November 19, 2012

A. Final Report of the Ad Hoc Joint Committee of the Graduate Assembly and Faculty Council on Graduate Student Fellowships (D 10042-10087).

Past Chair Friedman explained that the committee was established as a result of the graduate student fellowship devolution from the Office of Graduate Studies to the individual schools and colleges. After surveying graduate advisors and coordinators and working closely with the Office of Graduate Studies, the ad hoc committee compiled a report, which was then posted on the Faculty Council website in its entirety and as an executive summary. Professor Friedman noted that the committee found both advantages and disadvantages to the new system. Schools and colleges have more flexibility to allocate funds for recruiting, continuing students, and diversity awards, depending on their individual priorities. Other advantages pertained to numbers and levels of awards, kinds of awards, and varieties, as well as the fact that awards that were turned down stayed in the local units rather than being returned to the Office of Graduate Studies for reallocation.

Professor Friedman noted the concern that the decentralized process would be less effective in achieving larger, University-wide, goals, such as ones related to diversity. It was also discovered that the local units were much less experienced than the Office of Graduate Studies in predicting how many awards could be made and how many would likely be declined. He further reported that the work for the graduate offices had increased considerably as a result of decentralization. Due to the fact that there were no hard-and-fast rules or deadlines, units reported piecemeal over time, which extended the entire process well beyond what it had been in previous years. He said the ad hoc committee had therefore recommended that certain procedures, guidelines, deadlines, award amounts, packages, etc. be firmed up and limited, thus offering slightly less flexibility. Professor Friedman reported that the committee had recommended the following: (1) on-going monitoring of the impact of decentralization on diversity, (2) a review be conducted to assess the extent to which local awards were less prestigious than University-wide awards, (3) a similar structure to the one used for recruiting fellowships be adopted for continuing fellowships, and (4) the Office of Graduate Studies provide on-going monitoring of the funds from offers that were declined.

Professor Friedman pointed out that the Graduate Assembly had approved the report at its last meeting and approval from the Faculty Council was also needed. He informed the Council that the Graduate Assembly voiced concerns about the involvement of faculty at the school, college, and departmental levels in making fellowship awards, which was implicit but was not currently made explicit in the report.

President Powers then addressed the question as to the original reasons for decentralizing the process by explaining that the idea was that local units were better attuned to recruiting strategies. According to the president, outreach, recruiting, admissions, and financial aid processes under the old system had been totally separated and not as effective as under the new system. He said that all of these issues and others, such as housing, could be dealt with earlier now and not in February or March, when students have to be pried away from the Duke shirt they received for Christmas. He perceived that the new process of coupling recruiting with financial aid allowed departments to target highly desirable students with attractive offers.

Office of Graduate Studies Dean Judith Langlois announced that the six recommendations from the ad hoc committee had already been implemented. Colleges and schools had been sent memos from both the provost and from her with instructions. The question was raised if colleges and schools were also advised to appropriately include faculty in their processes. Dean Langlois said that the units were aware of the expectations of the joint committee and the Office of Graduate Studies, but she noted that a seventh recommendation to that effect would be consistent with that position. Chair Elect Hart responded by offering an amendment to the ad hoc committee report adding a seventh recommendation that asked schools and colleges to make clear how they were involving faculty in the decision-making processes for fellowship awards. President Powers added his full support for faculty involvement in recruiting in the relevant units. He cautioned against replacing centralized committees in the Office of Graduate Studies with centralized committees at the college level. Dr. Hart rephrased her proposed amendment to state that “colleges and schools should make clear how they are involving appropriate departmental [or unit] faculty in awarding fellowships and scholarships.”

Professor Friedman answered a question about the process of money allocation to departments, explaining that about half of the funds available, in the amount of about $13.5 million, were dispersed to schools and colleges. These allocations were based on records over the last three years. The colleges and schools then in turn dispersed the funds to the local units as they saw appropriate. The remaining funds stayed in the Office of Graduate Studies because they were for University-wide awards, including the Harrington Fellowships, Presidential Fellowships, etc.

Office of Graduate Studies Associate Dean Marvin Hackert further clarified that any funds that could be decentralized were, in fact, decentralized. He added that the funds that remained in the Office of Graduate Studies were only those that have to be administered through that office. While schools and colleges received allocations based on the awards of the last three years, they would have a chance to negotiate adjustments of the amounts with the provost and through the Deans/Provost Academic Core planning process. He affirmed Professor Friedman’s assertion that each school or college could choose how to allocate the funds to their individual units. He also pointed out the flexibility the new system provided to colleges and schools in how they use the funds. One college used its allocation entirely for recruiting, while another college reserved all funds for continuing students. In addition, Associate Dean Hackert said award packages could be tailored to individual needs, with some constraints, which still have to be worked out in more detail.

Associate Dean Hackert also commented on a question that was raised regarding the impact on recruiting for a diverse student body by admitting that is was difficult to judge the exact impact, as diversity is no longer labeled as such in awards and means different things for different programs. He added that there would be some research into the demographics of incoming students. Past Chair Friedman stated that the Office of Graduate Studies would monitor the impact on diversity recruitment. Dean Langlois added that the Office of Graduate Studies still administers the South Texas, West Texas, and McNair Fellowship programs.

Since there was no further discussion, Past Chair Friedman asked the Faculty Council to vote, first on the amendment proposed by Chair Elect Hart and then on the main motion. Both of these passed unanimously by voice votes.

Chair Hilley reiterated that the full report of the ad hoc committee could be reviewed on the Faculty Council website, including the survey results of graduate advisors and graduate coordinators.

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