March 19, 2012


Chair Alan Friedman (English) reported first on decisions of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) that would affect faculty and students across the UT campus. He said Associate Dean Larry Abraham (undergraduate studies) has been monitoring the changes regarding core curriculum requirements and was beginning to implement them on the UT Austin campus. Another policy being pursued by the coordinating board pertained to the elimination of low-producing degree programs. Chair Friedman said this policy had resulted in the elimination of the Ph.D. in Slavic Language and Literature-Slavic Linguistics and the bachelor’s degree in Greek here at UT Austin with a few other degree programs on campus being granted a type of “lifeline” for now.

Chair Friedman said efforts were now underway to move the campus toward being tobacco-free. He reported that representatives of student, staff, and faculty leadership had been asked by the administration to work on this issue. The campus will provide designated areas for tobacco use during the coming year, but these will be discontinued after a year.

Chair Friedman reported on the recently adopted rules by the Board of Regents regarding faculty evaluations that make annual reviews far more significant than in the past. He said the new policy links the annual reviews of faculty members to post-tenure reviews, as well as to the possibility of review for consideration of termination. The new policy in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations requires the use of the following four categories of outcomes for both annual reviews and post-tenure reviews: exceeds expectation, meets expectation, fails to meet expectation, and unsatisfactory. As now adopted, the rules state that two successive unsatisfactory annual reviews may lead to reviewing the faculty member for possible termination. He explained that the UT Austin representatives to the UT System Faculty Advisory Council had managed to get the word “shall” changed to “may” in the regents’ rules. Because each campus in the UT System has been asked to develop policy guidelines and procedures for implementing the new rules, the Faculty Council Executive Committee (FCEC) has been coordinating with Provost Steve Leslie to write the UT Austin version. A draft document, yet to be approved, has been developed, which says two successive unsatisfactory annual reviews will lead to faculty remediation efforts and two additional unsatisfactory annual reviews beyond that may lead to review for possible termination and that “the reviews be done by faculty committees, that are the personnel committee now extant in the units, whether they are budget councils, or executive committees, or groups designated by the standing governance personnel committees to perform this task.” Chair Friedman said the FCEC’s efforts thus far have been to enhance remediation as well as to increase feedback to individual faculty members; in addition, the recommendations from the FCEC have been to allow faculty members to comment, provide input, and to add new materials during the review process. The FCEC recommendations have also affirmed the role of the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility in monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the guidelines adopted here on the UT Austin campus.

Chair Friedman reported that the Graduate Assembly’s Agenda Committee passed a resolution supporting full tuition assistance benefits for qualifying graduate students and making such benefits tax exempt, if at all possible. He said the Graduate Assembly is scheduled to act upon the resolution at its meeting that week. He also reported that the FCEC and Graduate Assembly have established a joint committee to work with the Graduate School in monitoring the new decentralized procedures for awarding graduate fellowships.

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