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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
Following are the minutes of the special meeting of the Faculty Council and Graduate Assembly held on February 1, 2006.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE FACULTY COUNCIL AND GRADUATE ASSEMBLY PRESIDED BY PRESIDENT WILLIAM POWERS JR.
FEBRUARY 1, 2006
The special meeting of the Faculty Council and Graduate Assembly called by President Powers on the first day of his administration was held in the Main Building, Room 212, Monday, February 1, 2006, at 2:15 P.M. Faculty Council Chair Alba Ortiz (special education) called the meeting to order and introduced President Powers by saying he was a distinguished scholar, exemplary teacher, and great citizen of the University.
ATTENDANCE — was not taken.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE PRESIDENT.
A. Comments by the President.
See Appendix A for text of President Powers’ statement.
B. Questions to the President.
Chair Ortiz asked President Powers what his expectations were in terms of responses and/or products from the faculty, students, and administration with regard to the report of the Task Force on Curricular Reform. She also asked him what his expected time line was for the curricular reform process and what specific role he would play as the faculty considered the recommendations of the task force.
President Powers said he was willing to share his views regarding the report’s recommendations, but he did not “want to hammer this through.” He said he recognized his dual role and thought he could move ahead if “the collective comes to some other views” than the good ideas included in the report. He said he wanted to “give the Faculty Council and the other constituencies space within which to work.” Saying the outcome was “not a done deal,” he referred to the current faculty deliberations as being “important.”
President Powers said there was a need for undergraduate students to be introduced to the treasures of the University early in their programs of study. He wants the students to return home at Thanksgiving and tell their families something similar to the following: “Wow, you wouldn’t believe it...I saw Yates’ or Joyce’s original notes in the Ransom Center... I was in a laboratory that took a single atom and moved it.” He said the University needs to get all of the students involved in projects, including their own research, even though this is expensive and difficult to accomplish. Because all students do not arrive at UT knowing what they want to do, President Powers said it was crucial to help them find pathways and explore, but they still need to graduate in four or five years. Although he acknowledged the controversy over creating a University College, he thought it was essential that there be a powerful entity on campus that gets up each morning thinking their “only job today is to be a champion of the undergraduate curriculum.” He
said he did not want the results of the deliberative process “just to be here are some changes and twenty-five years from now we are back at it again.” He said the task of reforming the undergraduate curriculum was a crucial one for the entire University to address.
When Professor Janet Dukerich (management and Graduate Assembly chair) asked how UT could increase its competitiveness in attracting higher quality graduate students, President Powers said UT had somehow managed to get great graduate students in spite of being “way behind in the financial aid offered to graduate students.” He said the Commission of 125’s graduate and professional school subcommittee had conducted a study, with Dean Rodriquez’s help, that indicated UT would need to allocate approximately $40 million (amount estimated) to be competitive with the University of Michigan or the University of California at Berkeley in terms of graduate student financial packages. He said the amount needed was “not much in an overall budget of $1.6 billion,” and UT must make progress in narrowing the gap. Although the first priority was to increase stipends, President Powers said he thought improvements could be made to enhance the “extracurricular life” on campus for graduate students. He said efforts to improve the well-being of graduate students would help to recruit faculty as well as future students.
With regard to UT’s efforts to become the top ranked public university, Professor Linda Reichl (physics) asked if following selected paths of excellence might be more effective than attempting to make the entire University excellent given the finite nature of resources. President Powers said he was not going to name specific areas of excellence. He said that UT was already an excellent university, and the next step was to see that more of UT’s departments reached the very top. He said it was true that UT could not do everything, and he did not advocate an across-the-board implementation of initiatives. However, he said this did not mean UT should “just yank the fabric of existing programs and pull the rug out.” He said general budgetary and philanthropic funding growth over the next five years needed to focus on areas where it could do the most good. He said “most good” should not be based only on program reputation, but it should also be based on improving the undergraduate curriculum and core departments. Saying he did not have a specific plan, he indicated he would work with the deans and the faculty on this matter.
Professor Darlene Grant (associate dean of graduate studies) said she appreciated President Powers’ commitment to improving diversity at the graduate school level. She said it was important for “undergraduate students to see the face of diversity reflected in TAs and GRAs,” and she applauded President Powers’ efforts in this area. President Powers said he appreciated the efforts of everyone, including Professor Grant and Dean Rodriguez, to improve diversity on campus.
President Powers and Chair Ortiz thanked everyone in the audience for coming.
Chair Ortiz then adjourned the meeting at 3:34 p.m.
Distributed through the Faculty Council Web site on April 24, 2006. Transcripts of the Faculty Council meetings and copies of these minutes are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.
Statement by President William Powers Jr.
Joint Meeting of Faculty Council and Graduate Assembly, February 1, 2006Thank you, Alba. It is really wonderful to be introduced to this group by you. We have been on many committees together and dean search committees together. Let me say, I am delighted you all are here, taking time out of your busy schedules to help me inaugurate this new journey — this new phase in the University’s history. I am absolutely excited about it. I am blessed to have this opportunity to lead this great University. I come on the heels of an absolutely fabulous president, who has done so much for our University. People will always say to me that it’s a hard act to follow, and, of course, it is. Those are hard shoes to fill. In many ways, it is a good act to follow because President Faulkner put us on such a wonderful direction and got so much done, and so it is up to all of us to continue on that path.
It is a big day for me, and in thinking what I wanted to do on my first day, the first thing I said is that I wanted to come talk to the Faculty Council and the Graduate Assembly and to the people who are here. I know there are people who could not be here today because of their schedules and on such short notice. I really am appreciative that you worked into your schedules to help me celebrate as I launch on this path. This is the only real talk I am giving today. I do see this as the centerpiece of my first day, and it’s because these two groups — the people here and all faculty who are engaged in faculty governance — are a backbone of what this University does. It is very important to me, and I thank you again that you all are part of my first day and a centerpiece of my first day as I launch this new journey in my life.
I met with the deans this morning. I had breakfast with them. I will be meeting with students, having lunch at Jester, and then going through some students’ spaces and talking to the President’s Student Advisory Council. I will be having dinner tonight with members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a faculty group. And, I am here with the faculty governance groups. All of those groups are important. They are important because they make up what this University is about. They are the leaders of the University, and they are the people who have to collectively think about where this University is going. And, a crucial part of that, where the University is going, is the structure of faculty governance. Faculty governance is something that watches out for the welfare of the faculty, and that is an important thing for these two groups to do. They watch out for important institutions that we have, such as tenure, balancing teaching and research, and hiring. There is faculty governance structure that watches out for many important things around this University. <
What this group needs to do, and what we all also need to do, is to think collectively about what our vision is for the University. I told this to the deans this morning. I plan to meet with them regularly, not individually but personally in groups. I have told the students this on previous occasions, and I will tell them the same thing this afternoon. And, I want to tell this body this as well. I think it is very important that, as we shape the vision and the trajectory of this University, we work together. I pledge to work through faculty governance processes and to work with this group — but also not just to work by coming to consult about things after they are done — but to consult with faculty, consult with this group, and consult with the committees on the architectural stages of the projects as we form our version of the future for this University.
This is a powerful, powerful University. It transforms the lives of our students. It’s transformed my life. It’s transformed the lives of countless faculty members. It drives the cultural, political, and economic advances of this state and the region and, in many ways, the country. This is a serious responsibility we have. It’s a responsibility the deans have, it’s a responsibility the provost has, it’s a responsibility the students have, but it is an enormous responsibility that the faculty has. It takes times, it takes effort, it takes thought, and sometimes it even takes battle. There is an important task in front of the Faculty Council now on undergraduate curriculum, and good things come out of sometimes arguing about them. And, it is hard work, and I commend that work to you. I pledge to work with you on these things, but it takes work on the faculty as well. We have had great leadership. As I said, I have known Alba for years, and I am blessed to come in with great leadership on the Faculty Council and the Graduate Assembly. But it takes work, it takes effort, it takes making space and time in our lives to make faculty governance work, and I commend that task to you.
Now I do have some things that I have on previous occasions mentioned are important to me as I start out in this journey. One of the most important things I will be doing, immediately and over a sustained period of time, is to bring the message of higher education to the people of Texas. As I mentioned before, this is a powerful institution. We drive the economy. We drive innovative technological and scientific and cultural innovations. We train the leaders in our state and region. An investment in The University of Texas — not just an investment in us but in higher education — is an investment in the future of this state. I plan to take that message to the political leaders and to the people of Texas. But let me say, I can’t do that alone. I need help doing that. We all need to take responsibility for taking that message to the people of Texas, and sometimes it starts in the classroom. We have to deliver on that — we have to deliver on making people understand what we do for this state. So, it’s a message I will be taking to the people of Texas, and I look forward to your joining me in that.
The second thing I will focus on...and I hope we will all focus on...is training the leadership and educating the leadership of this state. We cannot claim the mantle of a great public University if we are not educating a diverse group of leaders for the next generation. We have made great strides on this campus over the last several years. Larry Faulkner was a great champion of diversity on this campus. We need to continue those efforts and to diversify our faculty. And again, I need your help in that effort. It is an important thing that this University does.
This is a time when the Commission of 125 has pointed out that we need to attend to the undergraduate curriculum. The task force has made proposals and agrees it’s time to attend to the undergraduate curriculum. It is easy for a sprawling, dynamic, large public research university, not to forget but, sometimes not to attend as much as we want or need in bringing the treasures of this university to the undergraduates. That is being debated in the Faculty Council, and that is a healthy debate. I implore you — this needs to get done — not the “this” in the details of what’s been proposed. I think they were pretty good proposals, but something important for our undergraduates needs to get done. This is the time to do it, and it is in your hands now. Don’t let our undergraduates down. I look forward to cooperating with you in any way that I can help. Some of these things will take resources that I can help provide. Some of them will take votes of the Faculty Council, but let’s collectively not drop the ball. This is crucial to undergraduate education here, and it’s important that we attend to it.
And then finally, I want to address another goal that I have for this University, and I think we all have. I have been asked on many occasions, including the moment I was appointed...I think the term then was the sole finalist...what I thought the trajectory of the University ought to be. I said I think this University ought to be the leading public university in the country. Now, we have to figure out collectively what that means. It is an ambitious goal. Larry Faulkner made the point at the University Leadership Council retreat last Friday that we need to be thinking not just for goals for next week and next year. This is a long-term institution. We need to have as our beacon being the leading public university in this country. And, we can do it. We can do this if we set this as our goal and work together. It means we have to bring more of our departments to the very top. It takes focus, it takes discipline, and it takes people in the administration, in the faculty, and among the students, not thinking what is best for my life right now or every moment, but thinking what’s best for this University. That is a hard thing for big, sprawling universities to do, but we can do this. We can make this the best public university in the country. It is a fabulous and powerful institution. We are halfway in the door. We need to continue that. That needs to be our goal. If it’s not our goal, we will stagnate. We need to commit ourselves to academic excellence in every arena.
Many of you were at President Faulkner’s going away reception or party in the Erwin Center two days ago, and he made a point that I want to reiterate. There is a tradition, a culture, around here of true academic excellence. He made the point that it was here when we all got here. There is this intangible sense of academic excellence on this campus that each generation passes along to the next. And, the conduit of passing it along has been the Faculty Council and the Graduate Assembly. This is the group that does that. He implored you to fight for, stick with, work for those values of academic excellence, and I would ask you the same thing. And, demand it of me; demand it of the deans and the provost and the vice presidents. You all are the guardians of that tradition. We all are the guardians. We are faculty members, too. We are all the guardians, but these two groups are the guardians of that tradition. As President Faulkner implored you to continue in that tradition, I do as well.
Well, those are some of my dreams for this University. I want to close by saying I think my dreams are good dreams. They are dreams I intend to pursue for this University, but they are less important than “our” dreams — the students’ dreams, the faculty’s dreams, the deans’ dreams, collectively. And, I pledge you to a process of working together — again not just at the level where things get done and we go to each other to approve them, but — at the foundational level, at the blueprint level, at the point where we are thinking what the trajectory of this great university is to be. I pledge to work with you, and I hope you will work with me. I know the deans, the students, if we work together, we can do great things. We need the highest of ambitions and to think how to get there. And, there will be days where we think we will be stepping backwards and not forwards, but, let me tell you, we can do this if we do it together. I look forward to that journey with you. Thank you so much for being here today for this.