and for termination. Among the proposals are: composition of personnel committees, requirement of annual faculty evaluations and maintenance of activity files, requirement that there be grievance policies within each school and that they be disseminated to faculty, and the right of a member of the faculty to a grievance panel if the problem cannot otherwise be resolved.