University Senate discusses resolution to fill graduate records position

Nicole Ziege

The University Senate met this afternoon to discuss a resolution to fill the graduate records specialist position.

Graduate Council Chair Kirk Atkinson introduced a resolution which “urges” David Lee, provost and vice president of academic affairs, to fill the graduate records specialist position. Atkinson said this would prevent delays while processing graduate records.

The three positions in Graduate Records include associate director, graduate records specialist and graduate records assistant. The graduate records specialist processes and approves graduate programs of study, articulates graduate transfer credit, supervises the graduate records assistant, serves as a point of contact for all graduate advisors and performs “other duties related to maintaining the Graduate Catalog and supporting the curriculum workflow process,” according to the resolution proposed by the Graduate Council.

Graduate Records Specialist Laura Upchurch recently resigned, leaving the position open. The Graduate Council’s resolution said her resignation worsened the “chronic understaffing of the Graduate School.” The Graduate School was “denied the request to fill the position,” according to the resolution.

“The Graduate Council is concerned that undue delays in the processing of graduate audits could hold up the documentation of graduation necessary for graduates to compete for limited, time-sensitive job postings,” according to the resolution.

When asked about the reason of the decision not to fill the position, Lee said the university has about “$8 million in vacant lines” between faculty and staff.

“If you look at staffing patterns across campus over the last four or five years or so, what you’ll see is that the number of faculty lines has plummeted, and the number of staff positions has increased,” Lee said.

Lee said he would “like to try to do this with vacant lines to the extent that we possibly can.”

“Given the ebb and flow of academic life, there are times when there are pools of faculty positions available,” Lee said. “There’s no time when you have a pool of staff lines that are available in quite the same way.”

Lee said the hiring of staff is a “different type of hiring strategy.”

“I would kind of like at the end of the day not to be in the position where the only vacant lines that I have in front of me are faculty lines,” Lee said. “I would like to have some staff lines.”

Lee said one possibility for employees in the office to “take a look at how they might do some things differently, maybe even stop doing some things, but absorb what needs to be done here and let this position go unfulfilled.”

“I just don’t think that we’ll get to where we need to go financially as an institution if we don’t make some of these kinds of transitions, some of these kinds of adjustments,” Lee said.

Budget and Finance Committee Chair Jim Berger said he hired Upchurch “to help out in this role.” Berger said part of his concern was that “this is essentially an enrollment management office on a graduate level.”

Berger said that the role of the graduate records specialist “serves to help students matriculate, graduate, through the university.”

“My concern is that if we don’t do this, if we don’t hire someone to fill in the position, then it will be another step where graduate studies, graduate schooling, is being taken down yet another notch,” Berger said.

University senator Colin Farrell asked Lee if the funds would be “appropriated elsewhere” if the positions went unfilled. Lee said that if the position goes unfulfilled, then the funds will “probably” go into “any kind of budget reduction we do down the road.”

“We have a significant budget hole that we’re going to have to address, partly this year but maybe going forward over the next couple years,” Lee said.

With two opposing votes, the University Senate voted to table to resolution. The University Senate also heard reports from its various committees, but no other resolutions were voted on.

A previous version of this story said the resolution had been tabled until the Dec. University Senate meeting. According to university senator Colin Farrell, the resolution has been tabled indefinitely. The Herald regrets the error.

Reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].