October 14, 2013
Greetings, Faculty and Staff,
This semester has been a very busy one for all of us. I suspect you are looking forward to Fall Break and a couple of days to catch your breath before sprinting down the homestretch to Commencement. Perhaps those of you staying on campus can enjoy a slower pace and UT's Fall Festival for faculty and staff on October 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at TRECS.
I want to thank you for all your hard work in launching the new academic year and to share some news and updates related to our shared enterprises.
One of the most important accomplishments in the college since my last message to you is the completion of a draft revision of the college by-laws which were last updated in 2001. A Task Force was asked to review the Bylaws document and bring it into alignment with the UT Faculty Handbook and to incorporate a number of new committees and initiatives. The members of the task force include Beauvais Lyons, Professor of Art (Chair); Angie Batey, Professor and now Associate Dean of Diversity; Jeff Becker, Head of Microbiology; Michael Best, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Director of Graduate Studies; Stan Garner, Head of English; Jon Shefner, Head of Sociology; and Cheryl Travis, Professor of Psychology and Chair of Women's Studies. John Zomchick was originally appointed to the Task Force; however when he went to the Provost's Office, he was replaced by R. J. Hinde, Associate Dean for Academic Programs. The Task Force has met regularly over the past 17 months and worked with the dean and the associate deans in formulating the current draft which is now posted for faculty review and comments.
I am very grateful to the members of the Task Force for their hard work and thoughtful deliberations which have resulted in a draft revision. Please take a moment when you see these good college citizens to thank them. These are the next steps for review, revision and adoption of the new College Bylaws:
- A Black Board organization named "Arts & Sciences Bylaws Update" has been established for faculty to comment on the various sections of the document. The current Bylaws and the proposed new Bylaws are posted in the "Documents" area of the organization. The proposed new Bylaws are also posted on the College web site. Comments and questions can be posted in Black Board; however, for comments from faculty to be considered they should be submitted no later than November 15th.
- Open meetings to discuss the Bylaws will take place on Tuesday October 15,
9:00-10:30 am, and Wednesday October 23, 1:00-2:30 pm, in the University Center, Room 235 (Shiloh).
- December 2013: The Task Force will prepare a final draft of the Bylaws for a vote of the full faculty presently eligible to vote. According to section VIII of the current Bylaws, revisions require "a majority of the faculty voting approve them. The vote will be conducted electronically.
- January 2014: New Bylaws take effect.
I encourage you to make time for this important process.
Academic Programs: SACS Update
We are continuing to prepare for SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation review in 2015. Thanks to the commitment of department leadership and faculty, the college is making good progress on the work that needs to be done. I understand the effort involved and am very appreciative of those who are engaged in this project.
Here's what to expect in the near future:
- The University will soon set up an electronic accreditation management system (AMS) which will be the central repository for all SACS-related materials. Units will be able to upload their SACS assessment plans and supporting material (copies of rubrics, exit surveys, and other assessment instruments, as well as the results collected using these instruments) to the AMS. Departments' assessment instruments, and the results of assessments, will help the University's SACS writing teams provide evidence to SACS that we assess student learning and use these assessments to improve our curriculum and our teaching.
- Every degree program in the College (all Bachelor's degrees, all Master's degrees, and all doctoral degrees) will have to assess at least one program-level learning objective during AY 2013-14, with the assessment being a "direct" assessment based on actual student work (as opposed to an "indirect" assessment based on other parties' perceptions of our students).
Please do everything you can to support your department's SACS-related assessment activities. Assessment of student learning is important work that is critical for achieving a positive accreditation outcome. More importantly, it helps us understand whether we are meeting the stated goals of our degree programs and how we can improve student learning.
Increasing Tenure-line Faculty and Diversity
We have not yet heard from the Provost and Chancellor regarding our budget requests for this year. We are awaiting news that will advance our progress on our journey to Top 25. The gap analysis completed by the college and departments last spring indicated that a substantial increase of our tenure-line faculty, increase in staff number and skills, increased graduate student support and improved infrastructure are the key metrics for closing the gap and achieving the standards of top 25 colleges of arts and sciences in public research universities by 2020. We are making visible and steady progress on infrastructure, and the college requested a multi-year (Vision 2020), steady increase in the other metrics. I was notified on Friday that a process similar to last fall will occur, which will add up to 10 new lines across the university. The college will work with the list of positions prioritized by the Budget Committee last spring following the RFP process to compete for as many of these lines as possible.
As we seek to add new tenure-line faculty, we need to improve the number of women and minority applicants as well, providing the potential for increasing the diversity of our faculty. The "Future Faculty Program" offers an important opportunity to bring to campus women and minorities who are currently post docs and senior graduate students who are about to begin their job searches. This past year we were able to make two minority hires from among those who participated the previous year in the Future Faculty Program. Their visit to campus and the connections they made here played a big role in their decision to accept our offer and join the college.
This year departments requested only three participants in this program from the College of Arts and Sciences. They were each quite excellent. With your help, I know we can increase that number for next fall.
I encourage faculty who are attending professional meetings and conferences to look for potential candidates to invite for the Future Faculty Program and provide names to your departmental search committees as they look for diverse candidates, as well as the department chair for next year's class of Future Faculty. Also, be proactive in contacting your colleagues at other universities to seek their suggestions of graduate students and post docs, particularly minorities and women, who are about to go on the job market.
SGA Bill Proposes Syllabus Database
Last spring the Student Government Association passed a bill requesting that colleges develop syllabus guidelines for instructors, and requesting that course syllabi be placed in a searchable database available to students. The passage of the bill is intended to allow students to become familiar with course requirements in order to manage their course schedule and workload more easily, and reduce the number of drop/add changes.
The Provost is launching a pilot program to determine the best way to present the syllabi and to develop a searchable database. The College of Arts and Sciences has been asked to participate in this pilot program. You will be hearing more about the pilot program from your department head as information becomes available. Because we are already collecting syllabi each semester as part of the SACS assessment, we are prepared to respond.
Following my message in August, I heard from several of you and I hope to hear from others. Please feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org to respond to this message, to offer your thoughts about the college, and to suggest topics you would like me or others in my office to address.
We are a great college advancing every day as we lead the way for our students to apply creativity, passion and bold inquiry to sciences, arts, and humanities while striving to improve the world.
With best regards,
Theresa M. Lee, PhD
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Save the dates!
Mark your calendar now for three of the college's major events this term:
- Winter Convocation (December 3, 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.)
- Graduate Hooding Ceremony (December 12)
- Fall Commencement (December 13)