MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
May 11, 2009
VII. REPORTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY, COLLEGES, SCHOOLS, AND COMMITTEES.
A. Report from the School of Undergraduate Studies.
Associate Dean Designee Lawrence Abraham (undergraduate studies) clarified that he was presenting a report and not presenting legislation that required Council action. He said it was an update for the Council on the progress made thus far regarding flagged courses, which he called “a critical part of the undergraduate curricular reform.” The PowerPoint presentation he used at the Council meeting is included in Appendix B, and the full report prepared by Undergraduate Studies Dean Paul Woodruff, who could not attend the Council meeting, is included in Appendix C. Associate Dean Abraham summarized the major points of the attached report, which included the following: explanation of the six steps involved in the flag approval process; description of the selection, composition, and functions of the review committees appointed thus far by Undergraduate Studies with input from deans of colleges and schools; update on the number of flagged courses that have been approved thus far; and future plans for full implementation of the reform’s objectives regarding flagged courses.
Because the faculty are responsible for curriculum at the University, Chair Hillis said he had “understood that there would be a step in the approval process where the Faculty Council would actually be doing the final approval of the flag course list, at least by a no-protest basis.” He asked Associate Dean Abraham what mechanism existed for involvement of the Faculty Council in the approval process, especially if there was a disagreement among faculty about a particular course that had progressed through the outlined steps in the process and been approved by the undergraduate studies dean.
Associate Dean Abraham responded that he had not understood “that the designation of these courses would be something where the lists of courses would be reported to the Faculty Council for review and approval.” However, he said he thought this could occur if a report of the courses approved by Undergraduate Studies were posted on the Council’s web site and the Council’s no-protest approval process were utilized. The difficulty, according to Associate Dean Abraham, was the number of courses involved. He said it would be a “monumental task to make the syllabi of all of those courses available to the entire campus.” He said the process being currently used for flagged courses was modeled on the process that had been used for substantial writing component courses over a number of years on campus. He noted that the writing component courses had been reviewed by faculty committees and posted by the registrar’s office without approval each year by the Faculty Council. Associate Dean Abraham said it was not entirely clear how such a mechanism, as described by Chair Hillis, could work, but he was willing to listen and welcomed suggestions.
Chair Hillis said he thought the list of courses should be submitted to the Faculty Council for approval on a no-protest basis. He said this would provide a mechanism that would allow Council approval and would only require discussion and action at a meeting when a protest occurred. After saying he was not aware of any problems or potential objections at the current time, Chair Hillis said he thought providing such a mechanism was preferable to leaving faculty out of the approval process. When Associate Dean Abraham said he thought Council members would need access to syllabi and other materials for review purposes, Chair Hillis said he thought anyone who objected would already be aware of the course’s nature and content and would therefore be able to secure additional information from the dean of undergraduate studies. Associate Dean Abraham then asked if this meant Chair Hillis expected that protests were most likely to arise from faculty situated in the same academic unit or college where the course was to be taught. Chair Hillis replied that he did not think it was necessary to try to identify what problems might occur. When Associate Dean Abraham asked if the faculty review might be done at the college level before submission of courses for approval from undergraduate studies, Chair Hillis said he felt the final approval should reside with the Faculty Council and provide for questions to come from throughout the University. Associate Dean Abraham then asked for permission for Mr. Cale McDowell, deputy to the undergraduate studies dean, to address the Council. Since there were no objections raised by Council members, Chair Hillis granted the request. Mr. McDowell said there would be a potential timing problem in that the scheduling of the classes carrying flags had to occur in close proximity to the scheduling of courses and faculty workloads by departments. He said the review of classes by faculty committees appointed by undergraduate studies took approximately a month to complete prior to the submission of the list of approved flagged classes to the registrar. He said it was difficult for him to see how approval by the Faculty Council could occur prior to each semester’s deadline for the production of the course schedule. He said an idea that might work is for a report of flagged classes to be submitted to the Council after the course schedule has been produced along with the current statement of the flag interpretations that were utilized. He said he was suggesting this idea since he thought most of the problems involving flagged courses would likely be related to problems involving the interpretations used in the approval process. Mr. McDowell said he thought Faculty Council members would be particularly interested in seeing how the interpretations have contributed to possible problems with course lists, and this type of review might lead to consideration of revisions in the interpretation guidelines by the Faculty Council. He said lists of flagged courses were currently being provided by undergraduate studies to the respective colleges/schools and departments; he indicated that this review process had resulted in several issues being raised about why certain courses were or were not receiving flags. Mr. McDowell said he thought this process had “worked fairly well.”
Associate Dean Abraham said an effort would be made to find resolution to this issue raised by Chair Hillis. He said the only way he could envision a working solution involved posting the list approved by undergraduate studies as soon as it became available on the Council’s web site for a short timeframe on no-protest basis; however, he still had reservations about how this approval process could actually occur without documentation regarding course objectives and content being made available on a campus wide basis. He added that the report posted on the Council’s web site (see Appendix C) provided information regarding interpretational and decision-making issues regarding flagged course approval requirements as well as some issues that are still undergoing review. He invited Council members to review the document and to send him their suggestions and comments regarding the process.