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Educational Policy Committee


The EPC had a very productive and successful year. We begin by outlining our accomplishments, all of which have appeared in our monthly minutes; the report closes with a description of a issues likely to emerge next year.

*Approving core curriculum language. A the request of Acting Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Larry Abraham, EPC scheduled its first meeting in late August/early September and we were able to have a full meeting on Business on September 12, ahead of the typical first “gathering” that occurs in the first Faculty Council meeting. Larry was working intensively on meeting new THECB mandates regarding our core curriculum, and needed to meet deadlines. At that meeting, we were briefed on changes to the core that would go into the catalog. After hearing suggestions and questions from EPC, Larry modified edited the core document; we approved this document at the October meeting. Larry also invited member Stephen White to work on a more general revision of the descriptions of the core areas so that the catalog would have a more consistent/coherent structure.

*Course evaluations. At the October meeting, student members, Michael Morton and Josh Fjelstul, produced a report asking that the Basic and Expanded Course Evaluations be changed to add items that inquire about how relevant course materials were to the course. They also proposed making slight changes to other items. We tabled the issue to await other information on the proposed changes. During the year, EPC learned that UT System is also working on proposed changes to course evaluations (which we should await before making any new changes); in addition, Dawn Zimmaro of CTL provided information on the estimated cost of making changes to all forms. The largest cost in labor associated with reprogramming forms. The estimate cost was just under $60,000. The students withdrew the proposal at the March meeting.

*Consistency in International Studies. EPC entertained a proposal to change the academic characteristics of the so-called “Affiliated Studies” (AS) programs to make it consistent with the academic characteristics of “Study Abroad.” Under the change AS courses would count toward a student’s GPA and could count towards a major. We first heard it as a written proposal, but the Committee had several questions that could be answered only by having Heather Hamir Barclay attend a meeting to answer questions. The rationale for this change is outlined in December 13 minutes. It was approved unanimously. Faculty Council then approved the change at its February meeting.

*Q-drop form altered. EPC unanimously passed a proposal to remove the requirement for faculty signatures on Q-drop forms submitted before the mid-semester deadline. The rationale for this appears in the November minutes.  Faculty Council approved this change at its February meeting.

*Vice Provost Subcommittee Recommendations on Increasing Four-Year Graduation Rates. Several EPC members, including the Chair, served on an ad hoc committee created by David Laude to go through the Task Force on Graduation Rates report and assess which policies could be implemented quickly and might have an impact on four-year graduation rates. EPC then entertained several proposals and passed them along to Faculty Council for approval. These include:

-Limiting the timing of internal transfers to different colleges, as well as the number of attempts (see discussion in February minutes). This passed unanimously and was approved by Faculty Council at its April meeting.

-Requiring that decisions to add a simultaneous major take into account a student’s ability to graduate within four years (see discussions in March and April minutes). This was approved unanimously at the April meeting and will be considered by Faculty Council at its May 6 meeting.

-Dropping the “24-hour” rule that requires students seeking multiple degrees add 24 hours beyond the number demanded by the degree with the most units required. This was approved unanimously at the May meeting and will be considered by Faculty Council at its May 6 meeting.

*Creating a transcriptable minor. EPC initially considered a proposal for a transcript-recognized minor at its February meeting. Gretchen Ritter worked with students to develop a policy and presented this at the April and May meetings. After extensive discussion of workload issues (see May minutes) as well as the issue of not recognizing unnumbered courses (see April minutes), the proposal was approved by a vote of 6 – 2 at the May meeting. The policy will be considered by Faculty Council at its May 6 meeting.

EPC concluded all of its business for the year. Thanks to Thomas Garza, who acted as Vice Chair of the Committee. Mary Rose agreed to serve a single additional year as Chair. We expect that during the next year, we will discuss policy on the following areas:

*Online courses. Policy issues will arise as part of the move to offering on-line courses, including so-called “MOOC’s” (massively open online courses). EPC began a discussion of this topic at its November meeting (see minutes). Gretchen Ritter initiated this discussion, and her leadership in asking questions about these courses will be sorely missed as she moves on to Cornell to assume the Deanship of Arts & Sciences.

*System rules. UT System is developing requirements for changes to course evaluation forms and to the process of evaluating faculty teaching (e.g., how often to do so). Initial discussions are occurring and we expect that EPC will be entertaining particular policies in the 2013 – 2014 year. 

*Possible “tweaking” policies we have previously approved. The discussion of the simultaneous majors policy raised many questions about how to design a policy that can be implemented effectively and fairly. In the simultaneous majors discussion, EPC members wanted to alter the proposal submitted from the policy implementation sub-committee to include an enforcement mechanisms. In the approved policy, it is mandated only that the addition of an additional majors “take into account” the ability to graduate in four years. The policy does not lay out what happens when an additional major would increase graduation time. Committee members were concerned about the possibility of inconsistent enforcement across departments or colleges. In March we proposed adding language to give the policy more “teeth”: Deans would have to approve the additional major. However, we ran into a concern about majors that span two colleges and whether the Dean from the student’s “first” college (i.e., where they had their first major) could veto a decision to add a major from a “second college.” Over email, EPC discussed in detail the implications of this policy. It was further discussed at the April meeting, and we opted to remove the added language. Instead, as implementation concerns arose, EPC could consider those problems one by one, rather than trying to anticipate them all. Shelby in particular argued that content policies are sometimes different than implementation policies, and in some instances one may not be able to address all implementation issues while also deciding content. This will likely be a theme in other policy decisions; in addition, it is expected that some previously considered policies will come back to EPC for adjustments as the University observes how a policy works in practice.

*Committee size. EPC is a large body, having both voting and ex officio members. During the year, it was difficult to find a common meeting time that met all schedules, with the result that we lost out on input from valuable members. There is probably no fix for this; but it was a concern for the Chair in both the Fall and Spring terms.

The chair wishes to formally thank all members for their hard work and diligence this year. In addition, we are grateful to both the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Undergraduate Studies for allowing us to use their meeting space.

Mary Rose, chair