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A Publication of THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Faculty Council: Requirements for assessment, accountability, parking and budget concerns are topics of November, December council meetings
By John R. Durbin
To satisfy new University of Texas System requirements for assessment and accountability, the university will soon begin a process to measure basic undergraduate skills in writing, mathematics and critical thinking.
Linda Ferreira-Buckley, associate dean of liberal arts, discussed this first phase at the Council's meeting on Dec. 10. She explained that RHE 306 is a course in academic argument based in classical rhetoric. She said the plan would not change the nature of the course and it would leave the faculty in control of the assessment. The assignment is done out of class; it would be graded as part of the course, and a separate copy would be evaluated independently as part of the writing assessment.
Ray Rodrigues, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at UT Brownsville and now on assignment as a special assistant to the UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, explained the background from the view of the UT System.
More than a year ago, Regent Charles Miller proposed that measures of accountability and assessment be instituted at all academic institutions of the system.
It was first believed that this could result in a series of standardized tests that would have to be satisfactorily completed for graduation. Upon further review, the position now is that assessment works best when it is devised by the faculty rather than imposed with a standardized test from the outside.
The initial phase will focus on writing, mathematics and critical thinking. These are to be dealt with in that order, with an assessment of the writing of students before graduation beginning in 2004. Currently, "critical thinking" has not been defined in this context.
Also on Dec. 10, President Larry R. Faulkner alerted members to future budget problems for the university. He said the administration is studying the next budget cycle, 2002-2003, and beyond that to include five years in the future.
Faulkner said difficult decisions would have to be made affecting capital requirements, repair and renovations, program support, faculty recruitment and the hoped-for expansion of the faculty to reduce the student/faculty ratio. It is important for the university to try to maintain its momentum, but it will not be easy, he said.
Parking and Salaries
Two questions about on-campus parking from Professor Gerard Béhague (music) were dealt with at the December meeting. The first was whether there was real justification for extending F and A parking permit times from 4 to 5:45 p.m., which had been done in September. The second had to do with parking near Gregory Gym and Belmont Hall, in lots used by those involved in recreational sports.
The questions were addressed by Bob Harkins, director of Parking and Transportation Services. Harkins said the changes in parking permit times had been made after deliberations by the Parking and Traffic Policies Committee and consultation with students, faculty and administrators.
He said most of the responses about the changes had been favorable, and that some adjustments had been made to accommodate those involved in recreational sports. Béhague argued that more changes were needed, and questioned especially the policy regarding parking under Bellmont Hall. Harkins invited further input about the policies from Béhague or others.
Béhague also submitted a question concerning the legislatively mandated 4- percent merit pool increase for faculty and staff. He was particularly concerned that in his own college, fine arts, faculty holding endowed professorships and chairs were singled out by taking up to 2 percent of the raise amount for individual faculty members from their endowed accounts.
Provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson and the president said some schools and colleges, especially small ones, simply could not cover the overall costs of raises from other sources; the legislature had provided only half of the money needed to cover the raises it had mandated. The endowed money was a permanent source of funds, and both the president and the provost thought that covering part of the raise for an individual from that individual's endowed position was reasonable and equitable, especially given the circumstances.
Issues dealt with at the Nov. 19 meeting of the council included the policy for schools and colleges faced with all undergraduate admission openings being filled by top 10 percent high school graduates, and letter grades and credit by examination. Details may be found at the Faculty Council Web site.