February 20, 2012


C. Proposed Joint Committee of Graduate Assembly members and Faculty Council Executive Committee (D 9501-9503).

Professor Shernaz Garcia (chair, Graduate Assembly; special education) reported there had been considerable discussion at previous Faculty Council meetings, as well as at the Graduate Assembly, about the major change in the way graduate student funding awards were made this year. The primary change was that a significant proportion of the funding was moved from being administrated by the Graduate School to the individual colleges/schools. As a result, the FCEC, Graduate Assembly, and its agenda committee perceived that the faculty reaction was somewhat mixed. However, she said there were substantial concerns raised regarding the lack of faculty voice in the decision-making process and about how faculty would be involved in determining the criteria for award decisions in the future. Professor Garcia said the intent of the resolution was to authorize the FCEC and the Graduate Assembly’s agenda committee to form an ad hoc joint faculty committee that would work in conjunction with the Graduate School to review and evaluate the results, effectiveness, and impact of this decentralized policy change. She explained that the following resolution was previously approved by the Graduate Assembly and was now being presented to the Faculty Council for its consideration and approval since the Council is named as a participant in the joint committee:

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:

  • Reviewing the results of the changes in policy and procedures now being enacted;
  • Assessing the impact and effectiveness of the recently decentralized system for awarding Graduate School Fellowships; and 
  • Reporting its findings to the two faculty assemblies, the Provost, and the Dean of Graduate Studies.
Chair Friedman said the FCEC had endorsed the resolution so a second was not needed. He asked if there were questions or comments regarding the resolution. Professor Neikirk asked if the ad hoc committee had intended to exclude discussion of faculty research assignments (FRAs) and summer research assignments (SRAs)? Professor Garcia responded it had because the Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) did not give the Graduate Assembly any specific authority over FRAs and SRAs, but it did specifically mention graduate student funding. Professor Neikirk said he was concerned because there had been a substantial policy change in these two programs that directly impact the faculty, and the faculty had no input regarding the change. He understood that there had been faculty input to the Graduate School on SRA decisions in the past. He was particularly concerned that the wording of the resolution unnecessarily conceded a point that could greatly impact the faculty since these programs were the closest UT Austin had to sabbaticals. Although he understood the point that was being made, he did not think it was necessary for wording to be specifically mentioned in the HOP for the Council to consider it an issue of critical importance to the faculty. Professor Garcia said she agreed, but she did not think it was the intent to exclude FRAs and SRAs from having a similar process. She said the focus of the current resolution was on graduate student funding, but she did not think it precluded similar activities related to faculty funding. Professor Neikirk said it was probably not appropriate for him to try to amend the resolution at this time given that it matches what the Graduate Assembly had approved. He said he felt obliged to bring a second resolution or motion to address consideration of the SRA and FRA awards.

Chair Friedman said he thought this could be a two–stage process, focusing on student awards now with further thought about other possible legislation later. He acknowledged Dr. Hart, chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets (FACB), who wanted to speak. Dr. Hart said her committee was considering a similar motion that focused on the voice of the faculty at the college/school level in these decisions. She reported that a letter was being sent to the deans that day regarding faculty involvement. Chair Friedman explained that the FACB had been focusing on the college and schools with an interest in learning about the perspectives of the various deans. The committee endorsed the letter that Dr. Hart is sending out, which asks the deans in each case how they were including faculty in the decisions previously made by the Graduate School. He explained the report of the committee should be instructive and help the Council decide if further action is needed. Chair Friedman then asked if there were further discussion on the resolution now on the floor. There was none so he called for the vote, and the resolution was unanimously approved by voice vote. He thanked Dr. Garcia for her report.

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