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3/19/2012

Dear Colleagues,        

Here are the highlights of the sixth regular meeting of the Faculty Council (FC) for 2011-2012.

Question to the President:

Seth Bank (assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering) asked the following question of the President: "President Powers, in your comments at the last faculty council meeting, you mentioned 'decreasing or flat resources' several times.  Could you please comment on UT's general financial outlook and whether decreasing or flat resources is a temporary challenge, or one that reflects the long-term reality?"  

The President responded that it’s hard to predict because, while economic circumstances have improved considerably, political ones remain uncertain.  Everyone knows that Higher Education took a huge hit in the last legislative session; what will happen in the next is unknown.  It’s also unknown what the Regents will do at their meeting of 12 April regarding our proposed tuition increase.

My Report:   

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has implemented significant changes in the undergraduate core curriculum despite strong objections from the UT campus.  (See Texas Core Curriculum (full implementation Fall 2014).)  Undergraduate Studies, which oversees the core curriculum, is in the process of contacting affected units and initiating the necessary changes.  If you have questions about core requirements, you should contact UGS at ugs@uts.cc.utexas.edu or 475-7000.

The Coordinating Board is also in the process of eliminating low-producing degree programs: the first two for us are the Ph.D. in Slavics and the BA in Greek.  Other degree programs have been put on notice and allowed to continue for the time being.  (See THECB letter August 19, 2011.)

After consulting with faculty, staff, graduate student, and undergraduate student leaders, the administration has proposed a policy to make UT-Austin a tobacco-free campus by 1 March 2013. (See Letter dated March 19, 2012.)  In the meantime, certain areas are being designated for smoking and free tobacco-cessation classes are being offered for faculty and staff (http://www.livingwell.utsystem.edu/tobacco.htm) and for students (http://healthyhorns.utexas.edu/quitters.html).

The Regents have adopted new guidelines for regular review of faculty.  (See RR 31102.) Each campus has been asked to create its own guidelines for implementing them, a process currently underway.  Those guidelines will be presented to the FC for discussion and action at its next meeting, which occurs on 23 April.

The Graduate Assembly approved resolutions supporting Full Tuition Assistance Benefit for qualifying graduate students and making such benefits tax exempt; it also established a joint committee with the FCEC to work with Graduate School to monitor the new devolved procedures for awarding graduate fellowships.

Alba Ortiz, retiring Chair-Elect, reported on the joint council/senate meeting with Texas A&M 27 February 2012:

About 60 faculty, administrators, and student leaders attended.  Both Presidents and both Provosts emphasized that faculty define a great university—they are not part of the problem, they are part of the solution.

Steve Ogden, chair of the Texas Senate Finance Committee, spoke on the state of politics in America, stressing that political dysfunction is explained by low voter turnout—because moderates  vote in low numbers, elected officials tend to be extremely conservative or extremely liberal.  He urged moderates to vote.  He stressed the difficulty of obtaining financial support for higher education because of intense competition for available dollars, especially from the K-12 education community.  He discussed performance-based funding, flat rate tuition, student financial aid, and athletics.  He said that intercollegiate athletics, which should serve the core mission of the university rather than be a giant entertainment enterprise, should receive no state funds.  Rather, athletics should be required to contribute 10% of their revenues to the academic mission of the University (in the form, for example, of general scholarship funds).

Attendees discussed faculty evaluation, MyEDU, and the Faculty Information System.  There was consensus that we should evaluate faculty productivity at the unit rather than the individual level, and that evaluations should include both quantitative and qualitative data.  If we must use four categories of evaluation, as the new UT Regents Rules require, we should develop criteria for each of them before we implement a new evaluation system.  Everyone agreed that we must be clear about how we will rate faculty productivity in the aggregate based on teaching, research, and service.

We also discussed shared governance, especially faculty concerns that decisions are too often made at the top and then imposed with insufficient consultation.  Department chairs are often empowered at the expense of faculty involvement in governance, and that power is abused when, in a current example from UT Austin, deans name chairs without faculty input.

We also agreed that alumni should be asked to provide input about the quality of their education and degrees and to be involved in a structured ways as advocates for faculty, particularly in terms of explaining to the general public what faculty do and why we do it.

Both campuses are currently reviewing and revising the undergraduate core curriculum to meet new Higher Education Coordinating Board requirements that go into effect in 2014.     

The meeting was a great success.  Everyone agreed that we have so much in common that we need to work to continue our academic relationship regardless of our athletic one.

The Council elected the following two faculty members to serve three-year

terms on the Undergraduate Studies Advisory Committee:

  1. Patricia A Carter, associate professor, nursing
  2. Desmond F Lawler, professor, civil, architectural, and environmental engineering

The Council also endorsed the following slates, which were proposed by the Faculty Council Executive Committee (the President selects one from each to serve):

Co-op Board of Directors:

  1. Steven Goode, professor, law
  2. David M. Hillis, professor, integrative biology
  3. James A. Nolen, distinguished sr. lecturer, finance  

Intercollegiate Athletics Council for Women:

  1. Ann Cvetkovich, professor, English
  2. Christine L Duvauchelle, associate professor, pharmacy 
  3. Kevin M. Foster, assistant professor, educational administration
  4. Michelle Habeck, associate professor, theatre and dance
  5. Marvin L. Hackert, professor, chemistry and biochemistry

Intercollegiate Athletics Council for Men slate:

  1. Ben Carrington, associate professor, sociology
  2. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, professor, sociology
  3. Joseph F Malina Jr, professor, civil, architectural, and environmental engineering
  4. Karen L Rascati, professor, pharmacy
  5. Stanley J Roux Jr, professor, molecular cell and developmental biology

UTPD Oversight Committee slate:

  1. Steven R. Biegalski, associate professor, mechanical engineering
  2. Dana L Cloud, associate professor, communication studies
  3. Edmund T (Ted) Gordon, associate professor, African and African diaspora studies
  4. Daniel H Robinson, professor, educational psychology

If you care at all about the faculty voice in University affairs, please vote – and urge your colleagues to vote – between now and March 26 in the elections for Faculty Council and five major standing committees. 

As always, I welcome your questions or comments about what the Council is or isn’t doing.

            Best,
            Alan W. Friedman
            Chair, Faculty Council 2011-12
            friedman@austin.utexas.edu