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Following are the minutes of the regular Faculty Council meeting of November 12, 2007.

Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty


NOVEMBER 12 , 2007

  The third regular meeting of the Faculty Council for the academic year 2007-2008 was held in the Main Building, Room 212, Monday, November 12, 2007, at 2:15 p.m.

Present: Lawrence D. Abraham, Urton L. Anderson, Matthew J. Bailey, Christopher J. Bell, Tawny L. Bettinger, Gary D. Borich, Douglas C. Burger, Linda J. Carpenter, Elizabeth Cullingford, Molly E. Cummings, Gustavo A. De Veciana, Luis Francisco-Revilla, Jeanne H. Freeland-Graves, Alan W. Friedman, Brian C. Gatten, Linda V. Gerber, Linda L. Golden, Michael H. Granof, Darlene Grant, Sue A. Greninger, Bretna M. Hackert, Kenneth J. Hale, Ian F. Hancock, Kevin P. Hegarty, Martha F. Hilley, Klaus O. Kalthoff, Karrol A. Kitt, Robert C. Koons, Desiderio Kovar, Nancy P. Kwallek, Dominic L. Lasorsa, Desmond F. Lawler, Robert P. Lieli, Reid Long, Carol H. MacKay, Raul L. Madrid, Robin D. Moore, Joan A. Mullin, Stephen Myers, Jon E. Olson, Alba A. Ortiz, Thomas G. Palaima, Domino R. Perez, William C. Powers, Keshav Rajagopalan, Kenneth M. Ralls, John H. Richburg, Gretchen Ritter, Andrew C. Solomon, Janet Staiger, Mary A. Steinhardt, Nikita Storojev, Pauline T. Strong, Nicole E. Trinh, Jeffrey K. Tulis, Clark R. Wilson, Travis W. Witherspoon, Stacy Wolf, Sharon L. Wood, Paul B. Woodruff, Patrick Woolley.

Absent: Kamran Ali, Mark I. Alpert (excused), Efraim P. Armendariz, Judy Copeland Ashcroft, Eric J. Barron, Daniel J. Birkholz (excused), Hans C. Boas (excused), Virginia G. Burnett, Lisa J. Cary (excused), Patricia L. Clubb, Miles Lynn Crismon, Douglas J. Dempster, Randy L. Diehl, Andrew P. Dillon, John S. Dzienkowski, Richard B. Eason, Sherry L. Field, Kevin M. Foster, George W. Gau, Juan C. González, Edmund (Ted) Gordon, Donald A. Hale, Roderick P. Hart, Fred M. Heath, James L. Hill, David M. Hillis (excused), Neville Hoad, Manuel J. Justiz (excused), Steven W. Leslie (excused), Wayne Lesser (excused), Michael J. McFarlin, John H. Murphy (excused), Patricia C. Ohlendorf (excused), Cynthia Osborne (excused), Shirley Bird Perry, Elizabeth C. Pomeroy (excused), Mary Ann Rankin, Soncia R. Reagins-Lilly (excused), Brian E. Roberts, Victoria Rodriguez, Lawrence Sager, Juan M. Sanchez, Dolores Sands, Paul R. Shapiro, Shannon Speed, Vincent S. (Shelby) Stanfield, James Steinberg, Frederick R. Steiner, Ben G. Streetman, Jeffrey Vaaler (excused), Gregory J. Vincent, N. Bruce Walker, Barbara W. White.

Voting Members: 57 present , 20 absent, 77 total.
Non-Voting Members: 4 present, 33 absent, 37 total.
Total Members 61 present, 53 absent, 114 total.



The written report appears in D 5773-5782; there were no questions or corrections to the report.


The minutes of the regular Faculty Council meeting of October 15, 2007, (D 5783-5789) were approved by voice vote.


A. President William Powers Jr. thanked Chair Doug Burger (computer sciences) for rearranging the Council meeting’s agenda to accommodate his need to attend another meeting. He said he wanted to comment on the procedural aspects of the Brackenridge Task Force report that was recently presented to The University of Texas Board of Regents. The president described the public open forum held by the Board as “robust” and productive. He said he wanted to assure everyone that the decision-making on the future use of the track would be a long-term process. Although the leases on the land will not expire for approximately 8-11 years, President Powers said the regents did not want to repeat the rushed process that many perceive had occurred the last time lease expiration dates approached. The idea this time is that the process needs to involve consultation with many different groups, including students and faculty, in order to determine not only if the regents are “meeting the University’s interests but are they meeting them in the best possible way?”

President Powers said there are some current uses of the Brackenridge property that clearly advance the interests of the University, such as the field lab and married student housing, but some of the others are not directly connected to the University’s academic objectives. He thought the next step would involve additional discussion and consultation, such as the recent meetings that had been held with researchers at the field lab and graduate students. President Powers closed by saying, “What we don’t want to do is get to 2015 and then over a three month period try to figure out, in the long run, what uses of the property will best promote the educational opportunities on this campus.”

B. Questions to the President.

From Professor Gretchen Ritter (government and director, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies).

“I have recently learned that when the Campus Club relocates to the new hotel/convention center next summer, the current employees of the Campus Club will not be able to retain their jobs. More precisely, they will no longer be state employees, and may not be able to continue on at all. Some of these folks have been working for the Club and for UT Austin for more than twenty years. What can be done to help them retain their positions as UT employees?”

President Powers asked Associate Vice President Julian Carter (Human Resource Services) to respond to Professor Ritter’s question. Mr. Carter said discussions about transitioning the Campus Club employees to the Executive Education and Conference Center had been underway since human resources learned that Flik, a hotel management company, would be handling food services in the new facility. He said these discussions had occurred between representatives from Vice President Pat Clubb’s office, the Campus Club, and Flik. After completing an analysis of the total compensation package available from Flik, the University was able to negotiate the following: the Campus Club employees would be hired by Flik at similar wage rates to what they earn as University employees and be credited with their time as University employees toward any benefits that are based on duration of employment “to the extent that was


  possible.” In addition, where there were differences in the benefits packages of the University and Flik, Mr. Carter said, “we were able to ensure that there were additional elements to that compensation to try to address that shortcoming.” When explaining that Flik was unable to match the generous retirement package offered by the University, Mr. Carter said, “That is a very significant area where we didn’t have much luck in trying to come up with some package to address that.”

He said the first step when there is a reduction in force is for human resources personnel to meet with the employees that are facing job losses, both as a group and individually, to answer questions, address their specific concerns, and to help identify other employment opportunities on campus. He said these meetings had been informally held with the Campus Club employees. The University generally provides a 60-day notice when there is a planned reduction in force; however, Mr. Carter said the employees in this particular situation were informally notified over a year in advance of the pending transition. When departments and offices list University job openings, human resources personnel notify the listing parties that long-term University employees are in the applicant pool, and an effort is made to place these employees in the positions to the extent possible. He said sometimes the employees find positions that are similar to their previous work; however, he thought this might be a challenge in the current situation because the University does not have a large food service operation now. He said human resources staff would help the Campus Club employees with application materials and might even videotape them in mock interviews to assist them in being successful in finding new positions. Mr. Carter concluded by saying that the objective of human resources was to help the workers “to the extent possible to find other employment here at the University.”

After saying she appreciated the information, Professor Ritter commented that many people chose to work at the University for reasons other than wages, which are often not that competitive, because they want to contribute their talents and skills toward the University’s mission and generally like the work environment. She said she felt the University “owned them an obligation to respond in kind,” and she wanted to know there was a commitment during this transition to provide the Campus Club workers opportunities to remain as UT Austin employees.


Chair Burger reported that the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets would meet with Executive Vice Provost Steve Monti to discuss how the committee can become more actively involved in the University’s budgeting process. He then asked Professor Alba Ortiz (special education and past Council chair) to report on the meeting of the Texas Council of Faculty Senates held on October 19-20. Professor Ortiz said Dr. Catherine Parsoneault (program director, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) discussed two items that had resulted from bills passed by the 79th Texas Legislature. Senate Bill 1231 directed the Coordinating Board to adopt rules consistent with the requirement that institutions of higher education limit an undergraduate’s total number of dropped courses to no more than six, including any courses a transfer student has dropped at another institution. Professor Ortiz reported that the rules approved by the Coordinating Board on October 25, 2007, provided a great deal of flexibility due to the complexity involved in implementing the legislation. Examples of the questions raised by the legislation include what counts as a course, how dual enrollment or lab courses should be counted, what counts as a grade or incomplete, how Q drops should be treated, and what record-keeping system should be developed to meet tracking and reporting requirements. Professor Ortiz noted that two provisions passed by the UT Austin Faculty Council to increase course availability back in 2005 were recently approved by the president and provost pending review of Senate Bill 1231 (D 3835-3837). The first is the adoption of a new symbol, N, that would be assigned when a student drops a class for a documented, non-academic reason. The second would limit a student to four Q drops, which was increased from the three that the Faculty Council originally recommended by the administration. Students who have received four Qs would need documented, non-academic reasons for any additional drops occurring after the fourth class day of the semester. Professor Ortiz said UT Austin would need to review these recent provisions as well as any others to


  determine if they are consistent with the new Coordinating Board’s rules. Another topic discussed by Dr. Parsoneault involved the development of college readiness standards in English, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies as mandated by the 79th legislature. According to Professor Ortiz, House Bill 1 required that vertical teams of public school and higher education faculty define what students should know and be able to do in entry-level college courses. She explained that the resulting standards would serve as a basis for the college readiness portion of high school end-of-course examinations that are likely to be adopted in January 2008 after a public review and comment period.

Professor Ortiz reported on the following two presentations about current problems facing higher education: (1) “Changing Demographics of the Professoriate” by Mr. John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, and (2) “The Clash between Educational Values and Consumer Values in Higher Education” by Dean Dennis Jones, Division of General Studies at Tarleton State University. According to Professor Ortiz, both of these presentations focused on issues that have resulted from reduced public funding for higher education, such as increased dependency on non-tenure track faculty to meet instructional needs without the concomitant service work and advising responsibilities. As a result, there is concern that tenure-track and tenured faculty must spend an increasing proportion of their time in these activities, which then reduces their research productivity, grant funding, and community linkages.

Professor Ortiz said the banquet speaker was The Honorable Lois Kolkhorst, Texas House of Representative from District 13. She is the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, which oversees funding for the state's public schools, community colleges, public universities, and health-related institutions. Instead of giving a prepared speech, Representative Kolkhorst asked for input from the audience regarding issues facing higher education. Topics raised by faculty governance representatives from across the state included changing demographics, college readiness, increased need for developmental courses, salary inequities, and the increasing competition between public schools and higher education for limited resources. According to Professor Ortiz, Representative Kolkhorst expressed empathy but said the faculty must realize that legislators lack the expertise to design legislation that impacts higher education. Although lobbying should be avoided, she encouraged faculty to “stay in contact with our legislative representatives.”

During the round-up reports from each college/university, common concerns were shared regarding governance issues and the relationships between the faculty governance bodies and the administrative officials. Professor Ortiz said other common areas of concern were support for teaching and research and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process.



A. Proposal to Change the Name of the Calendar Committee to the University Academic Calendar Committee (D 5769).

Professor Kenneth Ralls (mechanical engineering, chair of the Committee on Committees, and past chair of the Calendar Committee) reported on behalf of Professor John R. Allison (information, risk, and operations management and current Calendar Committee chair). Professor Ralls said the Calendar Committee members thought that changing the name of the committee to the University Academic Calendar Committee would clarify the primary role of the committee and minimize confusion due to the number of calendar-related committees across campus. He said there had been questions raised that indicated that the committee was confused with the Texas Union Calendar Committee and the various other college/school/department committees who are responsible for posting and maintaining specific calendars on the UT Austin web site. There were no questions or further discussion, and the motion unanimously passed by voice vote.


B. Proposal from the Educational Policy Committee Regarding the Implementation of Plus/Minus Grading System for Undergraduates (D 5770-5772).

Professor Desmond Lawler (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering and committee chair) explained that the Faculty Council had passed a motion from the Educational Policy Committee last academic year, which was approved by President Powers, to change the undergraduate grading system to be the same as the graduate grading system. He said the motion he was currently presenting (D 5771-5772) dealt with implementing the policy that was approved last year. Although the committee had developed a 15-point justification for their proposal, Professor Lawler said the most important point was that all references to requiring course grades of C or better in University publications would be changed to C- or better and the same would be true for B to B- and A to A-, etc. According to the registrar’s office, a very large number of references in University publications list specific grades, including approximately 1,200 Cs, over 100 Bs, and fewer As. The intent of the motion, according to Professor Lawler, was that the change in the grading system did not involve a change in academic standards; for example, he said, the borderline in the new grading system, between C- and D would be the same as it now is between C and D in order to be fair to the students. He noted that these policies were “not actually University policies,” and individual academic units would still be able to set their own rules and requirements if they don’t like this universal default change.

Professor Lawler said the catalog would also include substantial GPA requirements, such as for scholastic probation, academic dismissal, and graduation; in addition, any degree program can specify GPA requirements for a set number of courses or a set grouping of courses. He explained that if a student earned a C- in a course, s/he would need an offsetting C+ or better to maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to graduate. The motion indicates that the new grading system would begin in fall 2009, and because this falls in the middle of a catalog period, the default will automatically occur.

When Professor Jon Olson, (petroleum engineering) asked if a student receiving a C- in a prerequisite, where the follow-on course required the student to have earned at least a C in the prerequisite, might be inconsistent with the wording of the proposal, Professor Lawler said the Educational Policy Committee had discussed this at great length, and he explained the basis of the committee’s opinion by saying the following:

“The concept of a new grading system is that it’s a finer tuned machine. Let me talk about it with the following example. Let’s imagine that somebody now grades numerically, and they say that everything from 70-79.99 is a C. So, in other words, 70.00 is their cut-off between C and D. This basically says that same number, 70, is going to be this cut-off between C- and D+, and therefore that to maintain the same academic standard we should allow a C- to count. That is to say, we’re not imagining that what used to be called a D will now be called a C-. Yes, we had discussion about this, and we came out this way. It is true that if you had all C-s which used to all be Cs, you could now be put on academic probation whereas before you couldn’t. There is some change there that faculty will presumably realize when they are making grades.”

Mr. Reid Long, (Senate of College Councils) reported that the student representatives on the Educational Policy Committee from the Senate of College Councils opposed the motion because they felt there had been insufficient research and discussion of issues. Mr. Keshav Rajagopalan (Student Government) asked what was the rationale for not lowering the GPA numbers to agree with the letter grades under the new system. Professor Lawler said Professor Hillis (integrated biology, past chair of the committee) had explained last spring that generally some C- grades will be offset by other C+ grades, and the GPA will not likely be altered very much if at all. He said most universities have changed to a plus/minus system similar to the one being proposed at UT Austin; however, a 2.0 GPA requirement is almost universally used for academic dismissal and graduation across institutions of higher education.


  Mr. Rajagopalan asked about the lack of equity for students that could occur because professors can assign different values for specific grades. He said students need to receive a syllabus that stipulates specific grades, such as 93-95 equals an A and 96-100 equals an A+. Professor Lawler responded, “Trying to tell faculty what to do is like herding cats,” and he did not think such specificity would be acceptable because faculty have varying standards for grade determination under the current system. However, he thought the embedded recommendation that a C- in the new system be treated the same as a C under the old system would provide guidance to the faculty.

When Professor Alan Friedman asked if the Educational Policy Committee thought exempting the School of Law from the legislation was a good idea, Professor Lawler responded that he thought plus/minus grading had been used for a number of years in that program. President Powers said that a plus/minus system had been used in the law school for ten or more years; however, he indicated he did not know “that the law school wasn’t part of this, so there wasn’t any constraints from the administration not to include this.” Professor Lawler said representatives of the registrar’s office had suggested the wording for provisions six through 15 of the proposal, but he thought there would be no need for provision seven if the law school’s grading system were was the same as the one used in the graduate school. Professor Friedman said his understanding from the discussion was that there was no prescription mandating that the law school have its own separate grading system, and he thought a motion could be introduced to delete provision seven regarding the School of Law. Professor Lawler responded that Professor Friedman’s summary statement was true as far as he could tell, but he would gather additional information regarding the law school issue.

When Professor Desiderio Kovar (mechanical engineering) asked if the policy issues raised by Professor Olson were consistent with what exists at peer institutions, Professor Lawler said the UT Austin proposal was consistent with a large number of its peers, but he had found a good deal of variation on that particular issue across institutions. He said he thought the proposed recommendation by his committee had been made “more for the sake of trying to be fair to students and not changing our current academic standard than anything else.” Professor Larry Abraham (curriculum and instruction and member of the Educational Policy Committee) said he thought the proposal made a clear distinction between a requirement specifying a particular grade in a particular course and a requirement specifying an average GPA that must be achieved for a number or group of courses. He said the proposed default transformation whereby a C changes to a C- and a B to a B- reflects what an individual grade would be under the two systems, but would not change the average GPA requirements that are calculated across multiple courses. He explained that the committee thought this proposed system would serve as a good starting position to allow the registrar’s office to initiate plus/minus grading for undergraduate courses because the best prediction so far was that student GPAs will not vary that much under the two systems, particularly at the 2.0 level. He also reiterated a point previously made by Professor Lawler that programs are not required to use the default mechanism and can prescribe a different system designed to meet their own degree program requirements.

When Mr. Rajagopalan asked for clarification on provision 15 regarding when the change to plus/minus grading would occur, Professor Lawler said the change in grading systems would be fully explained and its timing noted on the back of an official transcript. He said he had requested that this notation be placed on the front of the transcript; however, personnel in the registrar’s were not sanguine that this could be accomplished but indicated they would explore this possibility.

Past chair Linda Golden (marketing) said that the law school had included an A+ in its grading system in the past, and she thought it still did. Since the law school is the only graduate level program under the auspices of the Faculty Council rather than the Graduate School, she thought this variance would need to be addressed in some way.

Professor Olson said he was still confused about the grade of C becoming a C- under the new system, especially when the courses were important prerequisites for higher-level courses. He said


  by giving bottom level C students C- grades, he would be saying they were qualified to advance to the next level course; this did not make sense to him if it were mathematically possible for such a student to potentially be on academic probation due to his or her GPA being below 2.0. Although he liked the concept of plus/minus grading, Professor Olson said he was concerned about what could happen in borderline cases and felt there was merit in just leaving C or better as the current requirement rather than changing the C to a C-. Although he thought many students would have higher grades to offset their lower ones, Professor Lawler acknowledged that students who were borderline virtually all the time could face the situation described by Professor Olson. However, Professor Lawler said the two provisions should be viewed separately, and he knew of no university in the U.S. that had set its probation or graduation standard below a 2.0. He assured Professor Olson that he did not have to assign pluses and minuses since the new grading system would be voluntary.

Mr. Andrew Solomon (Student Government) asked if grandfathering current students under the old grading system had been discussed and could be done. Professor Lawler indicated that the committee, after considerable discussion, had determined that grandfathering would not be possible since it would require the use of two separate grading systems at the same time. Committee members thought it would be unfair to use two different systems to grade students in the same class, especially given the number of students transferring from other institutions to UT Austin, and would be a burden for faculty members in assigning their grades. Professor Lawler said grandfathering would involve considerable institutional overhead costs over a period of up to nine years. He also pointed out that the new system would not go into effect until 2009 and would therefore not impact many of the students currently enrolled. Professor Lawler said he would research the question regarding the law school before the vote on the proposal at the December Council meeting.

C. Report from the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Dean Paul Woodruff reported on the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that is part of the reaffirmation of accreditation currently underway at UT Austin by the Southern Association of Colleges. Because the association had requested a general plan be developed regarding campus-wide improvements to undergraduate education, Dean Woodruff said the QEP report is focusing on the first-year signature courses currently being implemented as part of curricular reform. He reported that a one-page case statement, which is attached in Appendix A, would need to be reviewed by different decision-making groups across campus, such as the Faculty Council. Dean Woodruff asked if there were any questions or comments about the document.

Professor Friedman said he wanted to know to what extent the teaching of signature courses by distinguished faculty was voluntary on the part of the faculty members and their departments as well as if this teaching will be required in the future. He also wanted to know which faculty body had been involved in the decision-making that occurred in creating the document and the plan. In addition, he said he wanted to know what consideration had been given to the impact on graduate programs and majors resulting from this shift in teaching assignments and talents across campus. Dean Woodruff said that the document had been written in a manner that allowed assessment of the goal that signature courses are taught by distinguished, regular faculty. He said this goal was an overriding one that was articulated by the various advisory and decision-making bodies during the curricular reform process. To implement this, his office requested that department chairs and deans recommend appropriate faculty members to teach the signature courses. He said the bodies involved in the decision-making process included the Task Force on Undergraduate Curricular Reform, the Educational Policy Committee, and the Faculty Council. The result is that Undergraduate Studies will generally not accept signature course proposals from adjunct faculty members unless there are special circumstances. For fall 2008 courses, faculty members who have been recommended by their chairs and deans are largely slated to teach the signature courses; these include clinical faculty, senior lecturers, and a few emeritus faculty in addition to regular faculty members.


  With regard to the impact on graduate education, Dean Woodruff said he felt deans and chairs would not approve faculty proposals if they thought there would be a negative impact on graduate instruction. The provost has stipulated that Undergraduate Studies cannot directly approach faculty members but must recruit through the deans who then in turn notify department chairs. He said he thought this mechanism served to protect programs of study from losing instructional activity critical to their programmatic needs. He said one exciting development is that the School of Law and LBJ School of Public Affairs would be offering courses for undergraduates for the first time through signature courses.

Professor Thomas Palaima (classics) said he was concerned about the impact on upper level courses for majors, especially since so many junior and senior level classes are taught in large class formats rather than smaller discussion-oriented classes. He said he knew of one program that was requiring faculty members to teach their regular courses as well as participate in the new undergraduate initiatives as overloads. Because he was concerned about how widespread this practice was occurring and the potential adverse impact it could have on instructional quality, he thought a survey would be worthwhile to conduct regarding this issue. Dean Woodruff said this was one of his major concerns and special procedures beyond the Course Instructor Survey were being used to closely track instructional quality. He said he had to trust that the departments know the extent to which they can participate in the new initiatives and maintain instructional quality in their other courses. According to Dean Woodruff, the Faculty Council’s support of curricular reform was a vote “for a certain level of redeployment of faculty” to teaching freshmen, which he referred to as “exciting” and “admirable” even though it involves a cost. He said the magnitude of this cost could be determined as progress is underway. He said he had received administrative commitment to support faculty hires for departments that were actively participating in the new initiatives and felt assured that one of the best justifications a department could make in securing future faculty positions was to demonstrate how its faculty had contributed to the core curriculum by offering signature courses. Dean Woodruff thought there would still be dependency on a number of large freshman courses as well as mid-level major courses that might have to be taught by lecturers and adjunct faculty. However, he said he was not convinced that this would negatively impact instructional quality because in his field of philosophy some of the lecturers were doing quite well teaching mid-level courses. He concluded by saying he thought this might vary across different departments.

Professor Matthew Bailey (Spanish and Portuguese) commented he liked the idea of signature courses as well as their presentation in the QEP report. He asked how literally the words “contemporary real world importance” and “course content that has real world transferability” should be interpreted and whether his work as a Medievalist, or even that of Professor Palaima, could ever meet these criteria. Dean Woodruff told Professor Bailey that these words were “education speak” for the Faculty Council’s provision that signature courses be of contemporary interest based on the course examples that had been suggested during the curricular reform developmental process. He reassured Professor Bailey that the examples had included courses on the Middle Ages, as well as one on his own research area regarding ancient Greek history and philosophy. Although one could teach about the Greek historian Thucydides and the tribute list in such a way there would be little, if any, real world transferability, one could definitely teach about the history of the Athenian empire in such a way that it could have “a dazzling impact” on a student’s understanding of the contemporary world. He said teachers capable of the latter approach are what are needed for general education courses targeted toward freshmen, and work like this on the Middle Ages would certainly be welcome.

Dean Woodruff closed his remarks by pointing out that the development of a list of specific courses that will satisfy each of the areas in the state-mandated core curriculum is currently underway. He said the list that had been previously included in the University’s 2006-08 Undergraduate Catalog was actually not mapped in an operational way to our degree programs and therefore was not consonant with the Coordinating Board’s core areas. He said his staff has been working with the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee to produce such a list so it will be available in the 2008-10 catalog for students in the seven colleges/schools that are early


  adopters of the new core requirements. Since the list will need faculty approval, it will be presented at the December Council meeting. To meet the deadline for the 2008-10 catalog, Dean Woodruff said a conservative approach had been followed that included consulting with the seven colleges/schools and making only small changes during this first stage of curricular reform. He said he expected major changes to be implemented for the 2010-12 catalog when there will be a more rigorous criteria than the one used this year for determining which specific courses will qualify for the various subject matter areas included in the state-mandated core. The list for the upcoming 2008-10 catalog will be posted and sent to Council members with instructions as to whom to contact with questions and comments.

Chair Burger said he had asked Dean Woodruff to give a report regarding how the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies is progressing at each Council meeting this year based on a suggestion from Professor Friedman. In addition, Chair Burger said the Council’s Executive Committee had frequently discussed ways the process could be structured to keep faculty input central to the development of the core courses and other requirements.


A. Report of the Intercollegiate Athletics Council for Men.

Professor David Fowler (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering; and men’s athletics council chair) introduced the following guests from the athletics department to the Faculty Council: Mr. Deloss Dodds (men’s athletics director), Ms. Chris Plonsky (women’s athletics director), Mr. Brian Davis (assistant athletics director for student services for football), Dr. Randa Ryan (senior associate athletics director for student services for all other sports except football), Mr. Butch Worley (senior associate athletics director for sports programs), and Mr. Nick Voinis (senior associate athletics director for communications).

Professor Fowler reported that academic oversight is one of the athletics council’s “most important roles” and members spend “a lot of time reviewing the academic progress of the athletes.” He said a committee comprised of three or four faculty members meets with each head coach and the academic counselor assigned to the respective sport to review the academic progress of the team as well as each individual athlete, paying particular attention to those students having academic difficulties. After saying he was pleased with the coaches’ attitudes and their understanding of the importance placed on academic performance, he said he thought in some cases the coaches had modified their recruiting approaches to find student athletes who could succeed in meeting the high academic standards required here at the University. Due to time constraints, Professor Fowler said he would not be able during his report to give a detailed analysis and discuss other non-academic issues, but he would like to bring head coaches from both a women’s and a men’s sport to a Faculty Council meeting this coming spring semester if that were agreeable with Chair Burger.

Professor Fowler then went through his PowerPoint presentation, “The University of Texas at Austin Intercollegiate Athletics for Men 2006-2007 Academic Report to the Faculty Council,” which is included in Appendix B (slides 1-25). With regard to slide 16, Professor Fowler explained that the NCAA adopted the Academic Progress Rate (APR) in 2004 because of difficulties involving the determination of six-year graduation rates. He said the APR was “designed to develop a real time measure of academic success of each sport on a semester-by-semester basis,” that factored in eligibility, retention, and graduation of all students receiving athletic aid (including those who have exhausted their eligibility) and who are enrolled in at least 12 credit hours at the University. In addition to the annual APR, a four-year rate is calculated and used to determine if the athletes in a sport are meeting academic performance standards established and monitored by the NCAA. Referring to slide 22, Professor Fowler explained that a sport must maintain a score of 925 out of a base of 1000 points, or 92.5% of the total available points in order to avoid penalties being assessed. He explained that the score for the sport is determined by adding up the total points that all student athletes in that sport received and then


  dividing that total number of points earned by the maximum that could be earned, which is two points times the number of student athletes in the sport. As indicated on slide 23, all sports at UT Austin had met the standard with the exception of football for 2006-07. Professor Fowler said he thought all the scores for UT Austin would actually end up meeting the standard since the remediation underway should increase the 922 football score up to at least the minimum of 925. After pointing out that some of the sports at UT Austin were “doing quite well,” Professor Fowler said that he had heard that if a program “maintained a steady state of 925 that would correspond to a minimum graduation rate of 60%,” but he had not yet seen this statement in a printed form. With regard to the comparison data presented in slide 25, Professor Fowler noted that the 943 average score for UT Austin covered a four-year period that included one additional year that is not yet available and therefore excluded in the three-year national average of 950 reported by the NCAA for all Division I schools.

B. Report of the Intercollegiate Athletics Council for Women.

Professor Mary Steinhardt (kinesiology and health education and women’s athletics council chair) went through her PowerPoint presentation, “The University of Texas at Austin Intercollegiate Athletics for Women 2006-2007 Academic Report to the Faculty Council,” which is included in Appendix B (slides 26-45). She reported that a subcommittee comprised of the following athletics council members meets with the coaches annually and reviews the academic record of each woman athlete: Professors Martha Hilley (music), Gretchen Ritter (women’s and gender studies; government), and Robert Prentice (information, risk, and operations management). With regard to slide 29, Professor Steinhardt noted that the number of athletes increased to 221 due to the inclusion of the novice rowers who are considered team members. Professor Steinhardt reported that six of the nine women’s teams had achieved average cumulative GPAs above 3.0 for the 2006-07 academic year. As she reviewed each slide by sport, Professor Steinhardt acknowledged the team’s head coach by name and made a special note of the high academic and athletic achievement of the women’s soccer team. She also acknowledged that there were seven student-athletes who had been recognized at a recent honors dinner for having achieved 4.0 GPAs. Although liberal arts and education were the colleges where most women athletes were enrolled, Professor Steinhardt pointed out that the 40 student athletes who had graduated last year represented a variety of different majors.

When discussing the scores by sport on slide 43, Professor Steinhardt reminded the Council that one point is assigned for eligibility and one point for retention each semester, but she pointed out that a team that is doing quite well overall can be negatively impacted as far as the APR score by a small change, especially if the team size is not large. To help the Council members understand, she reported the points that had been earned out of the total possible available for some of the sports: basketball, 55 out of 58; rowing, 132 out of 136; soccer, 67 out of 68; and swimming and diving, 105 out of 106. With regard to cross country, Professor Steinhardt said that transfers of student athletes to other colleges were the primary reason that the scores were so low and the four-year score fell to 921. In the case of volleyball, she said one player withdrew last year to go home because her mother became seriously ill; as a result, UT lost the retention point for this student, and the annual 2006-07 score for volleyball fell to 923. With regard to the national comparison data presented on slide 45, Professor Steinhardt said the women’s athletics council members were very proud of the “exceptional” academic performance of the UT women student athletes. Professor Steinhardt said she was concerned that she did not emphasize to the Faculty Council in her presentation a year ago just how passionate the athletics council members and athletics department staff members are about the academic performance of student athletes. She said she wanted to assure the faculty that the athletics councils are very passionate about academics and want to continue the dialog with the Faculty Council this spring. She said the Academic Enhancement through Athletics committee chaired by Professor Ortiz is doing important work that the Council will want to learn about and Dr. Ryan is planning to continue sponsoring luncheons in the spring to facilitate the exchange of ideas between faculty members and athletics.


  Professor Palaima asked for a clarification regarding the following:
(1) How the APR relates to the old six-year graduation rate, and why a four-year period was now being used instead of the traditional six-year period?

(1)    Why the graduation rate for UT Austin’s football program as determined by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) was so much higher than the official rate published by the NCAA—70% vs. 42%, respectively?

(3) What can be done to minimize the impact on a student-athlete’s eligibility resulting because he or she changes majors? Professor Palaima said he thought this outcome could be adverse to eligibility and did not provide support for the academic development of student athletes.
(4) Since one high SAT score earned by a team member can have a major impact on the average for a small team, what is the rationale for recruiting student athletes for a team that generally have average SAT scores that are 200-350 below the normal average of the UT Austin student body?
(5) Professor Palaima said he was confused about the size of the football pool or the number of students on the football team that had been used in the calculations. He said he thought it would be more representative if the statistics were based only on scholarship athletes rather than the total number of students on the team since it was the scholarship athletes who had been recruited to play at a high skill level and were more likely to have enrolled with limited academic preparation. Professor Palaima said he thought including the additional 44 students who were not on scholarships might cause statistical distortion. In closing, Professor Palaima suggested that Faculty Council members be provided with copies of the athletics reports in advance of future meetings in order to facilitate their preparation for the presentations and discussion.

Chair Burger suggested, that given the importance of the questions and the lateness of the day, in-depth responses to Professor Palaima’s questions needed to be addressed at a subsequent Council meeting. Chair Burger suggested that he would work with Professor Palaima to produce written questions that could be sent to the appropriate individuals for responses. Dr. Ryan said the NCAA had decided to use the APR as a means of addressing complaints regarding the six-year cohort issue and to provide a measure to monitor academic progress in real time. She said graduation rates were still recorded, but the APR was considered a “more rigorous measure” for use in reducing the number of scholarships allowed and other penalties assessed by the NCAA. Mr. Davis reported that the AFCA five-year graduation rate has been published for a number of years and is “a little different statistically than the federal rate.” He clarified that the federal rate is not really an NCAA rate but is often perceived incorrectly because “of how the NCAA reports it.” Because the AFCA rate includes scholarship athletes who entered in a cohort reduced by the number of the group who left in good standing, it differs from the federal rate and varies from year to year. He said the decision to include the AFCA rate on the football web site was made because the athletic department considered it to be appropriate, was proud of what the cohort had accomplished, and considered the rate as a benchmark to be improved upon. Dr. Ryan clarified that the new APR pertains only to scholarship athletes and includes transfer students; she said the federal graduation rate excludes students who have transferred in good academic standing, left for military service, or died. She said these were just some of the differences in the measures, which produce variations in the published rates. Chair Burger thanked the representatives of the athletic department for attending and providing information for the two reports and answering questions.

Professor Olson asked if he had heard correctly that the graduation rates were still being maintained; he said he would appreciate seeing these data in addition to the information that had been presented in the reports. Chair Burger asked Professor Olson and other Council members who had questions they would like addressed to send the questions to him via email so he could compile them for discussion at a future meeting. Professor Ortiz commented that faculty representatives to the athletics councils have been concerned for some time about the different ways graduation rates are calculated. She said the faculty representatives were considering the possibility of developing another graduation formula that would factor in variables that the athletics department has no control over and would project rates specific to UT Austin. She said the representatives wanted to come up with the “best way to indicate to the faculty the progress


  that students are making,” and the resulting formula would be presented at a future Council meeting to secure input from the faculty. She said the representatives hoped that the new measure would facilitate greater understanding of graduation rates, but would be specific to the UT Austin athletics programs. Chair Burger said he thought this would be “very good” and again asked others to submit their questions to him to coordinate a future meeting.


A. The next Faculty Council meeting will be held on Monday, December 10 at 2:15 in Main 212.



Chair Burger adjourned the meeting at 4:06 p.m.

Posted on the Faculty Council web site on January 16, 2008. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.

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The Quality Enhancement Plan, Signature Courses, is an effort to strengthen the core curriculum while establishing a shared intellectual experience for students at UT-Austin. The first-year signature course is designed to introduce UT undergraduates to academic discussion and analysis of issues of contemporary real-world importance from an interdisciplinary perspective. The program aims to provide each first-year student at the University with a course that develops the intellectual maturity expected of good college students.1

Signature courses will achieve this through:

1. Increasing the accessibility of distinguished faculty to first-year students.
2. Teaching certain skills directly—oral communication, writing, reasoning, and the interpretation of data—deemed necessary for our students to make good use of the instructional resources of the University, so that, on graduation, they may compete well in the global market.
3. Introducing first-year students to the unique resources of the University, such as libraries, research facilities and museums.
4. Providing first-year students with a broad understanding of inquiry across disciplines that may be new to them.
5. Giving students course content that has real-world transferability.
6. Enhancing the intellectual climate on campus through first-year attendance at, and discussion of, a common series of lectures.

Signature courses will provide each new generation of students a strong foundation for college-level learning by providing them in their first year with interdisciplinary perspectives, direct instruction in important skills, and acquaintance with the unique resources of the university. A coherent intellectual experience is recognized by many to be a determinant of quality and effectiveness for a research university. The signature course goals reflect the University’s commitment to excellence in line with the findings of the Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, the Commission of 125 and the Task Force on Curriculum Reform. The QEP includes a comprehensive strategy for assessing student learning outcomes, auditing measures of institutional success, and including faculty feedback. As required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the QEP is an institution-wide commitment to enhancing quality. That commitment is reflected in the financial and staff resources committed to signature courses, the inclusion of faculty governance in the approval of signature courses through curriculum reform and in the collaboration with various campus agencies to provide support for the QEP initiative.

1According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement, (2007), p. 30,the QEP is a component of the reaffirmation of accreditation process that provides impetus for an institution to enhance overall quality by focusing on an issue or issues the institution considers important to improving student learning. More specifically, the QEP describes a carefully designed and focused course of action, including plans for goals, implementation, and assessment all directly linked to improving the quality of student learning broadly defined.

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The University of Texas at Austin
Intercollegiate Athletics Councils for Men and for Women

2006-2007 Academic Reports to the Faculty Council

November 12, 2007