Research Policy Committee Discusses Shared Space

Research Policy Committee

Photo by Jon Richie

At the last Research Policy Committee meeting, members discussed a new shared-space policy. The main focus was to figure out how these facilities will be funded.

The committee usually meets every month. They work with the Chancellor and the Provost in cooperation with other faculty committees on issues that deal with research policy at UWM. They also review the allocation of funds in coordination with the Graduate Research Committee, as well as all research elements at the university to ensure that they are consistent with UWM’s mission and research goals.

This committee also reviews university policy in terms of mandated review boards, such as Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects and the Institutional Safety and Hazards Committee.

The RPC at UWM is made up of 11 members. This consists of four faculty members who are nominated by the Divisional Executive Committee, the Chairperson of the Graduate Research Committee, the Director of the Libraries and an appointee of the Graduate Dean, who serve ex-officio. Then the Chancellor appoints two faculty members and two members of the academic staff.

Since this particular meeting didn’t have enough voting members to come to quorum it wasn’t an official meeting and didn’t have to follow the exact agenda. Instead it was treated more like an open discussion forum.

The shared-space facility policy is a new document that hasn’t existed on this campus previously. It will allow multiple departments to use the same facilities. An example would be if computer science students wanted to use a computer lab designated for the JAMS department.

Erica Bornstein, Associate Professor in the Anthropology department, started the discussion on the new shared-space facilities policy.

“This mentions objects within setting, that doesn’t mention and doesn’t include equipment and rooms,” Bornstein said. “What about the dance studio, that’s a facility.”

Geoff Hurtado, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Management, was a guest at the meeting and spent the time explaining monetary policies to the RPC.

“A dance studio is a floor and a couple of railings,” Hurtado said. “This policy is no different than most other universities including Madison and Vanderbilt.”

At this point the tension shifted to potential conflict that this policy could create.

“I understand that there will be bitter feelings (between departments) if someone is using equipment for free and it breaks,” Bornstein said. “But I don’t want these policies to get in the way of what this university does with intellectual research.”

The key point that was discussed at length in the meeting was who is going be pay for these facilities if something breaks. Hurtado came up with a scenario in which UWM bought a 3D printer that costs $1,000,000.

“You have to put $100,000 under the mattress every year, if the machine is expected to last ten years,” Hurtado said.

“Is that money going to be covered by grad students,” Bornstein said. “Is it going to be a fee-for-use system that they would have to pay on top of tuition?”

Hurtado said that it had to be paid someway, in the same way that the heat, lights and AC gets paid for, with segregated fees that all students pay.

Mark Harris, Interim Vice Provost for Research, showed up to the meeting a bit late, but had a good excuse. He was meeting at a meeting pertaining to Chancellor candidates. Harris arrived in time to ease some of the tension over this issue.

“We will adjust the wording to avoid department silos for research,” Harris said. “We need to set up a training system for students to use the equipment, then it won’t be a toll system for researchers.”

Harris went on to explain that students and faculty will be trained on site and these facilities will be subject to inspection.

At this time in the meeting members began to leave and the discussion began to circle around to points already made. This lead to a story that Chair of the committee, Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, told about the institution she worked at prior to UWM.

“This professor had installed pirating software on the system and shut down the entire department for three months,” Campbell-Kyureghyan said.

Since the committee could not vote on topics no clear changes were made, but the shared-space facilities policy will be tweaked and most likely voted on in the next meeting. The next RPC meeting has yet to be scheduled, but the committee is likely to meet once more before the end of the semester.