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UNK Welcomes NCA

North Central Self Study
Chapter 7: Criterion 5

The Institution demonstrates integrity in its practices and relationships.

Since joining the University of Nebraska System, UNK, forced to review its fundamental values as an educational system, has established new commitments and expectations. This chapter reviews (1) the ways in which the University of Nebraska at Kearney has articulated its fundamental values, commitments, and expectations, (2) the processes it has developed to ensure that its actions and those of its employees align with those standards, and (3) major indicators that UNK has remained firmly committed to declared principles. The discussion demonstrates that institutional norms have indeed shaped plans, programs, and operations. It also reveals that UNK endeavors continuously to deliver to all constituencies what its mission statement and core values promise.

Essential Norms: Institutional Values and Commitments

The Fundamentals: Mission and Plan

UNK's core values, stated most broadly, appear in the institution's mission statement and strategic plan. These have been reviewed in detail elsewhere in this self-study, but the following summary will outline the promise UNK has extended systematically to all students, employees, and citizens of Nebraska.

Prominently publicized to all constituencies in the catalogue, in the strategic plan, and on the website, UNK's mission statement declares its core institutional values, which include:

UNK's strategic plan further identifies the programmatic and operational characteristics the institution will seek to preserve, in light of that mission. Prominent among these are:

In addition, the plan emphasizes a key leadership and planning responsibility:

Faculty, staff, and administrators of the University of Nebraska at Kearney are dedicated to uphold the trust Nebraskans have placed in this public institution: to use the state's resources wisely in achieving educational, research, and service objectives. They therefore design and manage the University's programs in accordance with high standards of fiscal responsibility, academic excellence, and public accountability.

The policies and programs deployed to achieve UNK's mission and execute the strategic plan are described and widely publicized. They appear in the following:

Through participatory governance procedures, described elsewhere in this study, UNK develops and evaluates programs to ensure their continued alignment with core norms. The Board of Regents in open, public meetings reviews and adjusts the core university and campus policies, especially those affecting university constituents.

Particulars: Expectations and Guiding Principles

As just indicated, in defining essential values and characteristics of the institution, UNK's mission statement and strategic plan establish core imperatives for UNK leaders, faculty, and staff. Within the framework of public commitments, these documents outline more specific commitments in prominent University wide and campus based policies. These imperatives have importantly shaped the ways in which UNK is organized and operates.

Governance. The Bylaws and Policies of the Board of Regents assign formal leadership responsibilities and authority within the University of Nebraska and at UNK. At the campus level, the governance system, so established, identifies institutional decision-making and functional focal points. In addition, it also prescribes consultative dynamics; that is, processes by which affected constituencies may meaningfully participate in governance. Important features of collaborative decision-making include provisions for college, faculty, and student self-government. With respect to faculty, moreover, the UNKEA contract specifies important consultation requirements on matters subject to collective bargaining. As previous chapters have outlined, decision-making practice at UNK is regularly and systematically collaborative and participatory. This has been so even when the situation is pressure-packed, as in budget reduction processes over the last several years.

Principles of Academic Community. University of Nebraska Regental policy declares and dedicates the University to core principles of academic responsibility and freedom. Principles of academic responsibility regulate the conduct of all members of the UNK community, who are enjoined:

Principles of academic freedom commit the university to the search for truth and to the dynamics of free intellectual inquiry and discussion essential to that pursuit. Classroom teachers are entitled to freedom in discussing their subjects. Teachers and researchers may conduct their studies and publish the results, limited only by the precepts of scholarship and faithful performance of academic obligations. (See UNK Faculty Handbook: Expectations for teaching)

Standards of Conduct. For UNK employees, the principles of academic responsibility surveyed above compose a general code of conduct. In addition, these standards have been elaborated in the Rules and Procedures of the Professional Conduct Committee: an entity established by the Bylaws of the Board of Regents and administered by the UNK Faculty Senate. The Committee has jurisdiction to hear matters involving the conduct of all professional staff. These standards appear both in the UNK faculty handbook and on the UNK website. In addition, the University of Nebraska employee manual identifies standards regarding job performance and other policies governing specific areas, including sexual harassment and drug/alcohol use.

For students, as for employees, the principles of academic responsibility form the core of a broad code of conduct. Students are responsible to create and support an educational environment and to respect the dignity and rights of others. (University of Nebraska Board of Regents Policy 5.0) In addition, the UNK Student Code of Conduct (as revised and approved by the Board of Regents in June, 2003), provides detailed conduct rules and regulations applicable to all students. Further regulations, designed to maintain a healthy and orderly community life on campus, govern student conduct in the residence halls. Student conduct regulations are collected and published in the Student Handbook.

Standards regarded as key to ensuring a premier learning environment and workplace include:

In addition, as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, UNK operates its intercollegiate athletics program under principles, rules, and regulations promulgated by that organization. That regulatory framework guides the activities of administrators, coaches, and student athletes. The NCAA Division II philosophy, in particular, highlights:

These principles are ratified as well in the constitution of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, of which UNK has been a member since July 1, 1996.

Standards of Job Performance. UNK's mission, fundamental commitments, and essential norms have been expressed in a variety of policies that shape both management approaches and operational conduct.

Business/Financial Management and Contractual Oversight. As a state institution, the University of Nebraska at Kearney is subject to the rules and regulations established for all state agencies regarding business affairs and financial management. Board of Regents Bylaws and policies also provide specific standards regarding these activities. UNK's Division of Business and Finance has published a policies and procedures manual (on file in the Resource Room) that highlights the campus's commitment to financial responsibility and public accountability. It includes:

The Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance, as the institution's chief business officer, is the principal staff officer responsible for day-to-day monitoring of UNK's fiscal integrity.

In addition, in 2003 the Board of Regents formed an audit committee, specifically charged to apply in the university setting lessons recently learned in the corporate sector concerning financial reporting, internal controls, and accountability. While the strategic agenda of this committee has not taken detailed shape, it is expected to develop new practices that support external auditors and require comprehensive internal assessment of factors affecting the institution's fiscal stability.

The University Board of Regents Bylaws and Policies govern UNK's contractual relations and campus procedures contained in the Business and Finance Policy manual. These specify authority and responsibility with respect to advertising of contracting opportunities and negotiation, approval, and execution of contracts. (Regental Policy 6.3.) In general, the system assigns control of these arrangements to campus business officers, acting through subordinate purchasing officers and in coordination with the Vice President for Finance in Varner Hall. University of Nebraska Executive Memoranda, issued by the University President, provide additional guidance on such matters as levels of approval authority and equal opportunity in procurement and contracts. UNK's Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance has promulgated implementing guidance in that Division's policies and procedures manual.

Relationships with other Institutions. Within the University of Nebraska, relationships with other campuses are structured by policies, rules, and procedures established by the Board of Regents and administered by the President through the University Vice Presidents. These relationships are founded on the One University precept: each campus, having a differentiated mission, combines and collaborates with the others to serve the state efficiently. Intra-University policies elaborating this system are published in Regents Bylaws and Policies. Working links that make these principles operational include inter-campus contacts among chief academic officers, chief business officers, and chief student affairs officers. Such contacts are also common among administrative professionals; for instance, information technology, admissions, and student records/registration officers often confer. In addition, UNK frequently participates in collaborative academic programs with other state universities and colleges.

Within the Nebraska higher education community, the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has developed a broad framework of expectations and responsibility based on sector and institutional missions. In its open and regular meetings the Commission evaluates programs and program proposals according to an institution's mission.

As with any university, UNK must necessarily maintain relationships with several educational entities. Each of these is structured and codified as in the following:

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