With tuition at all colleges and universities rising, middle-class families being squeezed out of the market, and students facing substantial loan debt after graduation, the nation is caught in a higher education “access and affordability crisis” that Illinois can ease by delivering affordable baccalaureate-degree-completion programs through the Global Campus, in accordance with the UI’s Land-Grant mission. That was President B. Joseph White’s message when he met with the Urbana-Champaign Senate on Nov. 3 at Levis Faculty Center to seek support of a plan to reorganize the Global Campus so it can seek separate accreditation. White met with the senate prior to his presenting the plan to the UI Board of Trustees on Nov. 13.
The Urbana-Champaign Senate voted down a statement from the Senate Executive Committee that expressed cautionary support for the plan. The UIC Senate passed a similar resolution supporting the plan Oct. 31. However, leadership at the Springfield campus proposed that instead of creating a fourth degree-granting campus, the university invest the resources in UIS and expand its established, successful online education network to encompass additional degree and certificate programs.
Many of the objections raised by faculty members echoed those that were expressed two years ago at the inception of the Global Campus – concerns about educational policy and oversight, programmatic quality, market demand, admissions standards and potential dilution of the Illinois brand and UI degrees. Some faculty members asked White to postpone his presentation to the trustees for at least one board meeting so that faculty members could have more time to consider the proposal.
The Global Campus has been falling short on its enrollment and financial goals because the degree and certificate programs that academic units have put forward thus far have tended to be high-priced, graduate-oriented programs, not the affordable, career-enhancing baccalaureate-completion programs that were envisioned for the Global Campus’s core, White told the senate. Since the Global Campus began offering courses in January, it has expanded to encompass five degree programs, with a sixth program under development. Enrollment increased from 10-12 initial students in January to 120 students in September , and 250 expected by mid-2009.
Recruitment of faculty members to teach high-demand online courses has not been fruitful either, but emeritus faculty members have expressed enthusiasm about teaching for Global Campus, White said.
If accredited on its own, the Global Campus could diversify its academic offerings to comprise the kinds of high-demand baccalaureate completion and master’s degree programs for which the online program was conceived and that would bolster enrollment, White said. Partnering with community colleges on program development would be “the most important thing we can do,” enabling students to remain at their jobs, in their homes and in their communities while obtaining affordable college educations online.
Faculty members had many concerns about officials’ plans to form an educational policy council to oversee the Global Campus because the composition of the council was not specified in the draft proposal to the trustees, which was distributed at the meeting. The council’s composition would be decided later and delineated in a yet-to-be drafted constitution for the Global Campus.
White, who emphasized that the two-year accreditation process would provide ample time to debate and address the issues raised, urged prompt action so that officials could fine-tune the online degree program and help it flourish.
“The clock is ticking and the meter is running,” said White, who asked faculty members not to allow their apprehensions about the plan’s many unknown facets stifle innovation. “You innovate by doing. Problems arise and you solve them as you go. The consequences of stopping will be that the funding will run and our innovation will falter and die an expensive death. We have the time to solve these problems as we go.”
Until the Global Campus received its own accreditation, its programs would continue being developed under the sponsorship of one or more campuses, according to the draft proposal.
In other business, the senate passed a resolution about allowed political activities of campus employees that reiterated White’s Oct. 6 e-mail to the campus reaffirming the responsibility of the UI’s leadership to “preserve, protect and defend the constitutionally guaranteed rights” of members of the campus community. Contrary to the UI Ethics Newsletter that fomented a controversy about free speech by banning such activities, the senate resolution reaffirmed employees’ rights to wear partisan political buttons while not on duty and not in their workplaces and to display partisan bumper stickers on personal vehicles. White, who had a blank blue button pinned to his label in facetious reference to the controversy, said that he asked the campus ethics officer, Donna McNeely, to work with Matt Finkin, a professor in the College of Law and director of the Program in Comparative Labor and Employment Law and Policy, and other interested parties to clarify the policy, including the definition of “workplaces” on campus.
Other resolutions approved at the meeting are online, www.senate.illinois.edu.
Senate committee deals with educational policy matters
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor 217-244-1072; email@example.com
Review process "We're a very busy committee," said Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the Urbana-Champaign Senate's Educational Policy Committee.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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The Educational Policy Committee of the Urbana-Champaign Senate is reviewing a proposal to establish a multi-institutional doctoral degree program in chemical and biological engineering with the National University of Singapore. “Because it’s a groundbreaking proposal that sets a precedent, we’re looking at it very carefully,” said Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the committee.
In accordance with the senate’s bylaws, the committee examines and recommends appropriate action by the senate on educational policy matters, such as degree programs; initiation, changes to or discontinuance of curricula; requirements for awarding degrees; grading regulations; review and evaluation of experimental educational programs; and budgetary implications of those matters. The committee also develops the academic calendars for the campus for the senate’s approval.
“We’re a very busy committee,” Aminmansour said. “This academic year, we have already received 36 proposals to review and more are on the way. Proposals that come to EPC are very important for the campus, and we’re honored to be part of the review process and to contribute to getting the great ideas of faculty members and students implemented. We are here to serve and work closely with sponsors in a collaborative way to get proposals through.”
Any campus unit can submit a proposal to the committee, Aminmansour said. “If someone has great ideas, we hope that they get together with their colleagues, prepare and submit a proposal. We’ve never really turned down or rejected a proposal outright while I’ve been on the committee, although we have alerted sponsors to policy conflicts, potential problems or pitfalls and requested changes. In particular, I hope people will think about interdisciplinary programs where the existing resources of units can be utilized in a collaborative way to offer new and innovative programs that may not be possible otherwise.”
To help sponsors expedite the approval process, the committee will conduct an informal review of draft proposals and offer suggestions prior to sponsors’ forwarding their proposals for review at the department, college and campus levels.
An informal review can offer sponsors an early and relatively quick assessment of their proposal. “We can comment on structure, point out any missing information, conflicts with campus policies and requirements or clearances that may be required as part of the review and approval of a proposal,” Aminmansour said. “Getting in touch with us early on can save everyone time and make the actual review process smoother. If all the work has been done prior to the EPC receiving a proposal, approval is a relatively quick and straightforward process.”
Summer is an especially good time for sponsors to submit draft proposals to EPC for informal review, Aminmansour said.
This past August, having a proposal for an undergraduate interdisciplinary degree program in health informally reviewed by the committee helped the College of Applied Health Sciences expedite the process and get the proposal on the senate’s November agenda. “When the proposal was considered by Ed Pol in October, we really didn’t have any other comments because it was already well prepared and documented,” Aminmansour said. “Sure, the college must have put a lot of effort into preparing the proposal, but it took the committee literally three minutes to consider.”
When the committee recommends changes to a proposal, the applicable college is apprised of those recommendations to ensure that the changes comport with the discipline’s and the college’s requirements.
Senate review of proposals does not take very long, Aminmansour said. “Sometimes we get an inquiry from a sponsor who wants to know why it is taking us such a long time to review their proposal. We quickly look into the matter and often find out that the proposal is sitting on someone’s desk along the way.”
Most proposals to the committee are initiated and then first reviewed at the department or school level, where much of the discipline-based issues are considered. After review at the unit level, proposals go to the college for review. All proposals are reviewed by the Office of the Provost prior to being submitted to the committee to ensure that the necessary clearances have been obtained and to address budgetary concerns and resource issues. Graduate proposals are reviewed by the Graduate College prior to submission to the Office of the Provost.
“The different levels of review of proposals are intended to assure quality of programs and to protect the interest of this great institution including its faculty and students. EPC is an integral part of shared governance at this university,” Aminmansour said.
Once the committee receives a proposal from the provost’s office, the proposal is added to its agenda and assigned to one of its three subcommittees for review and recommendations before committee members vote on it.
After obtaining approval from EPC, proposals go to the senate. While many types of proposed changes to academic programs, degrees or campus units are approved by way of the consent agenda and passed automatically upon the adjournment of the senate meeting, at times proposals become action items that call for discussion and a vote.
Members of the campus community can track pending proposals on the committee’s Web site, which indicates the date received, action taken by the committee, the date when the senate will consider the proposal, and the senate’s verdict. In addition to the approval of the campus senate, some proposals require further consideration by the University Senates Conference, which includes officials from all three campus senates.
The committee comprises 13 faculty members; five students, including at least two undergraduates, a graduate student and a professional student; as well as representatives from the offices of the vice chancellor for academic affairs; the associate provost for enrollment management; the executive director of the Council on Teacher Education; the dean of the Graduate College; the director of the Office of Continuing Education; and the committee of assistant and associate deans.
"EPC consists of an outstanding group of dedicated members of this campus community who work very hard to help our colleagues implement their creative and innovative ideas. It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with this group and to serve our campus," Aminmansour said.
Educational Policy Committee
The Senate’s Educational Policy Committee meets regularly from August through April each year, and its meetings are open to the public. Committee members need not be senators. People interested in joining the committee may contact the Senate Office, 228 English Building, at 333-6805.
Prospective members must be available from 1:10–3 p.m. on Mondays during the fall and spring semesters for committee meetings.
More information about the committee, including forms for preparing proposals, the meeting schedule and a matrix showing the levels of governance required for proposals, is available online or by contacting , or Abbas Aminmansour, chair, at 333-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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