Report on Spring 2016 College Visits
The Senate Officers visited five colleges during Spring 2016 including: Liberal Arts (1/27/16), Nursing (January 28), Health and Human Development (February 1), Science (February 8), and Communications (February 12).
Scope of Senate Officer College Visits:
The Senate Officers were proactive with our meetings and made conscious efforts to convey the issues we heard from student, staff, and faculty discussions with the College Administration representatives. We presented a comprehensive, 21-page report that encompassed our college-specific observations and discussions during a meeting on March 24, 2016 with Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas Jones. At this meeting, the Senate Officers had a productive exchange with the Provost and Vice President and thought our observations, impressions, and recommendations were appreciated and addressed by our administration colleagues.
Detailed, college-specific discussions and recommendations from Senate Officer visits are not presented in this public report due to confidentiality. There were some common topics that were voiced in many college meetings. The Senate Officers offer the following general discussions and recommendations from the college visits.
- General Education Changes
- There is concern about the new General Education requirements, including linked courses and Integrative Studies courses. How will a linked course be approved? Will only particular sections be linked or any section of both courses? There is concern about the other courses that will remain the same; will these need to be submitted again with new Gen Ed learning objectives included in the course proposals? What will be required to “recertify” the course? What is the additional faculty effort to prepare these proposals? Will there be enough courses available for the linked and integrated studies courses? Senate Officer response: This will probably be done when the course is next reviewed in the periodic review. There may be a shortened process to accomplish this. Also, Curricular Affairs Committee may need to meet during the summer.
- It would help to have guidance on what includes appropriate consultation in curricular review. It’s not always clear what is considered appropriate consultation. Do suggestions or concerns raised in the consultation process need to be implemented in the proposal or only rebutted? Can there be some general guidance on what consultation should be conducted?
- What is the role of World Campus in the consultation process? The World Campus sometimes becomes involved in course development, such as how to title a course or form a program of study. World Campus has come back and not supported it because they think that there should be different courses in the program or the program title should be changed. Are these curricular suggestions or marketing suggestions?
- Funding for General Education changes by the Administration. Budget model for Gen Ed courses? How are departments encouraged to teach more Gen Ed courses? How are they compensated for teaching Gen Ed courses?
- General Education Assessment, Program Assessment
- Some FYS courses do not include FYS objectives.
- When the Commonwealth Campuses were given more autonomy, the UP home departments have lost control over the quality and uniformity of the programs. There is a loss of quality control.
- Campuses can still make degree substitutions even if the degree is housed at UP. There should be restrictions on the of type of substitutions that campuses can make.
- UP controls only the course description but not the syllabus or textbooks for the courses. Some courses offered at other campuses include significantly different content, even if nominally fitting the same course description. The problem with consistency of course content involves many different programs. Senate Officers response: There is new Senate Legislation that will require 80% similarity between all sections of a course.
- Middle States Assessment is mandated and will impact the workload in the departments.
- Some faculty members are concerned with instruction of General Education courses. Some colleges have faculty teach the Gen Ed courses; other colleges use graduate student TA’s to teach the General Education courses. The online resident courses can have thousands enrolled and taught by one adjunct instructor.
- The online courses are sometimes not well taught and do not give students personal contact with instructor. Where should the college put resources and faculty time? Are the objectives of General Education courses (such as active learning and writing) being met by these online courses?
- Student Advising
- Email addresses discontinue one year after graduation. This makes it difficult for companies and other contacts to reach graduated students. Other universities, such as Michigan, have alumni email addresses with the same address name but @alumni.mich.edu
- The Academic Plan is not connected to the LionPath degree audit. The recommended Academic Plan is helpful for students to know what classes to take each semester in order to graduate on time.
- Mental health for students is a concern. There is much demand for CAPS counseling.
- There is a lack of consistency in advising. Not all advisers are good. Some give poor advice or do not have needed information. It is awkward to request a new adviser if you are assigned an adviser that is not as good. It can be difficult to schedule a meeting with a good adviser because they are booked. An advising book with information about the programs might be helpful. The Advising Portal is not always up to date. The students did not find the Portal information to be helpful.
- Advising is also a problem for students starting at a Commonwealth Campus. Some advisers do not know the degree requirements for UP majors.
- Allowing students to schedule an overload without speaking with an adviser has caused problems. Some students are taking too many credits. This has negatively impacted students.
- There is no adviser approval for students to take World Campus courses on top of their regular course load. There is no system of checks.
- How can the staff work more closely with the Faculty Senate to be informed of student policy changes? How can students be informed of policy changes?
- Students in some colleges have limited Career Fair opportunities.
- Students in different majors want to learn what career opportunities are available. Opportunities to learn about internships may exist in some departments but are not well announced. Also information about graduate school opportunities, how to prepare for graduate studies, how to transition to graduate school, health care considerations, learn from current graduate students about their experience.
- There is a lack of communication between advisers if a student has concurrent majors in two different colleges. This makes it difficult to plan concurrent majors.
- Fixed Term Faculty Concerns, Teaching Loads
- How are Extended Leave cases handled for Fixed Term faculty? Senate Officer response: Central HR is now addressing this issue.
- There are inconsistencies in the evaluation of promotion to Senior Lecturer across campuses and UP.
- Paid maternity leave for staff and fixed term faculty should be considered. Currently staff need to use their sick days and vacation days for maternity.
- How should fixed term appointments be described in an opening announcement? Should they be advertised as a one-year position with the promise of renewal? Advertising as a multi-year contract will attract better candidates but the candidate may not be a good match with the department and could not be released.
- Faculty Support
- What incentives are in place to encourage faculty to use new technology? Senate Officer response: Schreyer Institute, Tanya Furman in Undergrad Ed for assessment
- Students in some colleges commented that there is no accountability of professors to encourage a quality learning experience. Some faculty members are not passionate about their teaching. Some faculty members consider the introductory class to not be as important but these classes can be very important when students are deciding their major. One instructor came into class 15 minutes late every day, not passionate, “worn down”. A midterm feedback would encourage professor to improve course before the end of the semester. The SRTE evaluation is at the end of the semester and does not improve the current course. It is difficult for students to fill out SRTE’s during the last week of the semester since the last week is very busy.
- The Five-Year Faculty Review process is a concern. The P&T process is clear and there are protections. HR 23 clearly describes the process. But the 5-Year Review is not well defined in HR 40. Senate policy is very short for this process. But the 5-Year Review can be very important, moving a faculty from research to teaching faculty, teaching loads can be increased. The 5-Year Review does not have a sign-off process. Some of the information is visible to faculty, other portions are not, such as the grade point averages that are reviewed with the SRTE’s. What dates should the review cover? When are the deadlines for the steps of the process? Can additional information be added about activities not in job description? There is much grey area and judgement and this process is very important. Faculty did not feel protected by the process. There are also inconsistencies in how the five-year review is implemented in different colleges.
- Decisions are being made (class scheduling, IT decisions, health decision) without faculty being involved. Faculty members do not know if their concerns were taken into account when decisions are made.
- Some faculty questioned the appropriateness of using SRTE’s for faculty promotion and tenure. Is the SRTE an objective measure that should be given that importance? Peer reviews are done every year for tenure-track faculty and this is a better indication of teaching quality.
- The Faculty Senate should tell Deans the importance of being on the Faculty Senate.
- Need clarity from administration about hiring of faculty, including hiring of spouses who are hired on fixed term but have an interest in being considered for a tenure-track position. What is the policy and process for these situations? For example, if a faculty member is planning to leave and has a spouse who is in a postdoc position, can the university offer the spouse a tenure-track position? How do we retain and recruit the very best?
- Some colleges do not have faculty meetings, as required by all unit constitutions.
- Will the Health Care costs be increasing? Most staff prefer to have the PPO Blue Plan. There is concern about the proposed doubling of deductibles as reported by David Gray in January Senate meeting.
- What is the University doing for the security of personal information? For example, to get insurance for family, employees needed to upload Social Security cards for every family member, marriage license. Is Highmark keeping our information secure? The Highmark security password is not very secure.
- It is difficult to get information to determine which health plan will be better. Staff member filled out the analysis spreadsheet for health care options but was not certain if the information was accurate. The online spreadsheet did not have enough information. The staff member then needed to talk with HR person to get assistance and this took much time (several hours) to determine which plan would be better.
- Are there health care data that can be shared to compare plans. For example, what was the average out of pocket expenses for each plan?
- Common Schedule, Class Scheduling
- Faculty in several colleges voiced concerns about changing of conference rooms to General Purpose Classrooms. Colleges need these conference rooms to be available for meetings. No one listened to the request to be able to input information about other needs for the room. Departments were not involved in the process.
- There are concerns about the Optimizer and classroom scheduling. STAT courses were not scheduled in classrooms with computers. MATH courses have not been scheduled yet. Science department colloquium is scheduled in a room across campus and the location will not be feasible.
- There are major issues regarding research and teaching facilities. There are not large spaces available for new classes. Classroom need to be modified for active learning activities. The Optimizer process and relabeling some rooms as General Purpose Classrooms will not solve the scheduling problems due to delayed classroom building construction.
- Academic Integrity
- Students commented that there is a need for a more comprehensive University Academic Integrity Policy. There needs to be a better awareness of what is appropriate, especially for international students. There should be continued discussions with students and faculty, not only at the beginning of the semester or one seminar.
Laura L. Pauley, Faculty Senate Secretary, in consultation with Faculty Senate Chair Mohamad A. Ansari and Chair-Elect James A. Strauss.