DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
Following are the minutes of the regular Faculty Council meeting
January 23, 2006.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL
January 23, 2006
The fourth regular meeting of the Faculty Council for the
academic year 2005-2006 was held in the Main Building, Room
212, Monday, January 23, 2006, at 2:15 p.m .
D. Abraham, Seema Agarwala, Peter R. Antoniewicz, Matthew J.
Bailey, Susan N. Beretvas, Elizabeth Ann Brummett, Cynthia
J. Buckley, Douglas C. Burger, Patricia A. Carter, Miles L.
Crismon, James W. Deitrick, Philip Doty, Janet M. Dukerich,
Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Linda Ferreira-Buckley, Kenneth Flamm,
Richard R. Flores, Jeanne Freeland-Graves, Thomas J. Garza,
Jessica L. Geier, John C. (Jack) Gilbert, William P. Glade,
Linda L. Golden, Sue A. Greninger, Phillip Hebert, James L.
Hill, Martha F. Hilley, Archie L. Holmes, James O. Jirsa, Joni
L. Jones, Robert C. Koons, Desiderio Kovar, Nancy P. Kwallek,
Dominic L. Lasorsa, Desmond F. Lawler, William S. Livingston,
Glenn Y. Masada, Charles C. McDowell, Julia Mickenberg, Karl
H. Miller, Kate Nanney, Omar A. Ochoa, Patricia C. Ohlendorf,
Melissa L. Olive, Alba A. Ortiz, Bruce P. Palka, Kenneth M.
Ralls, Wayne Rebhorn, Linda E. Reichl, Clare E. Richardson,
Peter J. Riley, David W. Springer, Pauline T. Strong, Janice
S. Todd, Angela Valenzuela, John M. Weinstock, Erica L. Whittington,
Karin G. Wilkins.
Absent: Efraim P. Armendariz, Jeri
Baker, Pascale R. Bos, Patrick L. Brockett (excused), Joanna
M. Brooks, Lorenzo F. (Frank) Candelaria (excused), Patricia
L. Clubb, Andrew P. Dillon, Diana M. DiNitto (excused), Richard
B. Eason, Stanislav Emelianov (excused), James L. Erskine, Lester
L. Faigley, Larry R. Faulkner (excused), William L. Fisher, Robert
Freeman, George W. Gau, Juan C. Gonzalez (excused), Oscar Gonzalez
(excused), Charles R. Hale, Donald A. Hale, Roderick P. Hart,
Thomas M. Hatfield, Fred M. Heath, Kevin P. Hegarty, Lori K. Holleran (excused),
Bobby R. Inman, David Justin, Manuel J. Justiz, Richard W. Lariviere, Janice
Leoshko, Steven W. Leslie, Edward W. (Ted) Odell (excused), Yolanda C. Padilla
(excused), Theodore E. Pfeifer, William C. Powers, Mary Ann R. Rankin, Elizabeth
Richmond-Garza (excused), Victoria Rodriguez, John J. Ruszkiewicz (excused),
Juan M. Sanchez, Dolores Sands, Christine E. Schmidt, M. Michael Sharlot, Frederick
R. Steiner, Michael B. Stoff (excused), Ben G. Streetman, Daniel A. Updegrove,
N. Bruce Walker, Alexandria K. Wettlaufer, Barbara W. White.
|REPORT OF THE SECRETARY.
report appears in D
|APPROVAL OF MINUTES.
The minutes of the Faculty Council meeting of December 12, 2005, (D
4335-4340) were approved
by voice vote
|COMMUNICATION WITH THE PRESIDENT
||Comments by the President — None.
|| Questions to the President. — None.
|REPORT OF THE CHAIR— None.
|REPORT OF THE CHAIR ELECT.
Chair Elect Linda Golden (marketing administration) reported on the agenda planned
for the joint meeting between the UT Faculty Council and Texas A&M Faculty
Senate to be held February 27 in College Station. She said the meeting would
start at 11:00 a.m. with lunch served shortly thereafter in the Clayton Williams
Alumni Center. Remarks by President Bill Powers and President Robert Gates are
scheduled from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Topics of common interest, including
the role of undergraduate research and issues pertaining to the course-instructor
survey, will be addressed. Chair Elect Golden said that carpools were being arranged
through the Office of the General Faculty, and faculty members who were planning
to attend would need to file a request for travel authorization. She encouraged
all Council members to attend.
|| Discussion of Task Force Report on Curricular Reform
|| Framework for College/School Forums.
Chair Alba Ortiz (special education) asked Council members to review and make
suggested improvements to a handout outlining a framework for use in discussing
the recommendation of the TFCR at the forthcoming college and school forums,
(See Appendix A.) She said the framework was designed to provide a consistent
format for providing feedback from the forums about the task force’s key
recommendations. She said the colleges and schools were being asked to (1) provide
feedback on the pros and cons of the key proposals in the task force’s
report, (2) make alternative recommendations or suggestions for consideration,
and (3) identify areas of confusion and specific questions arising from the task
force report. Chair Ortiz asked Council members to look comprehensively at all
of the task force’s recommendations and not to allow the proposed creation
of the University College to entirely “take over the deliberation of the
report.” She said questions had been included in the handout to determine
faculty attitudes toward the University College concept under different funding
Chair Ortiz explained that one of the representatives of the Faculty Council
from each college/school had been asked to provide leadership for his/her unit’s
respective forum; other Council representatives from the unit were being asked
to support the person taking the lead role. She said that the Office of the General
Faculty and the Faculty Council Executive Committee were available to help address
logistical matters regarding the forums.
||Professor Janice Todd (kinesiology and health) asked how existing programs such
as Connexus would be impacted by the proposed new college. Chair Ortiz responded
that Professor Todd’s query presented a good example of the type of question
that needed to be raised and deliberated in the upcoming forums.
|| Discussion of Recommendations.
|| Signature Courses.
Chair Ortiz asked that members of the TFCR who were not members of the Faculty
Council be allowed to speak at the meeting. She requested that all participants
in the discussion limit their remarks to three minutes and wait until all others
had spoken before requesting a second opportunity to speak.
Professor Robert Koons (philosophy) said that he supported the idea of providing
a common experience to undergraduates through the signature courses. He said
he was concerned that the labels of “nature” and “culture” were
so general that virtually any course at UT could qualify and therefore the goal
of a shared common experience for all students would not be realized. He thought
the core courses on global cultures and multicultural perspectives provided an
opportunity to focus on cultural ideas that had been most central in forming
current institutions. Professor Koons suggested that a course on the ancient
Mediterranean world up through 400 B.C. be followed by a course on European thought
and culture from the end of antiquity until the founding of the American Republic.
Professor Linda Henderson (art and art history and TFCR member) said the members
of the task force debated long and hard on how to provide freshmen with a distinctive
intellectual experience and concluded that inquiry across disciplines should
be the key focus of the freshman signature course. She thought courses centered
on ancient and European cultures would be too restrictive, and she thought the
task force hoped perspectives from humanities, science, and technology could
be addressed in the signature courses. She said the task force wanted the signature
courses to be team taught where the students would observe faculty members learning
from one another on topics that might include the following: science and science
fiction, feedback across disciplines, networking across disciplines, conceptions
of nature from physics and art, and global warming. She said a clarification
was needed on the framework handout because it was hoped that the freshman signature
course would not be “pigeonholed into any particular requirement.” She
said the sophomore class could begin to satisfy requirements, but flexibility
and collaborative learning were important features.
Professor Doug Burger (computer sciences) said he thought the signature course
was promising if done well, but he was concerned that the course might be “watered
down” due to its instructional scale. Asking if the task force had addressed
metrics, he said it was important to identify the body of knowledge that UT graduates
were expected to know and to incorporate that content into the core curriculum
and signature courses.
Noting that the sophomore course seemed to be less developed that the freshman
course, Professor Pauline Strong (anthropology) asked how the sophomore signature
course would differ from the courses currently taught about culture at the sophomore
level. Professor Evan Carton (English and TFCR member) said the sophomore course
was less developed than the freshman course because the task force thought decisions
about course design and management would rest with the particular faculty members
involved in teaching a specific course. He said the University College would
work with the faculty teaching the signature courses but would also encourage
on-going development of the course’s content through core curriculum elements
||individual departments. He said the task force envisioned the sophomore course
being offered in new offerings that cut across the social sciences and humanities
as well as through high quality courses that already exist. Professor Carton
said he expected strategic new hires and teaching loads issues would need to
be addressed to successfully establish the signature courses.
Professor Philip Doty (information) asked why the task force had chosen to use
the term “signature” and whether the dichotomy between “nature” and “culture” might
be outdated. He said he did not think this type of “reductionist/essentialist
nature/culture dichotomy” is beneficial to students today. Professor Michael
Starbird (math and TFCR member) responded that the word “signature” was
chosen to emphasize that the courses would be memorable and transforming. Professor
Starbird said he did not know if UT had the will and resources to accomplish
this, but he thought there was a possibility that it did. He said that the task
force was attempting to address the reality that the world is not divided according
to the academic organization of the University and that the signature courses
were a way to break down those barriers in a constructive manner.
Professor Jan Todd (kinesiology and health education) recalled that her participation
in a freshman program at Mercy University had been life-changing; however, she
thought the small class size and the direction of faculty members had been the
reason for her positive experience. She said she was concerned about the large
lecture format being proposed and the quality of teaching assistant support that
could be secured. Saying he didn’t remember any of his large classes as
memorable, Professor Bruce Palka (math) concurred with Professor Todd. He said
that if smaller sections could be offered then he would be in favor of the signature
courses; however, he did not think the resources were available to do this. Professor
Seema Agarwala (neurobiology) commented that she preferred to create a course
that covered modes of information across disciplines, but she was also concerned
about the difficulties of finding qualified teaching assistants who were well-suited
for interdisciplinary courses. Professor Desmond Lawler (civil engineering and
TFCR member) responded that the task force wanted the signature courses to be
unique to UT and not courses that students could test out of taking. He said
members of the task force would prefer for the signature courses to be offered
to sections of 18 students but the size of UT Austin made large sections necessary.
He said the task force wanted the small breakout sections to involve faculty
at least some of the time. He said teaching assistants would be provided with
a great deal of faculty oversight.
When Professor Martha Hilley (music) asked about the source of funding to support
the teaching assistants, Professor Henderson said the task force wanted the signature
courses staffed with specially trained, advanced teaching assistants, and she
expected the new University College would provide the needed funds. Professor
Henderson thought the teaching assistants in her field of art history would complete
two years of work in her department before they were eligible to provide support
for the signature courses. She expected that graduate students would be eager
to gain this new pedagogical opportunity.
When Professor Julia Mickenberg (American studies) asked if team teaching among
the teaching assistants had been considered to enhance the interdisciplinary
approach, Professor Carton responded that resources for the recommendations had
not been determined yet, and the possibility of interdisciplinary teaching assistants
had not been discussed. He said two faculty members would ideally team teach
a signature class and would interact both with the undergraduate students and
the teaching assistants. He noted that this new operational method would be beneficial
to both graduate and undergraduate education here at UT. Professor Archie Holmes
(electrical and computer
|| engineering and TFCR member) commented that
he had actually been inspired in large lecture
classes taken outside of his engineering major
when he was a UT undergraduate. He said the goals
of the signature courses were to provide students
with opportunities to see an array of what is actually
available for them and to enhance the breadth of
their undergraduate education. When Elizabeth Brummett
(Plan II and student government) asked if the task
force had considered integrating the new proposals
with the Freshman Interest Group and Freshman Seminar
programs, Professor Lawler said the task force
was hoping to take advantage of these existing
programs and organize the Freshman Interest Groups
in conjunction with the signature courses. He said
he did not think any of the new proposals would
prevent the continuation of the successful Freshman
Professor Linda Ferreira-Buckley (English and rhetoric) said she liked the idea
of the signature courses, but she was not sure how they would distinguish UT
students from other institutions because other universities, both small and large,
commonly offer similar broad-topic courses. She asked if topics such as ethics
and knowledge in the information and internet age or something pertaining to
world cultures had been considered by the task force. Professor Henderson responded
that developing students’ understanding of world cultures was a central
issue to the task force and had been addressed in the flagged areas within the
core curriculum. She said the sections led by teaching assistants could visit
the Blanton Museum or the Ransom Center to view the many exciting collections
and resources housed there.
Professor Nick Lasorsa (journalism) asked the following questions: (1) if the
task force’s projected 6,720 seats in the signature courses would accommodate
all freshmen entering UT; (2) why the sophomore signature course would satisfy
one of the area requirement in history, government, social sciences, and fine
arts but not in natural sciences, composition, literature, or mathematics; (3)
how the new signature course would impact tightly prescribed programs of study
that currently have no room for electives; and (4) will the break-out discussion
sessions or labs add an extra credit hour beyond the typical three hours for
a lecture class. He said he would like to get an idea of the allocation of faculty
time expected for teaching the course versus assisting or training the teaching
assistants. Professor Holmes said the all incoming freshmen would attend the
signature courses, but he did not know if 6,720 was the correct number. With
regard to the second question, Professor Holmes said it seemed practical to adopt
classes for the signature format that already crossed disciplines, but the departments
involved would determine whether the course content met the expected standards
to be counted as an area requirement. He said he thought the class would involve
three contact hours each week.
Chair Ortiz shared examples of comments that had come into the Faculty Council’s
dedicated email address for input on the task force report. Professor Tom Palaima
(classics) raised the issue of funding by pointing out that the freshman signature
course alone would require 28 faculty members and a minimum of 84 teaching assistants.
He also asked whether team teaching to smaller numbers of students at the upper
division level in existing interdisciplinary area centers might not be a better
alternative to the large lecture classes for freshmen. He also said evaluation
of the sophomore course concept was impossible given the vagueness with which
it was addressed in the task force’s report; he also asked if “small” classes
at the sophomore level meant 20 or 60 students per section. Chair Ortiz said
Professor Mona Mehdy (molecular, cellular, and developmental biology) stated
in her email that she agreed with the goals of providing interdisciplinary exposure
and increased opportunities for improving student writing skills but disagreed
that large signature courses provided the appropriate mechanism for meeting these
goals. Professor Mehdy suggested that the rhetoric and composition faculty be
consulted in course development and expressed concern about the training
||and preparation of teaching assistants to support large interdisciplinary signature
classes. Professor Holmes responded by saying he did not personally think the
freshman signature course would be able to accomplish what a rhetoric course
does in improving student writing. He said he thought the signature courses would
be motivational in helping students see how important good writing and speaking
skills are for their intellectual and professional development. Professors Lawler
pointed out that the signature courses were intended to incorporate writing but
not count as a rhetoric course He said the task force was asking to increase
the amount of required writing in every program of study through the flag requirements.
When Professor Todd asked if the task force had discussed the possibility of
increased funding for teaching assistants in regular writing component classes,
Professor Carton said he thought it would be helpful to have faculty and teaching
assistants trained for writing instruction in all disciplines. He said there
were initiatives underway at UT, especially those under the direction of Joan
Mullin, to improve writing instruction across campus. In response to Professor
Palaima’s email, Professor Carton said he thought the signature courses
would help overcome the following two preconceptions that are common among entering
students: (1) that disciplines are discreet and unrelated areas of knowledge
and (2) that top professors are only available in the higher level courses in
major fields. Professor Carton said that the purpose of getting two dynamic faculty
members from different fields in front of the incoming students was to “wow” them.
Professor Ken Flamm (public affairs) related his experiences with similar experimental
educational approaches as an undergraduate at Stanford. His perception was that
only one of the three was successful, and the successful program was the one
where a faculty member rather than a teaching assistant actually led the break-out
sessions. Although he was appreciative of the work done by the task force, Professor
Flamm said he agreed with Professors Palaima and Palka that upper-level, small
classes taught by outstanding faculty were more likely to result in signature
experiences for undergraduates. Professor Agarwala asked why UT could not incorporate
the signature course concept into existing small courses that have writing, speaking,
and philosophical components.
Professor Cynthia Buckley (sociology and Slavic and Eurasian studies) spoke in
favor of early undergraduate intervention in the freshman and sophomore years
before students are engaged in degree programs and less willing to visit the
Blanton Museum or to take foreign languages. Professor Henderson said she agreed
with the idea of early intervention. She thought having two faculty members,
whose only instructional assignment for the semester was to team teach a signature
course, would result in a faculty member being present in a section for more
than half of the class meetings during the semester. She said she thought 240
students meeting with excellent teachers would feel like a community, especially
if the Freshman Interest Groups overlapped in small sets of approximately 20
students. She said the theme of nature in the sophomore signature course could
be augmented by having three different outstanding professors present significant
lectures during the semester.
Cale McDowell (Senate of College Council representative and TFCR member) said
the term “signature” meant having classes where students were introduced
to the special resources that are unique to UT. He said there were outstanding
large courses whose quality rivaled and even surpassed the quality offered in
many small classes. Although large class settings might not be ideal, he felt
it was worthwhile to introduce students to UT’s resources very early in
their academic careers as undergraduates. He felt the trade-off between class
size and signature quality was worthwhile.
Chair Alba Ortiz thanked everyone for their participation in the meeting, saying
the input reflected the spirit of what was the colleges and schools were being
|| provide through their forthcoming forums. She
said it seemed to her there was considerable support
for the signature course concept, with more Council
members speaking in favor of freshmen/sophomore
than upper division placement. Questions focused
on the size of the classes, responsibility of faculty
versus teaching assistants, and required resources
for implementation. There was also interest in
building linkages with the Freshman Interest Groups
and Freshman Seminars or at least reviewing these
existing programs as models. She asked everyone
to send their comments to the dedicated email address
and to remind their colleagues to do so. Chair
Ortiz especially thanked the task force members
for coming to the meeting and sharing their viewpoints.
|REPORTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY, COLLEGES AND
SCHOOLS, AND COMMITTEES — None.
|NEW BUSINESS — None.
|ANNOUNCEMENTS AND COMMENTS.
|| Each Standing Committee should elect a "chair-elect," as
provided in the revision of the rules and regulations
by the Faculty Council last spring: "During the
first half of the spring semester the voting members
of each committee shall elect a chair elect, who shall
assume the office of chair on the first class day of
the following fall semester for a term of one year.
Faculty members of the committee whose terms of service
extend through the following year or who are eligible
for reappointment to the committee are eligible to
be elected as chair elect. A chair elect whose term
of service does not extend through the following academic
year will be reappointed for an additional term."
|| Standing Committee nominations are scheduled for
January 30 through February 17.
|| Special meeting of the Faculty Council with President
William Powers, February 1, 11:15 a.m., Main 212.
|| The Standing Committees should submit reports for
action by the Faculty Council at the February and March
meetings no later than February 2 and March 2, respectively.
|| General Faculty College Elections, nomination phase,
are scheduled for February 27 through March 10.
|| Joint Meeting of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate
and the UT Faculty Council, February 27 at Texas A&M.
Submit carpool preferences to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|| General Faculty College Elections to the Faculty
Council, final phase, are scheduled for March 27 through
|| Chair Ortiz reminded Council members that the new
email address for sending comments and opinions relating
to the recommendations from the Task Force on Curricular
Reform is email@example.com.
|QUESTIONS TO THE CHAIR— None.
Adjourned at 3:34 p.m.
Distributed through the Faculty
Council Web site
on February 16, 2006.
Copies are available on request from the Office of the General
Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.