Meeting 5: May 22, 2014

Leona had a conversation with the Chancellor who was pretty firm about returning control of the curriculum to the colleges. There appears to be a disconnect between what he has heard from Deans and a select group of Faculty Council members and what this task force is hearing from constituents. Are we asking the right questions?

The role of the Graduate Faculty Senate and its interaction with Graduate School, Units and faculty

Issues around GFS functions that may have motivated:

  • it took forever to change a single word in the title of a course
  • couldn’t change the course number
  • it took a year to get a new course on the book
  • things got lost

Changing the names of courses, numbers, credits, course descriptions have been delegated by GFS to the Dean of the Graduate School for many years (eight or ten years ago according to GFS minutes). These requests do not sit on current Dean’s desk for more than 48 hours without a signature. Cannot speak for past administrations and these could be old complaints. New course requests do come to the GFS and are reviewed by the Academic Affairs subcommittee. If there are questions about the proposal such as missing sections that address grading scale etc, it goes back to the unit proposing it. It is possible it then needs to traverse the entire college process again causing some delay. Cannot say there is no delay at GFS level because there is, they only meet once a month. Also, paper proposals do get lost and mishandled especially during the transition from one senate year to the next. Some of this could have been resolved with more dedicated graduate school staff however this is a faculty process and too much administrative control not preferable. Members of the task force are concerned that some of our work is being driven by anecdotes and not data.

Much of the delay and also identification of the source of the delay will be addressed by the new electronic CourseLeaf system. This is a paperless course proposal and revision system with workflow approvals and time stamps built-in. Thus the registrar, undergraduate curriculum committee and graduate school recognized the need for improvement over a year ago and invested the past year in developing the software and processes needed for improvement. What will happen to that system and all the effort? CourseLeaf went live ~2 months ago. We’ll have data in a year to determine where the problems are. It was noted that GFS members are electronically approving new courses now (over the summer) when GFS doesn’t meet again until the fall which is when normally courses would be approved. Thus, there is already a dramatic difference in timing for approvals.

Why does the Graduate Dean need to sign off on course revisions or new courses. These issues could be handled by a college curriculum committee. There have been only minor questions regarding course changes over the past year and most of these could have been identified at the college level if someone was looking at them (apparently not however). Examples of some issues this year are: 4000/7000 courses and what grad students do extra, cross listing courses and getting course numbers right, vet school syllabus for a semester course attached to a 2 week preceptor course. Not clear this went through a curriculum committee? Is it really necessary for Graduate Dean to sign off on courses from professional schools? What is the history and motivation for this? Moving course revisions and approvals to colleges will increase work of associate deans in colleges to check details normally caught by Dean or GFS.

Curriculum goes far beyond courses and course approvals but also involves new degree and certificate program approvals. Should this return to the colleges as well?

There are other models out there for Graduate Curriculum including institutions that have a graduate college within every college or at least an associate dean of graduate education who manages all the details for the college (examples, NYU and Georgetown). These are however large institutions with considerable resources. Do we have the resources in every college to manage graduate curriculum? Will it be considered duplication? How will duplication of certificate programs and interdisciplinary degrees be vetted across colleges (will it?)?

Significant conversations that GFS has had around new program approvals do involve duplication of programs. For example, COE recently requested approval for a Minor in Qualitative Research. However, there are many courses and programs on campus that also teach qualitative research. The COE acknowledged this and was willing to allow students to take some of these courses as part of the program but was unwilling to further delay program approval by formalizing the minor as an interdisciplinary degree that acknowledged other college contributions. As an alternative they revised the name of the degree to Qualitative Research in Education. Thus, if other faculty and colleges decide in the future to create an interdisciplinary degree option it is less likely to be considered duplicative by CBHE and rejected. Thus, GFS views new curricular approvals with a campus perspective.

Questions that arose about college based curriculum decisions

If degree approvals return to the colleges, who will approve interdisciplinary degrees? It was suggested that the deans of involved colleges can do this with the faculty. If there are issues that cross several colleges that need to be hammered-out, then the Associate Vice Chancellor for Grad Studies would have to step in. Does this take faculty out of control of the curriculum? What about differences of opinion between deans and faculty within colleges? Advantage of GFS is that members are not obligated to any dean or their colleagues to make decisions that are contrary to the good of the campus. Each college would have to establish their own curriculum committee to approve the curriculum as well as courses according to system and state requirements. Some colleges do not have active curriculum committees but rather rely on GFS or dean to review proposals for consistency with system and state requirements. All course approvals would have to go up the chain through the Provost office, System and CBHE. The CBHE only checks for duplication across the state – not at the university. Do we want System checking for duplication on campus? It will be more challenging for a curriculum committee in one college deliberating a new program to think about how they might interact with another college’s degree program.

What functions would remain with GFS? Would Graduate policies be made at the GFS level or would that also revert to the colleges? If there are to be some standards, minimum admissions requirements, progress to degree, need some input from GFS to Graduate Studies and programs. Alternatively, should GFS be absorbed into faculty council and return control of graduate curriculum to the faculty governing body or a subcommittee of that body?

Without GFS, to start a new interdisciplinary grad program, it would be a matter of the faculty coming together and the two deans coming together and a faculty vote at both colleges. It would be very distributed – so each college would need to deal with the budget office independently – then they need to deal with the registrar and then the catalogue – there are those kinds of details that are now centralized that wouldn’t be. Suggested there could be someone in the Graduate Office that it is his or her job to do that. (This would be a new position as currently no one has this responsibility. The Dean and GFS members do this.)

What is the impact of the past decisions made by GFS. No course or program has been denied, rather it is sent back for detail work either for better evaluation or to bring into compliance for submission at the system level. That kind of check could easily be done by one person in a central place such as registrar office or graduate studies (Again, a new position for either office. Faculty do this for free).

The GFS should not be working on name changes – they should be working on new ideas and policies to foster creative interdisciplinary programs.

Straw Vote on Ideas:

Should colleges have authority to change course number, name, and description to an existing course (13 yes – 1 opposed)

  1. Protection of students in this process is important – syllabus changes can be an issue – once a course is approved, you need to submit the syllabus for all course changes.
  2. It should be deans and chairs checking courses, perhaps they are not doing their jobs before sending incomplete proposals to GFS (from a Dean). Should it be GFS or Deans and Chairs to make sure policy is being followed? There are Provost Policies on what needs to be in a syllabus – put it all on a website and provide a link.
  3. Based on the current vote, changes to courses through CourseLeaf will go directly to the registrar.

Should colleges have authority to approve new courses with approvals being done by a curriculum committee within the college? (9 yes, 2 no, 3 abstentions).

  1. Where do you go to create an interdisciplinary course? What about courses like Preparing Future Faculty that crosses all colleges and benefits all the students? It’s not that the deans are anti-multidisciplinary, it’s just that when it isn’t clear what the process is, it stifles creativity.
  2. There are ways to handle cross listing courses. Cross list PFF in all colleges (13 numbers).

Should new degree and certificate programs be approved at the college level? (It will always go to the Provost before it goes to the system) (2 yes, 2 opposed, 6 abstentions).

  1. It is fairly involved to put together a certificate program. There are financial aid issues and documentation for gainful employment, system and CBHE regulations and the feds are monitoring gainful employment reporting.
  2. Majors take two years to get off campus and get into the system – we have protocols in place at the UG level – is it really different at the Grad level. You see some things come through at the GFS level – without details – and that is what GFS has been doing. Do we have the courses, do we have the faculty – very few are denied – most are sent back because there’s more work that needs to be done.
  3. The checks and the balances need to be in there – maybe the recommendation could be that GFS work with the colleges to build that into the process – there will have to be a transition period.
  4. The long-term problem is who will ultimately be responsible for the checklist/process – what if the process needs to be changed. Will it be the Provost Office? Currently, after GFS approval the proposals go to Ruth who drafts a letter to the provost and then Marla who must draft another letter and sends to the system. Neither of those people are in the position to take over the oversight role of the GFS or do checks on completions by colleges should it return to that level.

These suggestions will have to go back to the GFS and faculty council and they will have to discuss and agree on these things. Changes to their structure/function have to be made by them. The GFS operates with the authority of the faculty and faculty council.

Since GFS has been given authority by the faculty to determine its own structure, we, the GS Restructuring Task Force, charged by the Chancellor with reviewing the role of the graduate faculty senate in graduate curricular decisions, recommend that:

1. GFS consider returning control of all new graduate course approvals or modifications to existing courses back to the colleges (graduate faculty vote of approval).

a. Colleges will need to delegate final approval to someone in authority (could be Assoc Dean). This might conflict with faculty control of curriculum.
b. Some colleges will need to reinstate or modify curriculum committee structures with faculty involvement

2. GFS consider returning control of new professional course approvals and modifications of existing courses to the colleges (graduate faculty vote and approval).

a. These are currently done by the Dean and not necessary. Requires change in CourseLeaf workflow.

3. GFS consider the possibility and implications of returning control of the curriculum (degrees, minors and certificates) to the colleges. (Requires vote of graduate faculty).

a. Colleges know the content needs best.
b. One less approval hoop to jump through, expedite the process.
c. Who approves interdisciplinary certificates and degrees
i. Who mediates if there are issues?
d. Who determines if there is overlap with other programs
i. Provost checks? Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies checks? System Checks? Colleges work it out themselves? Do we care?
e. Faculty making curricular decisions for benefit of college vs campus.
i. College curriculum committees do not always see the big picture and lack the cross campus input from other programs.
ii. Faculty may be obligated to dean and colleagues for specific curricular adjustments; not as independent as on GFS
f. College faculty and officials will require knowledge of gainful employment regulations and reporting
i. Will this reporting remain on GS website or move to programs? At present GS performs this function and interacts with financial aid to assess open certificates and credits used.
g. New degree programs will require college committee or official to verify proper submission and completion for system.
i. Checks by GFS not in place.

4. Alternatively, Faculty Council considers modifications to the CRR to rescind the powers of the graduate faculty/GFS over graduate curriculum and return that authority to the faculty of the colleges. Will require a vote of the general faculty

These recommendations are based on our discussions regarding graduate curriculum approval and our knowledge of the rules and regulations of the University of Missouri regarding curriculum (see below).

300.010 Faculty Bylaws of the University of Missouri-Columbia
1. Primary and Direct Authority — The UMC faculty has essential decision-making authority in matters directly affecting the educational program of UMC, including but not limited to:

(1) Articulation and maintenance of standards of academic performance — this includes but is not limited to guidelines for appropriate research, service, and scholarships; requirements for graduation; and related matters.
(2) Construction and approval of courses of instruction and of curricula.
(3) Construction and approval of procedures governing educational support programs on the UMC campus.
(4) Formulation of criteria determining professional standing of faculty — including but not limited to such matters as tenure, promotion, termination, guidelines for responsibility, faculty standing with regard to graduate faculty membership and doctoral dissertation supervision.
(5) Determination of an appropriate faculty committee structure.
(6) Determination of minimum admission requirements.
(7) Selection of awardees for academic scholarships.

5. Faculty Organization

4. There shall be a Graduate Faculty organization. It shall develop its own criteria for membership, organizational structure, its own obligations and rights providing they are consonant with the philosophy and principles of the federal faculty Bylaws. The Graduate Faculty shall determine the functions of the Graduate Faculty Senate. The Graduate Faculty shall set standards for graduate education on the campus, provided they meet at least the minimum standards established by the general faculty.
5. Divisional faculties are established in the various academic divisions. They shall develop policies adapted to their specific needs, but standards of performance must not be set below those established by the general faculty.