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‘Reassert its control over the curriculum,’ and other things KU Faculty Senate should do next year

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At the final Faculty Senate executive committee meeting of the year last week, outgoing Faculty Senate President Tom Beisecker handed over the reins — along with some leftover items of importance — to the incoming president and committee members.

This year’s Faculty Senate capped the semester with perhaps its biggest accomplishment of the year: voting to approve an updated version of the faculty code, a task that’s been in the works multiple years. Beisecker urged incoming faculty leaders to prioritize four particular ongoing issues next year.

Students move along Jayhawk Boulevard on the KU campus between classes on Wednesday January 27, 2016.

Students move along Jayhawk Boulevard on the KU campus between classes on Wednesday January 27, 2016. by Richard Gwin

Curriculum: “I hope one thing the faculty will do next year is reassert its control over the curriculum,” Beisecker said.

There is a University Core Curriculum Committee, and it does include faculty members, he said. However, “its decisions are not reviewed and eventually ratified by any faculty governance. What it wishes to do, it does.”

The “KU Core,” first rolled out in fall 2013, is KU’s first-ever universitywide curriculum for undergraduates and marked the biggest change to undergraduates’ curriculum in perhaps 50 years, as described in a previous Journal-World report. It sprung from a 2009 chancellor’s task force to examine ways to improve KU’s retention and graduation rates.

As you can probably deduce from Beisecker’s suggestion, not all faculty members like it, and they’ll be watching for data and results as cohorts of students enrolled in KU Core approach graduation.

Intellectual property: “It’s something that needs very careful consideration,” Beisecker said. “We need, again, to balance the needs, expectations of the university as an employer … but it also needs to take into account the fact that we are not always on the university’s time.”

As I reported in another recent Heard on the Hill, KU administration is proposing revisions to the university’s intellectual property policy and the “Employee Invention Assignment Agreement” that goes along with it. Some faculty fear the policy gives KU too much control over things its employees invent, or might invent.

Entrepreneurship: How entrepreneurship is reflected in faculty assessment needs to be addressed, Beisecker said. Professors who patent inventions such as drugs or technology are best known for it, but other professors engage in entrepreneurship by providing services, which “doesn’t fit in well with what the university expects,” Beisecker said.

International students: KU faculty leaders have repeatedly said the university’s International Academic Accelerator Program needs ongoing oversight. The program, launched in fall 2014, aims to recruit and integrate international students at KU. It’s a partnership between KU and a private company called Shorelight Education, which means not all information about it is subject to open records laws.

Faculty have cited concerns ranging from how and where KU is recruiting students to whether their English skills are sufficient before they graduate from the program into KU’s mainstream courses. KU is counting on income from increasing international enrollment to help pay off bonds issued for the Central District redevelopment project.

“We need to make sure that it is as public as possible, as transparent as possible, that we understand and know what the university’s expectations are and what they’re getting out of it,” Beisecker said.

Beisecker, associate professor and chair of KU’s department of communications studies, is being succeeded as Faculty Senate president by Pam Keller, clinical professor of law.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at KUToday.com. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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