Meeting Minutes, November 10, 2020
The Arts and Sciences Council (ASC), 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm, Zoom

Representatives Present: Mithi Mukherjee (HIST), Andrew Cowell (LING), Sebastian Casalaina-Martin (MATH), Juan Herrero-Senes (SPAN), Angelica Lawson (ETHN/CINE), Stephen Mojzsis (GEOL), Mike Zerella (RAPS), Robert Rupert (PHIL), Rebecca Wartell (JWST), David Stock (EBIO), Michela Ardizzoni (FRIT), Cecilia Pang (THDN), Leslie Irvine (SOCY), Julie Lundquist (ATOC), Jennifer Schwartz (HONR), William Taylor (ANTH), Mara Jill Goldman (GEOG), Lorraine M. Bayard de Volo (WGST), Beverly Weber (GSLL), Annje Wiese (HUMN), Zachary Kilpatrick (APPM), Robert Kuchta (BCHM), Matthias Richter (ALC), Carol Shiue (ECON), Anthony Abiragi (PWR), Robert Parson (CHEM), Deborah Whitehead (RLST), Christina Meyers-Denman (SLHS), Colleen Lyons (ENVS), John Keller (APS), Lewis Harvey (PSYC), Shelley Copley (MCDB), Julie Carr (ENGL), John Gibert (CLAS), Robert Parson (BCHEM), Paul Romatschke (PHYS)

Representatives not present: Janet Casagrand (IPHY), Francoise Duressé (AAH)

Also in attendance: James White (Interim Dean), Anna Jensen (Dean’s office), Rebecca Allison (Staff Advisory Committee), Katherine Eggert (Academic Affairs)

The meeting is called to order at 3:31 pm.

Remarks from Interim Dean White

The state and county are nervous about the increase in positivity rate for COVID-19. The campus’s response was to move up the timeline for classes going fully remote so that students could leave without travel restrictions. The increase in the number of cases on campus is not that bad and has leveled off in the last few days. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the county and state.

Typically, the governor grants one day of administrative leave between the holidays and end of the year. This year, the college was given the option of granting additional administrative days. As a result, the college is granting four days of administrative leave between the 24th and 31st of December. This is for staff and 12-month faculty and will be administered by department chairs.

White shares that last week, one of the college’s faculty members (David Shneer) passed away.

White opens the floor up for questions and comments.

A representative remarks that when he walks on campus, he sees 5-10 students not wearing masks. There does not seem to be anybody on campus monitoring this.

White says he will share this with the chief of CU’s police, who has been very responsive.

Another representative has a question about COVID contingencies for the spring. If there is another COVID outbreak during the spring semester, how likely are we to go fully remote versus a 2-week lockdown?

White expresses frustration at the county’s 2-week stay-at-home order for CU. It sent the message that classrooms are not safe and some students did not return after that. The dean asked Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke to push back as hard as possible on shutting classrooms down in the spring semester.

Another representative says she has been told there is no transmission in classes but has not seen any data. She expresses concern over whether contact tracing is implemented in classes.

White explains that the data come from those administering tests. He suggests that it would be helpful for the ASC to invite Roy Parker (BCHM) to come and speak on this since he has all of the data and this is where all of White’s information comes from. Since testing is done every week on campus, they know that somewhere around 70% of confirmed cases are asymptomatic, which is why this spreads so easily.

The same representative says she understands there has been a lot of testing but, to her knowledge, they do not map that back to what classes the students were in.

White says he has asked if there have been any cases of someone testing positive, followed by someone else in that person’s class testing positive a few days later. He was told that that example did not exist in the state database. He points out that there were a few cases in which students said they tested positive, but were not listed in the state’s database. Part of that may be because the test does not let students know when they get a negative result. Because of this, there may be some confusion over who actually tested positive.

ASC Chair’s Remarks

The last ASC meeting of this semester will be a joint meeting with all faculty of Arts & Sciences. There will be some issues of importance on the agenda that will benefit from some weigh-in from the faculty.

A draft of proposed bylaws for the reorganization of faculty governance has been put together and sent to ASC members and chairs/directors. The Faculty Affairs Committee will continue trying to collect input and get this draft into the shape where the ASC can vote on whether they would like the faculty as a whole to vote on this matter. If so, then the Executive Committee will take on the task of organizing a vote of the faculty of Arts & Sciences.

A representative says it is his understanding that a motion passes if the majority of the votes received accept the motion, rather than a simple majority of the number of faculty as a whole.

ASC chair says there are various standards for various contexts. He believes it is common to require two-thirds majority vote for the original provision of bylaws. While this technically is not a revision of bylaws, it is a replacement of bylaws with a new set. The ASC’s Executive Committee will have to make a decision about what to recommend and the ASC chair believes it should be two-thirds of votes received.

Katherine Eggert, Sr. Vice Provost for Academic Planning & Assessment

The most recent accreditation cycle concluded in spring of 2020 after a visit of external reviewers. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) reviews CU every 10 years. In between, there are frequent check-ins and a major midterm review coming up in 2024. As part of that process, Eggert and her team write a long report on how the university is fulfilling criteria on accreditation. The criteria outlined change slightly for all institutions depending on the type, but the framework for the criteria is essentially the same for every institution. Rupert has asked Eggert to speak specifically on how these criteria apply to A&S curricular stipulation that limits the number of online course credits earned for an Arts & Sciences degree.

Eggert shares screen with the meeting to show the criteria for accreditation that pertain to this issue. The screen shared is from HLC’s website, which outlines criteria for accreditation. Eggert will focus on two sub-criteria that have to do with teaching and learning. When a report is written for accreditation, they must be able to say that they are currently achieving all the criteria outlined, or how they plan to do so. These are non-negotiable.

Under “Core Components,” the HLC website states “The rigor of the institution’s academic offerings is appropriate to higher education.” In the sub-criteria, it states “The institution’s program quality and learning goals are consistent across all modes of delivery and all locations (on the main campus, at additional locations, by distance delivery, as dual credit, through contractual and consortial arrangements, or any other modality).” This means that when CU offers a class, it must be the same quality wherever it is taught and must achieve the same learning outcomes. If someone else teaches the same course, it must be of the same quality and achieve the same learning outcomes. The issue arising from this is that one cannot distinguish between a class offered in-person and online.

Under the HLC’s criteria on improving teaching and learning, it outlines that the institution must maintain and exercise authority over everything having to do with the quality of courses and prerequisites for courses, rigor of courses, expectations of learning, etc. This promises that CU guarantees the quality of its courses and that this is done through faculty evaluation of the curriculum.

In summation, Eggert says this means that the Arts & Sciences’ limitation on online coursework is completely un-enforceable if we wish to retain our accreditation.   

A representative asks for clarification on this.

Eggert explains that if CU has a limitation on online credits, we would be distinguishing between online and in-person courses.

ASC’s chair says that he has been a part of a number of discussions on online education. In many of those discussions, those supporting restriction on online hours have emphasized the importance of the residential experience. Some could argue that the limitation on online credit hours does not imply that online courses are lacking in quality, but that when a student takes more than 30 credit hours of online courses, they do not get the same experience with campus culture.

Eggert says this could potentially be a valid argument, but they do not have any expression of that as a requirement for a degree in Arts & Sciences. It may be a value that many faculty share, but it is not part of the learning outcomes for the criteria for any degree on campus.

Rupert points out that this can be true of many things that the faculty value and want students to benefit from, but are not explicitly written out.

Eggert agrees. If the faculty believes it is inappropriate to offer certain classes online because those classes in particular contribute to an in-person experience that the college has articulated as essential for the degree, then the faculty should be exercising oversight of those classes and not offering them online.

An ASC representative asks for clarification on this. If a faculty member proposes a course, it goes through department and college curriculum committees. As a faculty member, this representative does not believe he should be free to take that same course and teach it online. Should it have to go through the curriculum committee’s review once again if a class is going from in-person to online?

Eggert explains that each department is in charge of class modality. The faculty member cannot decide to suddenly change how a course is being taught. When the college’s Curriculum Committee approves a class, they approve the content and learning outcomes. It is up to the department, after a course has been approved, to make sure that whoever teaches it fulfills those learning outcomes. They do not need to have the department go to the curriculum committee every time a new instructor teaches a course with a new approach, as long as the learning outcomes are the same.

Another representative states that in order to be accredited, CU had to say that certain things were happening, but this representative wants to know if it was checked to see if these things were actually happening. We are assuming that departments are evaluating and looking to make sure the online classes are of the same quality, but do we know that that is the case? Is there any data?

Eggert says that they count on the administration of each college to make sure that is true. If there are problems, then that is a serious issue that should be taken to the dean.

The same representative wants clarification on whether or not this was checked.

Eggert explains that this is why we have deans, divisional deans and associate deans whose job it is to maintain the quality of the curriculum across the college.

Another representative states that if the department does want to offer something online, they need to be able to say that the classes are identical whether taught online or in person. Do they need to have some kind of actual data that supports that assertion?

Eggert confirms that this is another important part of accreditation. In this most recent accreditation cycle, they were told to become more rigorous with their assessments.

ASC’s chair says he has been hearing discussion of a campus-wide common curriculum and wondered if Eggert could say more on this.

Eggert says this is something that she and others will be back to discuss many times over the next few years. As part of Academic Futures, one of the themes expressed was the need for some kind of common curricular experience across the campus. It is now an expressed criterion that CU has a clearly defined educational learning experience for every undergraduate student.

This general education experience is something for the faculty to discuss and decide. Beginning next semester, Eggert and others will start a listening tour of all schools and colleges to start this conversation with the faculty. This conversation was prompted by Academic Futures, but is also a requirement for accreditation.

A representative says that while initiatives like this tend to sound wonderful, the issue seems to lie in the “one size fits all” approach. CU’s different colleges have different histories. It is hard to imagine that we have a common curriculum for all the schools and colleges across the campus, but it is worthwhile to have this discussion. The same representative expresses skepticism of a “one size fits all” approach.

Eggert says there are many ways to have a common curricular experience, and they do not all include having every student take the exact same courses. Large universities with even more schools and colleges than CU have had this same conversation. There have been some inventive approaches to this recently.

ASC’s chair thanks Eggert for joining the meeting.

Andy Cowell, Chair of Budget Committee; Graduate Funding

ASC members should have received an e-mail this week with a document on faculty budget education. This document was put together by the ASC Budget Committee and has been seen by multiple financial professionals on campus. It has also been seen by high-level faculty with financial experience. Cowell believes it is a useful document and encourages all to share with faculty in their department. If anyone has any questions or concerns about the document, please e-mail Cowell. BFA would like them to share the document with all faculty on the campus.

The dean recently asked the Budget Committee to look at graduate student spending and reallocation of the base budget. Many in Arts & Sciences have argued for the need for campus level based budget reallocation on the basis that the college is not getting its fair share of the money. Instead of an automatic 1% addition every year, perhaps they should look into starting from zero and redistributing across the colleges. The dean asked the Budget Committee to start from zero with all graduate student spending, look at every department and division on campus, and come up with a base level reallocation.

ASC’s Budget Committee has submitted this document to the associate deans with their recommendation. It includes a spreadsheet and written report, which cannot be shared with everyone yet. Departments will be getting information from the associate deans later this semester on the graduate student budget. The numbers for each division were looked through carefully and the committee tried their best to recognize that enrollment growth has occurred. There has been a major loss of growth in Arts & Humanities, so a reduction in spending was recommended there. The committee tried to be as conservative and careful as possible. They recommended that this be re-visited every two years to re-formulate the budget in response to changes in enrollment. This will be done primarily based on undergraduate student enrollment, but they note there are differences across the divisions in terms of cost.

ASC Chair asks anyone with questions to e-mail Cowell or hold on for more information to come from the deans later this semester.

Staff Advisory Committee Chair, Rebecca Allison

Allison thanks all for the invite. Allison shares screen with presentation on A&S Staff Advisory Committee (SAC). SAC was established in 2013 to address issues of importance to and advocate for A&S staff. The membership consists of fifteen staff members representing various college divisions and units. This year, there are four SAC initiatives. These include working on outreach, SAC processes, and staff salaries.

Allison would like to discuss partnership opportunities between the ASC and SAC. Collaborating would improve efficiency, communication and culture by collaborating on committee projects and supporting each other. Both ASC & SAC work is complementary and support the college’s mission.

SAC invites members of the ASC to attend a meeting of the SAC and would like all to encourage their staff to get involved with the SAC. Their website has information on how staff can become a member of the SAC.

Allison asks if there are any questions or comments.

A representative thanks Allison for the presentation.  It is wonderful to see how willing the SAC is to continue partnering with the ASC.

ASC’s chair points out that reorganization is a big unknown at this point. It seems that the reorganization will impact the staff quite a bit. He would like to get SAC’s feedback, but it will be important to work even more closely when the college gets to the point of thinking about divisional dean structures and staff support.

Allison recently read the reports on reorganization and says staff would love to be part of the conversation. The Vice Chair of SAC will be meeting with administration soon to discuss how they foresee this partnership happening. When it comes time to discuss structure and budget, Allison would like to see staff more involved in those conversations.

White says he is very happy that this conversation is taking place. The SAC and ASC are very functional groups. It is very positive that these groups are talking to each other directly.

ASC’s chair asks Allison to send her slides to the ASC. The chair then asks all guests and non-voting members to excuse themselves for the rest of the meeting.

David Stock; Hiring of Deans

ASC’s Planning Committee met to discuss two questions posed at the last ASC meeting. Should ASC ask the provost to initiate a search for a non-interim dean of Arts & Sciences, and if the reorganization for the college does move forward, how should executive and divisional deans be hired?

The reports on reorganization did not have many details on this issue. One report did suggest that the executive dean should be hired by the provost with broad faculty input and there should be a deep candidate pool that includes external candidates. Once the executive dean is hired, the divisional deans would be hired by the executive dean in consultation with the provost and with broad faculty input.

There is a more detailed plan in the report of the structures working group. The broad outline was to elevate the current interim dean and divisional associate deans to interim positions of executive and divisional deans. This would be done as soon as permission was obtained from the regents. This would allow reorganization to move forward rapidly. The Provost would then hire a permanent executive dean, followed by simultaneous national searches for divisional deans.

When the Planning Committee discussed this plan, it was pointed out that the national search for divisional deans may not be necessary. There is an issue with the expense of a national search. Additionally, internal candidates for the divisional deans would mean they have expansive knowledge of CU.

For the executive dean, the Planning Committee had no preference for internal or external candidates, but believes they should be considered on equal footing. ASC’s chair suggested to Stock that the Provost seems to favor hiring the divisional deans first. In addition, the divisional deans might be able to better represent the faculty’s interests in the hiring of the executive dean.

ASC chair notes that much of the spirit of the structures working group plan would be preserved in a plan that hires the divisional deans first. Once the three current associate deans become interim deans and White becomes interim executive dean, they will have latitude to fill these positions as permanent positions in whatever order chosen.

Stock points out that it was not clear in the structures report what role the executive dean would have in the hiring of the divisional deans.

A representative speaks up to remind all that we are in year four of an interim dean. It is entirely within the faculty’s rights to enforce regents law and participate in the hiring of the administrators.

Stock asks this representative to outline how the hiring of a permanent executive dean would tie into the reorganization.

The representative reminds all that the provost previously rejected a proposal to immediately hire a non-interim dean. He believes that we must try to do something, make it very clear, and have it in writing.

Another representative believes we should immediately begin a search for a new executive dean of the college who will oversee the reorganization and be involved in hiring the divisional deans. It would take six months to a year to hire a new executive dean, but this representative believes it is hard to imagine that any new executive dean would not want to have say in who becomes the divisional deans.

The ASC chair says it seems there is a possibility that if divisional deans are hired first, particularly internal, it may put the faculty at a stronger position and have them reflected more effectively. This may work in the faculty’s favor. He acknowledges that there are diverse views and it is a complicated issue.

A member of the Planning Committee explains that one of the questions they did not know the answer to in their discussion was the cost for national searches and where that funding would come from.

Chair of Budget Committee says this funding would come from the Provost’s office.

ASC chair says he has made a note of that issue to bring up with the provost and dean.

A representative expresses that he does not understand why they would need a nationwide search for the divisional dean positions.

ASC Chair says he did not see anything in the report explaining why a national search would be necessary for the divisional deans.

Another representative suggests that perhaps this topic should be brought to a chairs & directors meeting. ASC chair thinks this is an excellent idea to keep in mind.

ASC Chair would like to make it clear to the ASC that they can reach out to him or the chair of their standing committee if they would like anything added to the agenda at future ASC meetings.

Meeting is adjourned at 5:02 pm.