Faculty Senate discusses provost’s task-force reports

BY MORGAN OLSEN | APRIL 07, 2010 7:30 AM

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Faculty workload and budget constraints.

Those are the primary concerns Faculty Senate members aired in their first full discussion on Wednesday of the provost’s six task-force reports to evaluate the University of Iowa.

While the members of the Senate had previously discussed the reports, released in February, they had focused on the graduate education report, which suggested consolidations and potential closing of some programs.

But on Tuesday, members went back and forth about budget, diversity, graduate programs, and the overall implications of all the reports.

After looking over all six proposals, some faculty members said they were concerned about how they would manage their workload if suggestions were implemented.

“A lot of what they want us to do are things that we’d like to do,” said psychology Assistant Professor Bob McMurray. “It comes down to what we can do — some of us are already working 75 to 80 hours a week.”

Funding was also an overlapping concern when discussing other reports.

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Several members questioned how the UI administration would come up with funding for programs suggested in the report on undergraduate education, such as Living Learning Communities and recruitment efforts.

After discussion of the reports ended, some members said they remained confused about how to reconcile the seemingly contradictory findings.

“Across reports, there are conflicts in teaching,” said music Associate Professor Marian Wilson Kimber. “We’re supposed to have enrollment standards, increase class sizes, but at the same time we’re recommending that grad students have fewer TA-ships.”

None of these issues are answered in the reports, which focus more on broad outcomes than specific plans for implementation.

These and other more specific concerns brought up at the meeting will be presented to Provost Wallace Loh for consideration.

“He will eventually have the hard job of coming up with the ultimate direction of all these reports,” said UI Faculty Senate President David Drake.

Although the Senate had previously debated the graduate education task force, the members allotted it 20 minutes — compared with the 15 for all other reports.

While Drake referred to the report’s findings as “a train that had already left the station,” he said there’s still time to weigh in.

One concern that still stumps faculty is how individual components of the report were weighted.

“All the programs are so different,” Drake said. “How do we compare a large program to a small one? Or a program that ranks high nationally to a program that has a high graduation rate?”

Members also raised concerns about premature action in graduate departments. Graduate Dean John Keller said some colleges have already determined how to allocate resources to incoming students based on the report’s suggestions, which some say is hasty.

Overall, Drake said, he was pleased with the conversation on the reports.

“There were lots of thoughtful comments, and there wasn’t any anger,” he said. “I think some people made great comments that we can hand over to the provost.”

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