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USC wants faculty involved in Global Campus startup

The University Senates Conference has recommended forming a university-level committee to examine the relationships among all the UI’s online initiatives, including Global Campus, and to identify areas of synergy, potential conflict and unnecessary competition that may exist.

The USC also is questioning the selection process for members of the Academic Policy Council formed to oversee the Global Campus online degree program and wants more faculty members involved. In a Jan. 26 letter to President B. Joseph White, the USC expressed its disappointment that administrators had selected the APC members rather than allowing the senates to elect them. The deans of partnering colleges selected some of the APC members; other members are Global Campus staff members or program directors or are developing programs for Global Campus.

“It concerns us that only current Global Campus programs are represented – which means that only people with a financial interest in the Global Campus are involved in reviewing and evaluating its programs and policies,” the USC wrote in its letter to White. “… And we are disturbed that all of these members will be paid for their service on the APC, which, whatever its justifications, creates an appearance of compromised objectivity.”

Faculty members on the APC are receiving stipends to develop Global Campus programs because the work constitutes “overload,” said Elliot Kaufman, chair of the Senate Executive Committee at the Chicago campus, who also is chairing the 15-member APC.

The USC recommended that three unpaid faculty members – one from each campus senate – be added to the APC as voting members to assist in developing the Global Campus’ bylaws and constitution, to lend their expertise in senate procedures and shared governance, and serve as liaisons with the three campus senates.

While White supported the formation of a universitywide coordinating committee for online initiatives, he did not support electing faculty members to the APC, concerned that someone who opposed Global Campus might be elected and hinder its progress.

“Global Campus is not a creature of the three campuses,” White said. … “The partnership model did not work and put Global Campus on a path to failure because we were not getting the required programs from the three campuses that would let it succeed. … Global Campus is a startup. A startup is fragile and has one job – to survive.” And if it survives, then faculty members and administrators can re-open the issue of faculty governance and elected membership when Global Campus is mature and not when it is struggling to get its programs developed and running, White said.

However, White said he was prepared to discuss the possibility of appointing one or more faculty members to the APC based upon the USC’s recommendations.

Richard Schacht, a member of the Urbana-Champaign Senate, expressed concern about populating the APC with instructors hired only to teach courses for Global Campus and with appointees who might have little or no experience in educational policy. Schacht suggested that APC members be drawn from the campus senates’ educational policy committees. “Somebody with academic faculty status experience in educational policy matters needs to be significantly involved,” Schacht said. “Not just one person, like Elliot (Kaufman), but there needs to be a substantial cohort of people on this APC if it is going to be a meaningful, significant contributor to the Global Campus as an academic enterprise.”

While several USC members said that they supported Global Campus and wanted to see it succeed, they also had many concerns – fears that the APC would operate more like a corporate board of directors than an academic policy committee, that administration was flouting the University Statutes by proceeding without senate involvement, and that Global Campus was creating programs that might adversely affect established programs.

“We’ve felt locked out of that process,” said Pat Langley, a member of the Senate Executive Committee at UIS. “There are issues for us in terms of competition and offering degrees at cheaper rates. About 50 percent of our revenue comes from tuition, so it’s a serious issue for us.”

However, Kaufman said that Global Campus programs would not be competing with campus-based programs because Global Campus targets a different group of potential students – community college graduates who, because of jobs or family obligations, cannot travel to the campuses. “They would never consider enrolling in our campus programs,” Kaufman said. “They just can’t do that. Global Campus is trying to reach out to those people to provide access, but we’re not competing for the same people.”

The APC is in the process of drafting a constitution and bylaws, which include a provision that would allow White to appoint up to three additional members to the APC, Kaufman said. The APC expects to have a draft of the bylaws ready for review within the next few weeks. 

Stimulus package offers funding opportunities

The multibillion-dollar federal economic stimulus package recently signed by President Barack Obama contains significant funding for agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and Provost Linda Katehi urged researchers at the Urbana campus to consider projects that they could propose.

Katehi discussed the federal stimulus package in the context of the UI’s budget during a meeting of the Urbana-Champaign Senate on Feb. 23.

“These are all opportunities for us,” Katehi said about the provisions of the stimulus package, which contained $10.4 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $3 billion for the National Science Foundation and $140 million for the states’ geological surveys. “I can see every single college benefiting out of this.”

Faced with a projected state budget deficit of $9 billion, the campus likely can expect a 10 percent reduction in its General Revenue funds, Katehi said. All units were told to set aside 1.5 percent of their funds this fiscal year, and the campus is planning for as much as a 10 percent cash rescission, with the possibility looming that any Fiscal Year 2009 rescission will become a permanent budgetary reduction next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The Legislature then will have until the end of May to agree on a spending plan for FY10.

The UI won’t know what may lie ahead until Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn unveils his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal on March 18.

Salaries, which now account for 80 percent of the campus’s costs, are becoming a focus for cost containment, and only critical hires are being approved. The Urbana campus has 11,627 full-time equivalent employees, 3,015 of whom are faculty members, Katehi said. During the past eight or nine years, the numbers of students and faculty members have grown at equivalent rates of about 13 percent.

“We have grown in people, but we grew without having a good plan in front of us,” Katehi said. “We grew because we decided to make hires on the basis of quality of faculty members available instead of on the need we had internally. … The growth as it was done across the board has forced us to really use all of the flexibility that we had in our budget and tie all of our funds into salaries.”

In the future, the campus will need to be strategic about its hiring and let attrition whittle down salary expenditures so that those funds can be directed to educational programs instead, Katehi said.

Sen. George Francis, mathematics, urged campus administrators to consider the “rational calendar.”

“We’ve done the numbers,” Francis said. “If we go to a 60-minute class with a 15-minute interval between classes, we would save two weeks per semester. That’s two weeks’ less energy use, two weeks’ fewer services and two weeks more for doing research.”

Nicholas Burbules, chair of the Senate Executive Committee read a statement updating the senate on issues pertaining to Global Campus and the decision to pursue separate accreditation. While supportive of the mission to expand access to qualified students, the SEC raised several concerns, which the University Senates Conference addressed with President B. Joseph White on Feb. 25.

In other business, the senate approved numerous revisions to the core curriculum for the professional veterinary medicine program. The modifications, which will be phased in beginning with the first-year class entering in the fall, increased clinical experiences during all four years, and modernized the curriculum in accordance with the 2006 accreditation report by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education.

Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the Senate Educational Policy Committee, discussed the proposal, which grouped several three- and four-credit courses together to create eight-week courses bearing nine to 10 1/2 credit hours. 

“Very little of what we do fits into 15 lecture hours per semester,” said Jonathan Foreman, associate dean for academics and student affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We’re lumping smaller courses into a larger-course format to allow more flexibility to redistribute hours as we think is appropriate, as we progress and as medicine changes, and as all of the species that we do change.”

Foreman said that the doctors of veterinary medicine students take, on average, 19 1/2  credits per semester, and that most courses are team-taught, with the exception of a few electives.

Sen. Alfred Hubler, physics, expressed concern that creating large-credit courses would preclude students from taking courses in other departments.

Foreman responded that vet med has a mechanism in place that enables students from other colleges to take portions of courses for a limited number of credits.

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