A revised University Policy and Procedure Statement may clarify the rules for faculty members who are not native English speakers.
During their Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 meetings, faculty senators discussed new standards for prospective faculty whose first language is not English. The changes would require those who were not trained at an English-speaking institution to take a test to prove language proficiency, said Associate Provost Cynthia Opheim.
Failing this test does not prohibit employment—prospective faculty who fail the test would still be hired. However, they would be required to either pass the test or enroll in an intensive English program within their first year, said Debra Feakes, associate chemistry and biochemistry professor.
Under the same policy, faculty members who receive complaints regarding their English skills may be required to take an extensive language program. The chair or dean of the faculty members’ department would speak to the student who complained at their discretion, along with the faculty member, to determine whether they need to complete the program.
Because the procedure is still in the comment period of the approval process, faculty can still voice their concerns regarding the issue.
Opheim said the procedure satisfies a legislative requirement under House Bill 638 to provide adequate English proficiency courses and is replacing a muddled former policy.
“The policy existed, and the policy was a monstrosity,” Ophiem said. “We started looking at it a year ago. We tried to revise it, and it was so complicated and just cumbersome that we finally ended up throwing it out and writing a new policy.”
Though the policy is remaining the same, its revision has brought up concerns. Mary Cavitt, professor in the School of Music and faculty senator, said she is worried about faculty members who speak English effectively but have below-average writing skills. The UPPS does not address faculty whose writing is an issue.
“If they have been hired, they are going to be successful at what they are doing, but then you get their documents and it is problematic when you’re reviewing the documents,” Cavitt said.
Senators additionally expressed concerns about professors who receive student complaints and whether or not these would go on a permanent file. Feakes said if a faculty member who already works at Texas State receives a complaint and fails the intensive English program, the faculty would be put up for post-tenure review. She said this could lead to the faculty’s tenure being revoked or terminated. The same would go for faculty who refuse to take the program.
Opheim said the subject of the procedure is not often an issue. She said it primarily affects people who could be professors in the future.
The faculty senators decided they would like to see a revision of the procedure to make sure students cannot complain repeatedly. The faculty and their chair or dean would not have to go through the process every year.