Faculty & Staff Policies & Procedures Subcommittee Report

Charges & Key Questions  

Faculty and staff play a pivotal role in campus internationalization as the primary drivers of teaching and research, as well as student support and services. Both supportive policies and effective procedures are crucial to maximize the faculty and staff impact on internationalization in student learning, research output, and community development. Thus, the institution should ensure that its policies and procedures:  

  1. Support international research, teaching, service, and mentoring;  

  1. Support faculty and staff efforts to recruit and retain international students (particularly graduate students);  

  1. Enhance diversity in hiring of international faculty and staff; and  

  1. Encourage, provide and incentivize opportunities for faculty and staff to further develop international competencies. 

The Faculty and Staff Policies and Procedures subcommittee took a user-centered approach to exploring the extent to which KU’s policies and procedures support faculty and staff internationalization. To collect information, we developed numerous questions for the faculty survey, convened focus groups, conducted in-depth individual interviews, and secured data and information from individual KU staff and KU websites.  

Members and Invited Guests 

  • Megan Greene, Associate Professor, History, Co-Chair 

  • Marissa Hotujac, Fellow, Office of the General Counsel (for the first several months) 

  • Keeli Nelson, Assistant Director, International Support Services 

  • Jennifer Ng, Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Co-Chair   

  • Kapila Silva, Professor, Architecture 

  • Akiko Takeyama, Associate Professor, Women Gender & Sexuality Studies; Director, Center for East Asian Studies 

  • Carl Taylor, Director, Office of Global Operations 

  • Marie Taylor, Senior Associate General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel 

Findings/Observations to Date 

We have found that KU’s existing policies do not appear to be impediments to internationalization. However, they do not encourage faculty and staff to engage in internationalization, either. Moreover, KU does not always effectively communicate about its policies, and the practical application of its policies sometimes discourages (or fails to encourage) faculty and staff from engaging in internationalization. As a result:  

  • many faculty and staff are unaware of, or misunderstand existing support structures and/or resources, 

  • some misunderstand and/or ascribe unsupportive intent to some policies, and 

  • many others feel that the institution does not provide adequate institutional (particularly financial and procedural) support for their international efforts.  

Our findings suggest that:  

  • communications about what already exists and why it exists need improvement, 

  • development of a clearer structure for and better communications between offices across campus that support international activities would better serve faculty and staff engaged in those activities,   

  • procedures related to internationalization need to be made more transparent to faculty and staff,  

  • staff in certain units (SSCs, KUCR) would benefit from training on procedures to avoid misunderstandings, 

  • procedures that are designed (or that should have been designed) to support research, teaching, and recruitment are often developed without input from faculty (or from a sufficiently diverse set of faculty engaged in varying types of research and teaching). As a consequence, the procedures that result frequently fail to provide needed supports,  

  • what people do or how they understand what they can do seems to depend a great deal on who they know and where they think to look for information (personal connections),  

  • KU would benefit enormously from efforts to make its international supports and services more visible to faculty, staff, and students.  

Data or Information Needed 

We did not have time to investigate best practices at other institutions. However, we believe it would be helpful to see how other institutions integrate their compliance functions into a support system for international activities. It would also be useful to examine how other institutions balance the need for institutional adherence to the same federal regulations and risk management needs while nonetheless enabling research, teaching, and other international activities to continue. KU’s current structure is highly decentralized and not integrated. As a result, it is both confusing to users and many users find it unsupportive. What institutions do this well, and how do they do it? Might KU be able to adopt any of those practices? 

Challenges and Opportunities Revealed  

KU does not maintain comprehensive data on many international activities. The absence of data on international research, teaching, collaboration, and financial or other support for these activities means that we have no benchmarks against which to measure our current status or progress into the future. It also means that units with a strong international orientation, like the area studies centers, the language departments, and KUIA, all of whom regularly submit grant proposals to external funders interested in supporting internationalization activities, have to spend many person hours collecting and analyzing their own data every time they prepare a new grant proposal. At present, some internationally oriented units (such as ISS, GOS, SAGE) maintain their own data because they must provide information to both internal and external entities (for example, IIE for the Open Doors Report), and because they are interested in maintaining clear records of their own impact. However, these units typically compile and manage their own data without adequate staffing to do so and without support from AIRE. Other units (such as KUCR and the SSCs) maintain no data specific to international activities, so that the only way to determine if a grant, for example, has an international component, is through reviewing individual travel and hiring records. 

Preliminary Recommendations and Key Action Steps 

In this section, we summarize key recommendations.  At the end of many of our appendices, we include more details about these recommendations than could be provided in this brief overview.  

Policies and Procedures: 

Policies should be designed to support the research, teaching, and learning work of faculty, staff and students while simultaneously serving the budgetary and compliance needs of the institution and mitigating risk to the institution and its constituent members. Where applicable, policies must conform to federal guidelines. Policies and their rationale should also be clearly articulated. KU’s policies largely meet these requirements. However, faculty and staff sometimes misunderstand, misapply, or misrepresent some policies (see below for examples). In addition, some faculty feel that KU is inhibiting or erecting barriers to internationalization efforts rather than supporting those efforts due to the fact that the ways policies are applied seems to overstep the limits of the actual policy or the guidance that led to the policy. It is important that policy serve faculty and staff and that it be understood by faculty and staff to serve them. At present, this is often not the case, and we believe the reason for this lies primarily in communications about, and operationalization of, policies. 

In particular, the following concerns were raised about KU’s travel policies and procedures, conflict of interest reporting, material transfers, visitor policy, and supplemental salary policy: 

  • Travel policy: The faculty survey revealed that many faculty are concerned that Concur will make international travel not only more difficult but also more costly. Our interview with Lori Gutsch suggests these concerns may not be valid, but faculty are not adequately informed of the services that Concur will offer. In addition, travel authorization and reimbursement information coming from the SSCs and possibly also KUCR is inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate/misleading. Finally, information about international travel currently on the KU website is scattered, hard to find, and much of it has a discouraging or alarmist tone. 

  • Conflict of Interest Reporting: Faculty administrators expressed concerns over a lack of clarity about COI Reporting, particularly for international faculty from countries with which the US government has had strained relations. In particular, the Tao case appears to have had a chilling effect on KU employees from China and elsewhere, who are fearful that any mistake or minor misstep will cause KU to report them. As a result, such faculty are spending inordinate amounts of time on COI reporting. They also report feeling alienated from KU and targeted because of their national origin and race/ethnicity. 

  • Material Transfers policy: At least one respondent to the faculty survey noted that KU sometimes applies the Material Transfers policy excessively broadly to items that are not, and should not, be governed by any sort of restriction. 

  • Visitor policy: At least one respondent to the faculty survey was very concerned about the Visitor policy, and particularly its inclusion of people with whom KU faculty and staff communicate by phone as visitors. The intent of the policy appears to be that it would only apply to such people if they were also being given access to restricted research, but in fact, its wording is broad enough that it appears to apply to any conversation about any kind of intellectual property (idea) or research data. 

  • Supplemental Salary policy: Staff in one of our focus groups suggested that this policy should be revised to make explicit that it can apply to staff as well as faculty. In the past, the policy has been interpreted both ways, but making this explicit would clear a path for staff wishing to enrich themselves and others at KU by participating in such programs as Fulbright. 

With regard to processes, faculty and staff repeatedly observed that KU’s compliance offices (specifically GOS and KUCR), the SSCs, and HR lack a nuanced understanding of both research and how to read a faculty or postdoc CV, and as a result, often try to apply rules to faculty research and travel activities and to efforts to hire international faculty and postdocs that do not, in fact, apply.  

Finally, a lot of staff and offices who work on international matters aren’t widely known, while other individuals have become “go-to” people who, because they already have heavy workloads, may not always have time to be directing traffic.   

To remedy these problems, we have several recommendations: 

  • A group of staff and faculty be formed to examine the operationalization of policies related to internationalization at KU with the following questions in mind:  

  • Is policy operationalized in ways that faculty will perceive and actually experience as supportive?  

  • What mechanisms exist to ensure that policies are applied only as appropriate and do not unnecessarily obstruct actions beyond relevance to the policy? 

  • Are the rationales for KU procedures transparent and clear, or consistent?  

  • Do all staff in units tasked with operationalizing such policies view faculty as allies and people whose interests they should be advancing?  

  • Improve communications about policies and procedures: 

  • In some cases, such as travel, communications could be improved by creating a single, unified web page with a dedicated section about international travel written in a helpful and encouraging tone that could answer all questions and to which other units could maintain a link. 

  • In other cases, better communications might entail overhauling existing web pages, such as the GOS site, which needs to be reoriented towards user support and away from an alarmist, “scared straight” approach to presenting information and characterizing global engagement. 

  • Create an integrated web and communications system with a positive tone that incorporates webforms for certain types of activities to direct people to the right place and help them better understand what they need to do. 

  • All of these suggestions are likely to require additional administrative support, particularly in ISS and GOS. 

  • Improve transparency about processes: 

  • It is not always clear who is making decisions and what is driving those decisions. This seems particularly to be the case for hiring decisions that are made by GOS but communicated to faculty by HR. The more transparent the process can be, the more engagement, trust, and collaboration there will be. 

Reorientation of Institutional Priorities: 

In some cases, internationalization is hindered not by any specific policy or procedure, but by the absence of a broader emphasis on the value and significance of internationalization to the institution. This needs to be expressed from the top. To some extent, the problem is structural. By housing GOS in the Office of the Chancellor and burying KUIA under the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies, KU’s leadership appears to be signaling that it cares more about policing international activities and KU’s international faculty, staff, and students than about supporting them (even though this may not be true). Regardless of whether this is the intent, the faculty survey results show that this is how many faculty perceive things.  

KU would benefit enormously from efforts to make its varied international support services more visible to faculty, staff, and students. We recommend that: 

  • KU leaders elevate internationalization and integrate it more fully into strategic planning and regular messages from the Offices of the Provost and Chancellor. 

  • KU leaders work to repair the climate and see that policies and procedures are implemented in a way that feels supportive and does not lead faculty and staff (particularly international faculty and staff) to feel they are being profiled and unfairly scrutinized. Leadership can also help repair the climate by creating more opportunities for dialogue and engagement between faculty and staff whose jobs pertain to international activities, including faculty (especially international faculty and faculty who work internationally) in committees designed to develop and improve procedures, and ensuring that messaging about international matters is sensitive and respectful. 

We discussed and collected information on the degree to which KU administrators encourage internationalization, particularly among faculty whose positions may not obviously or naturally lead to it and came up with the following recommendations: 

  • Standards for promotion and tenure: Standards are determined at the unit level and not all units will (or, perhaps, even should) endorse the idea that internationalization be a criterion for promotion or tenure. While promotion and tenure standards orient the basic dimensions of faculty work, there may be other ways to specifically incentivize faculty internationalization. 

  • Hiring and DEI: Internationalization can be understood as related to the university’s larger diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, but that is not always the case.  As such, the status of internationalization can be, at best, uncertain.  It can also seem contradictory to DEI initiatives, like promoting hiring practices that encourage a more diverse applicant pool. What does, or should, “count” as diversity?  Is such a question field specific and thus variable across campus?  How can KU advance both DEI and internationalization agendas when they are sometimes actually in tension? 

  • Study Abroad Leadership: One obvious way for faculty to develop their international capacities and those of their students is to lead short-term study abroad trips. Data from SAGE and from the faculty survey indicate, however, that many faculty feel that such work is not valued or encouraged by their department chairs and peers, and that the existing incentive and support structures are insufficient to lead them to do it. 

  • Faculty and Staff Development Opportunities: Both staff and faculty indicated to us that they would be interested in opportunities to develop their own international competencies.

Questions, Thoughts, and Considerations for other Lab Subcommittees 

We expect some of our findings will relate to the scope and insights of other subcommittees. In particular, we anticipate that:  

  • our thoughts about both the structural impediments to the development of effective practices/procedures and the lack of a unified and easy to navigate system of communications about internationalization may be relevant to the recommendations of the Administrative Leadership Structure subcommittee,  

  • our concerns about disincentives to lead study abroad trips may relate to recommendations from the Outbound Mobility subcommittee, 

  • our recommendations for programs to support development of international competencies among faculty and staff may be relevant to the work of the Curriculum and Inbound Mobility subgroups, and 

  • our concerns about practices related to risk management as impediments to international collaboration may relate to the work of the Collaborations and Partnerships Abroad subcommittee. 

Resources, Data and/or Examples 

We did extensive searching through KU websites, spoke with and got information from staff working in many of the relevant offices, drafted numerous questions for the faculty survey and convened several focus groups. We also attempted to get information on both internal and external travel and research funding and external grants to support internationalization, but received very little data from AIRE because, other than travel data, KU does not collect it.  

KU’s staff is very large, and we were not certain how relevant many staff members would find an internationalization survey. Given this, we contented ourselves with focus groups and one-on-one conversations with staff outside of KUIA, the area studies centers, and the language departments, but whom we knew to be engaged in supporting a variety of internationally related activities such as hiring and admission of international faculty and students, hosting international scholars, facilitating international research, and constructing internationally oriented programming and course opportunities for students. 

A good deal of our data came from review of textual materials and efforts to elicit in-depth user experiences from purposefully selected individuals. These qualitative data were complemented by numerical survey results from faculty across campus which are not statistically generalizable but nonetheless reflect strong response rates and important insights about relevant patterns and trends.    

We believe that there are data in our appendices that may be especially useful to Lori Gutsch in travel procurement and to the GOS office.  

Our appendices are, in most cases, summaries of specific conversations and activities and the conclusions we drew from those conversations and activities. In some cases, they are composed of documents that were provided to us by KU offices.