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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.
I met Tuesday with KU's dean of liberal arts and sciences, Danny Anderson, to learn more about where the College of Liberal Arts of Sciences will be going in 2013 and where it stands on revamping its curriculum for next fall.
You can expect to read more on both of those subjects soon, but I thought I'd share one piece of the conversation now that might be of interest to a lot of folks.
After we reported this fall that KU's two-semester Western Civilization sequence will likely no longer be required for every student seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree from the CLAS, it prompted consternation in some corners. The Western Civ program is obviously important to a lot of folks. One guest column from a former KU student body president worried it was an indication that KU would become a "glorified trade school."
But Anderson told me Tuesday that a well-rounded liberal-arts-and-sciences education is not on the way out.
Yes, KU officials have said they want to reduce the general-education load on students; right now for a BA from the College, they need to take 70-plus credit hours' worth of gen-ed courses, which those officials say is pretty seriously out of whack compared with other similar universities.
So the new Core curriculum, which will be the first ever to apply to all KU undergraduates in any school, will require only about 36 hours of general education. And you can see from the list of classes already approved that students will have a range of options for each of its 12 required units.
But at the same time that university-wide effort is going on, the College is considering its own degree requirements. That's pretty significant, as about two-thirds of all KU undergrads are in the College. The aim is still a more streamlined general-education experience, but students seeking a BA will likely still have some additional requirements for the sake of a well-rounded education, he said.
What those additional requirements might be is still being sorted out, so he couldn't provide many details. But he said laboratory science courses and foreign languages were two areas being discussed. More broadly, he said the College will aim to produce students with some knowledge of science, familiarity with Western heritage but also the rest of the world, mathematical skills and more.
Overall, he said the goal will be to "prepare the whole person." We'll keep you updated as things come more clearly into focus, likely in the middle of the spring semester.
As I talked Wednesday with Sara Rosen, KU's senior vice provost for academic affairs, about the fate of the Mount Oread Scholars program, I also asked her for an update on the effort to revamp KU's undergraduate curriculum — the "KU Core," as you might know it.
She told me that about 450 courses have already been approved to be a part of the Core curriculum, which will apply to undergraduates in any KU school. You can even look at the list of all of them at the KU Core website, which also has a whole bunch of other information about the effort. Several of them are duplicates, listed more than once because they could possibly fill more than one requirement.
Most of those have been "fast-tracked": That is, they are courses that already fill general-education requirements for KU undergrads, and staff picked them out as likely to be included in the new curriculum. Most of the courses that will be "fast-tracked" have already been added to the list, as well, Rosen said. (Sorry if you'll have to read that paragraph slowly for it to make sense.)
That's as opposed to how the rest of the courses on the list will be chosen: Faculty members can pitch courses for inclusion, and they'll be evaluated by a committee of faculty and students.
Now, a bit about what it means for courses to be "included" — an included course will be one of many options from which students can choose to fill 12 required "units." Those units are divided among six "goals," which are essentially skills or areas of knowledge that KU would like its students to learn.
That committee I mentioned before is right now meeting regularly to decide what other courses to include. In addition, Rosen said, committees at each school and college are discussing what requirements THEY want to have and how they'll fit in with all this Core business.
This whole process — at least for the 2013-14 academic year — needs to be totally done by mid-March, Rosen said, so catalogs can be printed and such. The Core committee will continue functioning in future years, adding or removing courses from the curriculum.
Rosen said she'd eventually like for about 1,000 courses to be included as options.
Right now, there's enough for you to go through and figure out what kinds of course combinations could add up to fill your requirements, if you're an interested current or prospective student. Keep in mind that current students will be allowed to opt in to the new curriculum, substituting the new (and, for many students, much lighter) general-education requirements for the old ones.
Be prepared to read more about all this and the various ripple effects it may have during the spring semester as things fall into place.