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D 9501-9503



Shernaz Garcia (chair, Graduate Assembly and associate professor, special education) submitted the following resolution on behalf of the Faculty Council Executive Committee (FCEC) authorizing the formation of an ad hoc joint committee of the Graduate Assembly and the Faculty Council on graduate student fellowships. Both the FCEC and the Graduate Assembly recommend endorsement of the resolution. The Faculty Council will discuss and act on the resolution at the February 20 Council meeting. Final approval resides with the Faculty Council with formal notification to the president.
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
General Faculty and Faculty Council

Distributed through the Faculty Council website on February 16, 2012.


The Graduate Assembly hereby authorizes its Agenda Committee (aka Executive Committee) to consult with the Faculty Council Executive Committee with regard to creating the Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Student Fellowships and to make appropriate appointments for service on the committee.  The Joint Committee is to be charged with:

  1. Reviewing the results of the changes in policy and procedures now being enacted;
  2. Assessing the impact and effectiveness of the recently decentralized system for awarding Graduate School Fellowships; and 
  3. Reporting its findings to the two faculty assemblies, the Provost, and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Background:  Following a discussion by the Graduate Assembly’s Agenda Committee, of changes in the administration of the Graduate School Fellowship Program, its Administrative Committee prepared the following report and statement of concern, both of which were presented at the Graduate Assembly’s February 1 meeting.  The resolution being presented to the Faculty Council was prepared in response to these concerns, by faculty member representatives of the Agenda Committee (including Professor Alan Friedman, Chair of the Faculty Council).  It was passed by the Graduate Assembly at its February 1 meeting.

Report on Recent Changes in Administration of the Graduate School Fellowship Program
February 1, 2012.

The 2011-2012 academic year marked a significant shift in procedures for reviewing and selecting award recipients for a number of graduate student fellowships administered by the Graduate School.  Of a total of approximately $13 million in the Graduate School fellowship programs, the award decisions for approximately $7.6 million have been decentralized and moved to the Deans.  This includes award decisions for pre-emptive recruitment, general diversity, and continuing fellowships as well as the diversity mentoring and editorial assistantships.  For reporting and tracking purposes, all award decisions will be entered into the Graduate School online award system, and the Graduate School will administer the appointments and handle waivers of the out-of-state portion of tuition.  Fellowship programs for funds from external awards (e.g., NSF, gifts, and endowments), and other University-wide awards (e.g., McNair, South Texas, and West Texas graduate fellowships) will see little change in the way they are administered.

These changes have raised several questions and concerns among a number of faculty members.  In its November 2011 meeting, the Faculty Council posed a series of questions of President Powers, regarding the rationale for these changes, the involvement and role of faculty in making these decisions, their role in the administration of these funds in their respective units, and the criteria and procedures for making awards.

The President’s response to these questions (see Faculty Council documents D 9453a-9463) offered the following:

  1. This decision reflects a philosophical shift from the use of a peer (faculty) review process to a more “strategic” allocation of awards and funds to be “more effective about targeting those resources where they will do the most good.” This shift creates more flexibility and allows for a variety of ways in which programs may choose to use their allocations.
  2. Although the decision has been made, many aspects of its implementation are still “a work in progress.”
  3. The administration has been assured by the deans that they are committed to involving faculty in the process for their colleges/units.
  4. It is important to assess how well the new process is working; the deans will report funding decisions to the provost’s office (p. 9457 of FC minutes)

A Statement of Concern

The changes described above generate a series of questions and concerns regarding their implications for the administration of the Graduate Fellowship Program as well as the role of the Graduate School in this process.  

The Graduate Assembly wishes to register its concerns to the President and Provost that:

  1. The faculty, specifically the two elected representative assemblies of the faculty (the Graduate Assembly and the Faculty Council), were not consulted on the plans to decentralize the award decisions of a significant portion of Graduate School funding for faculty and graduate student awards even though the Graduate Assembly is charged in its charter with “setting policy for graduate student funding.” 
  2. Whereas the protocols for determining graduate student fellowships, FRAs, and SRAs were standardized within the Graduate School with faculty making award decisions for faculty and student awards, the new procedures within each college have yet to specify the faculty role in making these awards.
  3. Although flexibility and strategic use of the awards may give the University a more competitive edge in recruitment and retention, there is a need to ensure that these changes will not undermine the original goals and purposes for which the programs were designed.
  4. Evaluation of the outcomes of the process should include an assessment of any unintended consequences, including disparate outcomes with regard to equity and diversity (across students and units).
  5. Accountability for the disbursement of graduate fellowship funds appears to have been shifted to the office of the Provost, thereby diminishing the role of the Graduate School.
  6. There does not appear to be a role for faculty and graduate students in the assessment process.