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Educational Policy Committee

Members: Larry Abraham, Urton Anderson, Bill Beckner, Robert Bruce, Cynthia Buckley, Renita Coleman, Wallace Fowler, Alan Friedman, Mack Grady, Hirofumi Tanaka, Robert Koons, David Liu, Reid Long, Patricia Micks, Mark Musick, Carisa Nietsche, Paula Perlman, Lauren Ratliff, Gretchen Ritter, Shelby Stanfield, Jacqueline Woolley

The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) met five times during 2009-10: 9/14/09, 10/14/09, 2/8/10, 2/26/10, 3/26/10.

It was agreed that a different member of the committee would serve as acting secretary for each meeting.

Bill Beckner was chosen to serve as vice chair and as the EPC liaison to the Committee for Undergraduate Program Review (CUDPR). Alan Friedman remained a member of the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee (UGSAC).

The Faculty Council approved the EPC recommendation that the UT registrar, Shelby Stanfield, serve as ex-officio member of the committee. The EPC discussed current UGS core requirements in humanities (now satisfied by E.316K) and communication (presently fulfilled by Rhetoric 306 and a substantial writing component course). No recommendations to change the status quo were made.

Last year’s committee developed a set of guidelines for tightening the requirements for a student to be designated College Scholar or Distinguished College Scholar. This change was meant to provide higher and more consistent standards for honors. For college scholar designation, “the student must rank in the top 20% of their class in each college or school in which they are pursuing a major, based on in-residence cumulative grade point average.” For the distinguished college scholars, students must “rank in the top 4% of their class in each college.” Based on 2009 data, this translates into a reduction in the percent receiving honors from approximately 26% to 19%. The recommendations were brought to the Faculty Council. They were approved by the Council and then by President Powers.

Discussion continued regarding common standards for academic minors recognized on transcripts, which currently vary across the colleges of the University.

There was discussion of the current charge to the EPC, which reads: “To study proposals on educational policy and assess their possibilities and alternatives; to present recommendations on such matters to the Faculty Council. The committee shall actively seek advice from students.” Does the charge accurately represent current and best EPC practice, especially given the committee’s relationship to CUDPR? Curriculum review belongs under the purview of the faculty, but that role is primarily played at the college and departmental level. The FCEC is currently surveying the various deans to determine current practice. The EPC has broad responsibility to deal with general educational policy matters such as plus/minus grading and changes in University honors criteria, and EPC usually considers proposals which are referred to it by FC, FCEC, other standing committees, student organizations, and the administration. Should the EPC always be consulted when curricular changes are substantial (however that is defined) and/or affects more than one academic unit? This topic and related questions will be considered by the committee in 2010-11.

The EPC discussed the proposal from the dean of liberal arts to address the budget cuts by eliminating or significantly reducing the foreign language requirement. The proposal was eventually withdrawn before it was officially presented to the EPC or the Faculty Council. But the EPC reached a consensus that proposals that significantly affect educational policy should go through the committee.

Concern was expressed that no one in the administration seemed to be considering the impact that the budget cuts are having or potentially could have on the undergraduate curriculum, especially core courses. It was subsequently learned that a new committee chaired by Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter will address some of these issues.

A proposal from the Senate of College Councils was approved to encourage faculty to make use of mid-semester course surveys. All instructors would be encouraged to administer mid-semester course surveys using Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment’s (DIIA) Ongoing Course Assessment online tool. It was agreed that the message about the availability of the survey should come from the provost’s office, that faculty would be under no pressure to participate and in fact would have to opt in if they wished to do so, and that, since the results would be only for purposes of feedback to faculty, they would be exempt from open records laws and HB 2504. Neither DIIA nor the faculty member would be required or expected to maintain copies of the survey results, and a faculty member concerned about requests to publicize the results would be free to destroy them.

A proposal from the student deans to revise UT’s Q drop policy was approved and sent to the Faculty Council (which subsequently approved it on a no-protest basis).

A proposal from UGS to modify the criteria for the global cultures flag to allow courses to be approved based on inclusion of the study of more than one community, country, or regional groups of countries was passed (and subsequently approved by the Faculty Council on a no-protest basis).

The committee has not as yet succeeded in identifying a faculty member to serve as chair elect.

Alan Friedman, chair