Statement to University of Tennessee Faculty Senate

Marla P. Peterson, Chairperson
Ad Hoc Committee on Technologically-Enhanced Instruction
May 1, 2000

There are several comments I would like to make before I introduce a resolution that the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate has asked me to present. I think it is important for any members of the media and University of Tennessee administration who may be present, as well as the Board of Trustees and the general public that the Trustees represent, to understand that:

  1. Faculty members at The University of Tennessee are not opposed to the use of appropriate technology in the delivery of quality instruction. Let me be very clear about this statement. An April 28, 2000 editorial in The Knoxville News Sentinel that referred to the formation of a "New College" stated that, "Some classes already are offered online at UT, but none lead to a degree." Not true. One need only to look at the WWW site created by University Outreach in the Provost's Office ( to discover that two master's degree programs have been developed with at least 75% of the program delivered electronically: Masters in Information Science and The Physician Executive MBA. A closer look at that same WWW site reveals the following programs which are available 100% electronically over the standard public Internet: Graduate Sequence in Applied Statistical Strategies and the Internet Education Institute. That same WWW site lists 20 undergraduate and graduate courses that will be offered this summer and which are delivered 100% electronically. Academic departments on the main campus of this land grant university created these degrees and programs in an institution that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Further examination of the University Outreach Office WWW site reveals that an appropriate infrastructure is already in place and is managed by individuals who value faculty, department, and college input. The Chief Academic Officer of the University, through the office of the Vice Provost and Dean of University Outreach and Continuing Education, administers that infrastructure. The offering of courses and the awarding of degrees are academic matters that must involve departments, colleges, and those responsible for administering academic affairs.

  2. Faculty members were buoyed when we were promised that the concept of streamlining would lead to the elimination of unnecessary layers of administration and unnecessary university offices. We want to continue to be buoyed and hope that President Gilley, with input from this faculty, will make the right decisions when it comes to organizational placement of any additional online courses and degrees that are created.

  3. Faculty members at The University of Tennessee want to have more Tennesseans obtain their bachelor's degrees--quality bachelor's degrees. This is the main campus of a land grant university that is charged with serving the entire state. We have been serving the state by offering online courses and degrees that have emanated from academic departments and colleges. We want to continue to do so.

  4. Faculty members do not believe that online instruction is necessarily inferior to face-to-face instruction. Faculty members view online instruction as just one more means to deliver quality content.
The resolution you are voting on today is being brought forward from the report that the Ad Hoc Committee on Technologically-Enhanced Instruction presented at the April meeting of the Senate. That report was prepared prior to any member of the Committee or any of your Faculty Senate leaders being apprised that there was a plan to establish a separate entity to deliver online instruction. All that we knew until last Friday is what we read in the newspapers and viewed on the television screens.

In President Gilley's Friday, April 28 memo to the President of the Faculty Senate, Mary Papke, he assured us that, "The questions of who would offer the course work, whether new degrees would be required, who would offer any new degrees, where the funds would come from and what the governance structure would be are yet to be studied and answered. When and if we consider those questions, the appropriate faculty will be heavily involved." We applaud this statement and stand ready to work with him. We want the state to invest in quality online education.

We hope that President Gilley will understand why we were concerned when a group of administrators appointed by him is proposing a new, separately accredited administrative structure without consulting the faculty. We are puzzled why that group of four administrators chose to downplay the good work that is already being done by University of Tennessee faculty who have developed over 150 undergraduate and graduate courses [See Note 2] with a WWW presence. We are puzzled, too, why that group did not recognize the good work being done by University Outreach and Continuing Education in the Office of the Provost.

When we prepared the report that was submitted at the April meeting of the Faculty Senate we set forth a number of principles that we believe are important. Those principles were prepared prior to any knowledge that a separately accredited New College was being proposed. What is at stake here, today, are some of the most serious matters that have ever come before this body. We are talking about who controls the curriculum and curricular content. Further, we are talking about lack of consultation with the faculty about academic and curricular matters by an activity emanating from outside the office that is charged with administering academic affairs on this campus. I will now read the resolution.


Note 1

The resolution was passed unanimously by members of the Faculty Senate who represent all colleges of the University. After presentation of the resolution and prior to the vote, one Senator urged that the Senate pass the resolution. He pointed out that he believed that those responsible for proposing a "New College" were still operating in the old organizational mode that had existed prior to President Gilley's streamlining efforts and that several layers of administration are simply not needed to administer academic affairs.

Note 2

The 150 courses that have a WWW presence are for Spring Semester 2000 only. At a May 3, 2000 seminar a staff member from the Innovative Technology Collaborative announced that 600 instructors have developed courses on the CourseInfo platform, the platform that supports WWW-based courses. Over 6,000 individual students have enrolled in CourseInfo courses with that number expected to grow to 10,000 during Fall Semester, 2000. These additional data lend further support to the fact that both faculty who develop online courses and the administrative structures to support them are already in place and active on the Knoxville campus. Such information should be made widely available to policy makers who are discussing the Tennessee Virtual University and "New College." With appropriate resources directed toward existing efforts, even greater use can be made of instructional technology for outreach purposes.

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