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Senate task force to propose new structure for Global Campus

A task force has been assembled to propose an alternative structure for the Global Campus online degree program, one of three possibilities for the future of Global Campus that President B. Joseph White will present to the UI Board of Trustees at its May meeting in Chicago. In addition to reconfiguring Global Campus, White and the trustees will consider the possibilities of forging ahead with Global Campus in its present form or shutting it down.

The online degree program began in October 2007 and opened for classes in January 2008. It has 366 students in five degree programs and four certificate programs, with enrollment projected to reach 450 by May. Four more programs are being developed and expected to go to the trustees for approval in May, with classes to start in September, and enrollment projected to increase to 700 if those programs are begun.

Nicholas Burbules, chair of the Senate Executive Committee, is chairing the six-member group drafting a proposed alternative structure for Global Campus. Burbules told the Urbana-Champaign Senate at the senate’s March 30 meeting that as the group develops its proposal, it is drawing upon the expertise of specialists in online education inside and outside the university.

“Our goal in drafting this alternative is the following: to still serve the mission that the president rightly laid out of expanding access to affordable higher education opportunities through the development of online programs, but we believe it is possible to do this at a lower cost with a better fit with the culture of our university, with a broader base of support among faculty and administrators across all three of our campuses,” Burbules said. “I can’t really give you a lot of details about it, but I can tell you that the proposed alternative would not be an accredited entity and would not be giving out degrees or running programs itself.

“It’s very important to us that what we propose has as strong as possible a basis of faculty support, and we’re convinced that without this broad basis of faculty support this larger initiative cannot succeed.”

The task force, which comprises members from all three campuses, is to submit a final proposal to White by April 15. Burbules said the task force also will submit the proposal to the University Senates Conference, which may share it with the campus senates or their executive committees.

Later in the meeting, the senate approved a proposal from the Educational Policy Committee that any degrees awarded by the Global Campus outside the partnership agreement of 2007 not bear the names of the Urbana campus or the Urbana-Champaign Senate.

Senators debated and amended, but ultimately returned to the Senate Executive Committee for further deliberation, a resolution on faculty commitments outside the Urbana-Champaign campus that said that faculty “should first focus on initiating and improving our own campus programs before considering commitments to entities outside our campus.”

During discussion, the senate agreed to amend the resolution to read “before considering commitments to university entities outside our campus.” The resolution was further amended to specify that “all agreements for such commitments must be cleared and approved by the appropriate administrators at the unit, college and campus levels.”

Several senators, including Doug McDonald, chemistry, were concerned that the resolution was too broad and “unless it is modified, it gives carte blanche to administration to stop faculty members from doing any outside activities,” McDonald said.

Senators also passed a proposal that expanded the number of student members on the Committee on Student Discipline from four to six. William Maher, chair of the University Statutes and Senate Procedures Committee, told the senate that students wanted more representation on the committee, which also contains nine faculty members and the vice chancellor for student affairs.

The senate convened as a Committee of the Whole to view and discuss a presentation on dissertation deposits and publishing of them by ProQuest UMI that was given by Rebecca Bryant, assistant dean of the Graduate College.

Other business considered by the senate and streaming video of senate meetings are available on the Web.

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