The annual report of the International Programs and Studies Committee of the General Faculty for 2007-08 is reproduced below.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The Faculty Council
C-6 International Programs and Studies Committee
The International Programs and Studies Committee met only twice during the 2007-08 academic year. The first meeting was to brainstorm possible committee agenda items for the year and to arrange a second meeting. At the second meeting, the committee elected Kenneth Hale (professor of art and art history) as vice chair and then discussed priorities for the committee going forward. The list of items considered by the committee along with discussion points is addressed in the attached October 8, 2007, meeting agenda. There was general consensus that the three priorities listed below should be pursued by the committee during the year.
1. Grade translation and recording for study abroad programs
As the meeting reports indicate, the issue of grade translation from study abroad activities has occupied the committee for some time – without resolution.
The two key points of discussion are A) whether grades earned abroad should be included in students’ GPAs, and if so, B) whether a “foreign” school’s relative grading scale should be standardized/adjusted to reflect grade distributions at UT or should be translated on an absolute grade basis. The two issues are related in that both impact whether grades will be an incentive or disincentive for student participation in study abroad programs and the commitment to academics when on a study abroad program.
On both issues there was a general lack of consensus. On the issue of grade normalization, some felt strongly that part of the international experience was to learn, in a very personal and high-impact way, that there may be repercussions of some of the differences between countries. Others believed that in those instances when the partner school’s distribution is lower, the potential grade “penalty” from directly translating grades would unnecessarily discourage student participation in those programs.
Regarding whether study abroad grades should be included several issues were raised:
- If grades are more “liberal” at foreign schools, this could dilute the integrity of a student’s GPA.
- It is possible for UT students to study through the same foreign institution yet in different “types” of programs: Reciprocal vs. Associated. (Note: Reciprocal programs are those where students are exchanged with a partner school. Each school’s students pay tuition to and is enrolled in their own school. Associated programs are those that UT has approved as being of appropriate academic value but do not involve any student exchange. Students pay tuition directly to the program and transfer their coursework into UT rather than being enrolled. Often these are “stand alone” study abroad programs, but may involve courses offered at schools that are partners in Reciprocal programs).
Grades taken in associated programs never count toward a GPA because they are transfer credit, while reciprocal programs grades may, depending upon college policy. Thus, including the reciprocal grades in GPAs creates the possibility for some rather dramatic inconsistencies in grading policies.
- The registrar is currently the determinate of grade translation in reciprocal programs, yet colleges set grade policy at UT. Perhaps grade translations and GPA inclusion issues should be handled on a college-by-college basis for reciprocal programs.
There was agreement to attempt to address this issue one more time, but not to allow it to occupy all the committee’s attention over the year. The plan was to invite the registrar, or an appropriate representative to attend the next meeting to add insight into the method by which grades from reciprocal programs are translated.
2. Incentives/disincentives for faculty participation in international programs
Some committee members indicated that there is insufficient financial and professional incentives to induce more wide-spread faculty participation in international programs such as UT sponsored international courses/programs and May-mester courses, and there possibly may be disincentives for departments to “allow” faculty to participate in that it may deplete the summer teaching budgets or they may “lose” the faculty resource. Moreover, international teaching entails additional expenses that involve relocation and family travel/care/housing that may serve to discourage faculty participation when compensation is equivalent to on-campus teaching. Additionally, there is no professional recognition for participation.
Two different suggestions were advanced as worthy of further exploration by the committee:
3. Difficulties in pursuing international research that requires Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval
||Determine whether targeted funds might be made available to support departments and faculty for participation in international programs. Terri Givens indicated that new developments/policies in funding at the university level might determine whether this avenue could be productively pursued and agreed to keep the committee apprised.
||Explore whether an “international” component, could be included in the faculty “Annual Reports”. This would raise visibility of international activity and would allow faculty who devote the effort to pursue international activities to specifically highlight their relevant research, teaching, and/or administration. It was determined that Dorothea Adams (executive vice president and provost) likely would be the appropriate person with whom to explore this option.
Some faculty indicated that the process of IRB approval was particularly burdensome when research is conducted internationally, and particularly when the research involves joint authorship with an international research partner and involving non-U.S. based subjects. It was suggested that this be explored with the Faculty Council Research Policy Committee and, if warranted, to invite an IRB representative to meet with the committee.
Linda V. Gerber, chair