by Carl A. Pierce
President, UTK Faculty Senate
I. IntroductionArticle III Section 2D of the Faculty Senate Bylaws provides that the president shall submit "an annual report on the economic and educational state of the University for the Past year." While honoring this charge, I will not assess our institutional health with reference to ideal levels of funding or academic quality or even by comparing UTK with comparable institutions within the southeastern region. Instead, this report focuses more concretely on what others are doing to us or for us and what we are doing for ourselves. Within this context, it is tempting to emphasize fiscal austerity and educational malaise, attribute the latter to the former, and blame both on forces external to the university. Upon reflection, however, and in spite of some serious concerns about UTK's institutional health, I will attempt a more balanced approach to the state of the university. Also, while I am fully aware that the economic state of the university is primarily due to forces beyond our direct control, and that financing and educational quality are related, this report emphasizes the quality of UTK as influenced by those of us at UTK. After all, we must assume responsibility for the wise allocation of the scarce funds we have and for those aspects of educational quality which are not directly correlated with our budgets. Finally, because my responsibility for making this report derives from my role as President of the Faculty Senate, I will emphasize the role and responsibility of the faculty in general and the Faculty Senate in particular.
II. The Economic State of UTKUTK's funding is insufficient for an institution of its magnitude, scope, purposes and aspirations for excellence. The situation is worse than it was a year ago. Faculty and staff salaries are inadequate, and in spite of a special appropriation a year ago, this year's raises, and the inclusion of the faculty in the state's longevity pay program, those salaries are less adequate now than they were a year ago. Student fees are higher this year than last. Operating budgets are fast eroding. Enough said about that sad reality.
1. Quality Aspirations: A great deal has been said about the fact that the T.H.E.C. funding formula is numbers driven. The more students you have, the more state money you are entitled to, irrespective of how well you accomplish your educational mission. With the exception of performance funding (to be discussed below) this is true. We seem to forget, however, that the formula reflects a judgment that a particular amount of money per student is sufficient to satisfy Tennessee's quality aspirations for higher education. The formula, therefore, should be seen as a measure of the quality in higher education for which the state bears responsibility. The formula does not generate funding for excellence, but rather specifies the quality level which will satisfy the state's responsibility to higher education. Kept in this perspective, the formula can be very helpful for higher education in Tennessee. While there are problems with the formula and its quality aspirations are not as high as I would like, it offers us a vehicle for disciplining our thoughts about quality education and its funding needs. It will also serve to keep us realistic when we make demands upon our elected and appointed representatives in Nashville. Such discipline and realism are essential in the current fiscal environment.C. Tennessee Tomorrow and Alumni Affairs: A bright spot in our fiscal picture was the culmination of Tennessee Tomorrow and the continuing support of our alumni and friends of UTK. Particularly gratifying to me as a faculty member was the special success of the campaign for professorial chairs and faculty development funds. The faculty should extend its sincere appreciation to those who spearheaded Tennessee Tomorrow and those who so generously contributed to it. We also need to encourage and support continuing efforts of this kind.
2. Performance Funding: Last year UTK began to adjust to a significant change in the T.H.E.C.'s formula. The change was designed to reward institutions which do a good job with the funds given them. Briefly, a university can secure up to 2% of its formula generated budget depending on how well it meets five performance criteria. Without going into any detail, the criteria involve: 1) program accreditation, 2) performance of our graduates on measures of general education, 3) performance of our graduates on measures of competence in specialized fields, 4) survey of student and alumni satisfaction with the institution, and 5) our planning and programs for faculty renewal and the improvement of instruction.
I think the performance funding concept is sound and that UTK should embrace it enthusiastically--but not uncritically. The criteria used by the T.H.E.C. to assess the quality of our educational efforts are by no means perfect. In particular, it is distressing that T.H.E.C. has eliminated as a variable the recognition which a university and its faculty has gained in the state, region and nation (as measured by awards to faculty, units, etc.) and that there is no variable which rewards research productivity. Also, given the difficulty of developing reliable objective measures of something so complex as education, we must guard against the risk that the requirements of an assessment program will pressure us to skew our educational programs in unsound directions. Finally, there is a catch-22 in all this. If we do poorly, we will be chastised for unwise stewardship of state funds. If, on the other hand, we do well, some people will conclude that the present funding for higher education is adequate. It is obvious that there are many problems with performance funding. Overall, however, performance funding is a positive economic development for UTK, provided we accept this challenge to demonstrate our quality and we really are as good as we think we are.
So far, UTK has accepted the challenge of performance funding. An ad hoc committee of faculty and administrators, under the leadership of Associate Vice Chancellor Ralph Norman, has worked aggressively to see that UTK both offered constructive criticism of the performance funding criteria and, at the same time, put our best foot forward under those criteria. We are not going to score 100%, but we will do well. More importantly, the committee has attempted to comply with the performance funding criteria in ways that will provide us with valuable information for a self-assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. Now we need to build on this foundation. The faculty, through the Faculty Senate, and at the college and department level, needs to embrace the challenge of performance funding, not just to secure funds from T.H.E.C., but so that we can better carry out our responsibilities as educators.
3. Full Funding:The budgets derived from the T. H. E. C. formula have not been fully funded by the legislature. Nor has full funding been recommended by the governor. We must not, however, let this blind us to the importance of the formula to UTK. We must continue to press for full funding of the formula from state appropriations and insist that this is the minimum measure of the state's responsibility to provide quality higher education for the citizens of this state. To the extent there is not full funding, we must insist that the formula be honored in allocating the shortfall among our state institutions. we also need to urge improvement in the formula. Finally, because the formula represents many judgments about the nature, goals, and quality of higher education, the UTK faculty needs to pay closer attention to it as we set our institutional goals, seek funds to accomplish them, and judge the quality of our efforts.
1. Faculty Incentives: While most faculty are motivated by a commitment to their profession, the meaningfulness of our financial incentives--both for excellence and innovation--remains a primary indicator of our fiscal and academic strength. Fortunately, UTK remains committed to using its economic resources to recognize merit and to provide incentives for innovation by its faculty. Merit is rewarded by job security when faculty members are granted tenure and by cash when they are promoted or granted annual salary improvements. A more recent development, made possible by Tennessee Tomorrow, is the award of professorial chairs--with salary toppings--to distinguished UTK faculty. Innovation is encouraged by specifically earmarking funds for faculty development, interdisciplinary scholarship, and projects designed to improve the quality of instruction at UTK.F. Conclusion: An assessment of UTK's economic state requires a discussion of those forces external to UTK which influence the amount of money we have to spend. At this point in time, however, it is probably more important for the faculty to scrutinize how effectively we are using the money we get each year. This report suggests some criteria the faculty can employ in an assessment of our internal economic life. Examining our use of financial incentives to encourage excellence and innovation, our allocation of funds in response to changing campus needs, our planning efforts, and our budgeting process, the report points out many signs of fiscal strength. It also points out some aspects of our fiscal life which may need more attention or about which the faculty needs more information. Such suggestions for improvement or calls for information should not, however, be construed as indictments or condemnations of our fiscal status quo. The report's conclusions about the signs of fiscal strength at UTK should not be dismissed as gratuitous asides. Basically I see UTK as an institution with a strong economic immune system which enables us to resist the state-wide disease which is threatening our educational health. Without that immune system, we would be a terminal case. With it we have resisted well in the face of significant odds against us, but by all candid accounts, we are weakening. Evaluating our immune system and strengthening it where necessary should help us resist the disease while we work to eliminate its cause.a. Merit: While not perfect, our procedures for promotion are basically sound. With promotion goes a raise. Indeed each year a pool of money is specifically reserved for the purpose of rewarding promotees. One might ask whether we should increase our financial recognition of promotion--admittedly at the expense of the general raise pool--but generally our promotion policies provide a meaningful incentive for excellence.2. Allocation of Funds to Academic Programs: A primary responsibility of the Chancellor and his staff is to allocate our funds among the many programs which add up to the collectivity we call UTK. While this kind of decision making has been going on for as long as UTK has existed, the present scarcity of resources makes the impact of allocational decisions more obvious and painful. It used to be that everybody could get more, even though some might get more than others. We now face a situation where the fiscal gains of one unit will necessitate a real fiscal loss to another. In this environment, our institutional health will be acutely affected by the quality of our allocational decisions.
The award of annual salary improvements is a more troublesome topic. With us all falling behind in the fight against inflation, the use of salary adjustments as an incentive for excellence is, as Walter Herndon has said, a stick rather than a carrot. Indeed this year the only faculty members who didn't get hit with the inflation stick were those who were awarded professorial chairs. In this environment there is a natural tendency to share losses by awarding across-the-board salary increases or using very small merit differentials. This problem is aggravated because the legislature has limited UTK's discretion in allocating its salary money among the faculty--not only by the smallness of the amount provided but by direct control of the allocative decision. This year, for example, the legislature mandated that each state employee should receive at least a 5% raise, except in cases of clear demerit documented in writing by the responsible administrator. This did not leave UTK much room to differentiate between degrees of positive achievement. Recognizing that we are wielding a stick rather than dangling a carrot and acknowledging that we do not have a great deal of room to maneuver, it is still essential that we adhere to the merit principle in salary improvements, that we make our annual merit assessments with care, and that we keep this process visible to all faculty.
Last year, a handful of faculty were told that their performance was inadequate and warranted a raise of less than 5%. In an institution this size it is inevitable that the performance of some faculty will fall below an acceptable level but not be so bad as to warrant dismissal. Such instances cannot be overlooked. It is a sign of institutional health when someone is willing to address this reality in a forthright manner. For the rest of the faculty, whose performance varied between acceptable and excellent, raises varied from 5% to as high as 10%. These figures do not include those who were promoted. The ranges varied from department to department, and in some departments the range was quite compressed. It is clear, however, that we have not fallen prey to the disease of across-the-board raises.
Beyond these observations, I do not have sufficient information to judge how the assessments of relative merit were made. The Faculty Handbook specifies that we recognize achievement in research, teaching, and service. By virtue of an agreement between the Faculty Affairs Committee and the Chancellor, I can also examine a list that reveals the salaries of all faculty members. Even if I looked at that list, however, it would not tell me very much about our merit system. Most of my information about merit recognition at salary time derives from comments of individual faculty members many of whom have questioned the correlation of raises with merit and the process by which our annual merit assessments are made. These faculty members may be chronic complainers who suffer from an inflated sense of their own accomplishments, but such concerns are aired with sufficient frequency that the Faculty Affairs Committee should formally assess the policies and procedures employed across the campus in determining salary adjustments.
First, the Committee should look at who is making the merit determination. For example, this past year the Office of Academic Affairs held back approximately $70,000 of raise money from the Colleges, so that it could recognize on a campus-wide basis special cases of exceptional merit. I understand that the Dean of Liberal Arts did likewise with respect to departmental allocations. I think there is a lot to be said for this practice, but I would like to know how other faculty members feel about it. Second, we need to identify the extent to which faculty input is used in our annual evaluation process. We are adamant about the importance of peer evaluation in tenure and promotion decisions, but we have paid less attention to this issue in the salary context. Third, we need to ask what information is gathered about our performance and how carefully it is examined. In particular we should find out how we gather information about teaching effectiveness and scholarly work in process. At promotion and tenure time, we visit classes and read finished products. What do we do between those momentous events? Fourth, we need to ask whether the stated criteria for faculty evaluation are being applied in a systematic and uniform fashion. For example, last Fall Walter Herndon asked the colleges and departments to reduce to writing how they take into consideration institutional service and interdisciplinary activities when they evaluate a colleague for tenure or promotion. We should look carefully at those responses and decide whether we need to adjust either our policies or our practices. Fifth, we need to ask in general whether the existing MBO system, in concept and as presently employed across campus, is adequate. What we are talking about is setting goals at the beginning of a year and assessing how well we accomplished them--nothing more or nothing less. I know of no faculty development literature which does not emphasize this approach. The catch-phrase MBO is not used, but the idea of setting goals and using them as the basis for annualized assessment of performance is a constant theme. I believe we need to embrace this concept, not reluctantly, but enthusiastically. Finally, we must be sure that all this is done carefully and candidly and that our commitment to merit raises is kept before the faculty. A 7.2% raise tells a faculty member nothing unless he knows where he stands among his colleagues. In addition to permitting faculty to find out what his colleagues are getting paid, which is already done, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs should publish each year a raise profile showing the high, low, median and mean percentage raise by department. To the extent that any criteria other than merit were employed, they should be identified. Similarly, a faculty member learns little from his raise unless the reasons for it are brought to his attention--not just in cases of clear demerit, but in all cases. Ideally this should be done in writing, followed by a candid conversation between the department head and each faculty member. At the very least, however, there should be an explicit oral conversation where the performance assessment and salary adjustment are correlated.
None of the above suggests that it is appropriate for the Faculty Senate to involve itself in individual salary determinations, except where grievances are properly brought to the Faculty Affairs Committee. Our bylaws expressly disclaim any jurisdiction in that regard. It remains, however, appropriate for the Senate to review our salary policies, procedures, and practices to assure that the merit system we applaud really works.
One last note on salary is needed. Two recent actions, one by the legislature and one by UTK have replaced the merit principle with the longevity/seniority principle. The legislature included the faculty in the state's longevity pay plan which provides an annual pay supplement based on years creditable service. on campus, the Faculty Senate approved a financial exigency plan which specifies that the order of faculty layoff "shall follow seniority ... unless a clear and convincing case is made that program needs dictate other considerations." Seniority and merit are frequently correlated, but they are not the same. While I cannot control the legislature and, indeed, appreciate their commitment to long serving state employees, UTK should stick to the merit principle at all times, good as well as bad.
b. Innovation: At this particular point in UTK's history, incentives for innovation in research, curriculum, and teaching methods are very important. We can no longer count on newcomers to the faculty for new ideas and techniques, because we are not going to have many of them. There will be few, if any, new positions. A study of the Educational Policy Committee reveals that only a small number of our colleagues will retire within the next five years. There are now substantial economic barriers to faculty mobility, one obvious one being the high mortgage rates. If UTK is to grow academically, we who are here and likely to remain here need to attempt new and different things. It is, however, all too easy to stand by the comfortable and familiar ways of the past. Those ways may be good, and many of them are, but we will have little chance of discovering something different or better unless we experiment and take some intellectual and educational risks. UTK must encourage such adventures.
Last year, a major commitment was made in this direction. Encouraged by the Faculty Development Committee of the Faculty Senate, the Chancellor allocated campus appropriations and funds from Tennessee Tomorrow to support innovative scholarship. In awarding summer research grants, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research paid special attention to proposals which attempted to break out of the narrow disciplinary perspectives which shape most of our research. Also favored were proposals aimed at the improvement of our curriculum and teaching methodologies. This is a wise use of the limited funds we can use for the support of faculty research. If anything, UTK should increase this pool of "risk capital"--even at the expense of our support for more traditional research efforts. Much has been said about the weakening of America's innovative spirit, but we simply cannot permit such a thing to happen on this campus. UTK's commitment to innovative research should not, however, be construed as an indictment of traditional research, curricula, or teaching methods. Nor is it an attempt to undermine them. Rather it is intended to keep UTK on the frontiers of our knowledge about the world and our educational enterprise. That UTK is willing to support intellectual innovation and risk-taking by its faculty is a very positive indicator of institutional health.
There are two types of allocative decisions UTK faced last year and will continue to face in the foreseeable future. One is the question of how and where to impose budget cuts when, taking inflation into account, UTK receives less funding than in the previous year. Where do we cut back on existing activities? Related but not identical to this question is the question of how and when to reallocate resources among campus activities in response to changes in a never constant educational environment. What do you do, for example , when a College, such as Business Administration, is overwhelmed by the demand for its majors, but we also want a strong minor in Business Administration for Liberal Arts majors? Or what if a department needs an extra infusion of funds to push it over the threshhold of excellence or, on a less positive note, to preserve its accreditation? Reallocational questions of this sort are not going to disappear, and they are most troublesome when they coincide with a need to make significant cuts in UTK's budget.
Chancellor Reese has consistently opposed across-the-board budget cuts and assessments. He has also made some tough reallocational decisions, including, for example, special allocations to Business Administration (to help them respond to their enrollment pressures) and Nursing (to offset the impact of an unexpected cut in federal funds). Apart from the merits of any specific allocational decision, the Chancellor should be commended for his resistance to across-the-board budget cutting and his willingness to grapple with the vexing problem of reallocating our funds among the campus' many competing needs. He should also be applauded for his efforts to insulate the academic affairs budget from the impact of our fiscal distress and for his willingness to consult with the Faculty Senate about his allocational policies.
Observing this process from my perspective in the Senate, I was encouraged by what I saw. While it is not and should not be the province of the Faculty Senate to concern itself with specific allocations to individual colleges or departments, the Executive Committee exercised its right to review and comment upon the educational policies reflected in the budgetary allocations proposed by the Chancellor. In the case of Business Administration, for example, we rejected any suggestion that as a matter of principle funds should follow students. At the same time, we recognized that until steps could be taken to control the influx of students into that program, additional resources were needed to prevent a serious and sudden erosion of program quality. What followed was a reallocation of funds to Business Administration and the adoption of an enrollment limitation. These were not scientific judgments, but they were principled judgments made after full discussion of the underlying policies.
Having said this, it remains true that budgeting at UTK is primarily a series of ad hoc reactions to current realities. We have not articulated criteria for budgeting with anywhere near the same precision as we have, for example, in the case of promotion and tenure. We have taken some steps in this direction. We have developed a financial exigency plan to guide us through the disaster we hope will never occur. On an admittedly ad hoc, yet I believe principled basis, we have considered the justification for several specific reallocations. Building on this foundation, the Faculty now needs to articulate the principles and priorities we would like reflected in the administration's effort to cope with persistent financial stringency at UTK. Should we, for example, utilize some sort of performance funding formula like that employed by T.H.E.C.? I always hear a lot of talk about "centers of excellence," but very little progress toward overt employment of that concept in our budgeting. Should research productivity be awarded in the budgeting process, and if so, how should we assess it? How should we allocate funds between graduate and undergraduate programs and between the upper and lower divisions of the undergraduate program? Are these decisions that should be left to departments and colleges?
Sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish, as the Faculty Senate bylaws require us to do, between "College or departmental allocations" and "long and short range educational policies ... as represented by the monetary allocations made in the budget." Nor is it likely that we could or would want to carve into stone precise unambiguous principles designed to strait jacket our administrative leadership. Budgeting, however, is where the action is now and will be in the foreseeable future, and the faculty needs to help the Chancellor shape the priorities and principles which will guide him as he considers specific budgetary allocations to the Colleges and departments. This is particularly important because the time is fast approaching where the Chancellor will be unable to protect the academic affairs budget from the full impact of UTK's diminishing purchasing power. I look to the Faculty Senate's Executive and Budget Committees for leadership in this task.
3. Planning: While UTK must remain ready to react on short notice to unanticipated contingencies affecting our budgets and programs, there is no substitute for planning. In addition to our annual budgetary planning, we need to plan for the longer run as well. Given the great uncertainty about state revenues, appropriations, and student enrollment, this is not easy to do. In tight times, however, such planning is essential, particularly if we wish to shape the future of UTK, rather than have it shaped for us by others perhaps less sensitive to the mission of a comprehensive university. Last year, the Faculty Senate reviewed three such planning efforts. Because they impact on academic programming and faculty well-being, the faculty should scrutinize them closely.a. Multi-year Budgeting: Last year, the Budget and Executive Committees of the Faculty Senate endorsed in principle a decision of the Chancellor to formally and explicitly make a few limited multi-year financial commitments to specific academic units on campus. Many faculty might not regard this as particularly important, assuming perhaps that informal understandings of this sort are reached all the time, particularly when we recruit new deans or department heads. Whether such an assumption is true or not, formally adopting a principle of multi-year budgeting, even if only in special cases, is a significant development in academic budgeting. It is a sound idea which, if extended, might better enable Colleges and departments to plan for their future. Actually, when done on a case by case basis multi-year budgeting is really no different than any other allocational decision we make. To the extent a multi-year commitment is made to a unit and assuming that it will be honored, that unit is insulated from the risks associated with a downturn in UTK's economic fortunes. Comparable risks to other units are thereby increased. In effect we are allocating budgetary certainty as well as dollars, and budgetary certainty is a very valuable commodity. In particular, it enhances the ability of the unit to expand its vision beyond the immediate budgetary cycle. Because of the importance of budgetary certainty, we should allocate it carefully, but willingly. We should use it as an incentive for departments and colleges to plan, with an eye to budgetary reality, for their development beyond the immediate budgetary cycle. The Chancellor should be commended for taking this step and encouraged to think further about expanding his initiatives in this regard.4. Budgetary Governance: Because it is impossible and probably undesirable to govern UTK's budgeting with inflexible rules intended to minimize the role of human discretion, the soundness of our processes for producing the budget take on particular importance. Because of the close relationship between budgeting and educational policy, it is also important that the faculty role in this process be well defined, substantial, and well-executed.
b. Financial Exigency Planning: Last year, in response to a request from President Boling, UTK formulated a financial exigency plan. It is a plan we hope and expect we will never use. Nonetheless, proceeding with the development of this disaster plan was a sign of institutional responsibility. With respect to our more immediate planning needs, however, three sections of the Financial Exigency Plan are particularly important. They merit verbatim quotation.1.1. Averting exigency. The procedures of this document are to be implemented only as a last alternative to balance the budget of the University. Every effort shall be made to maintain the University's solvency by such means as (a) seeking new sources of income; (b) maintaining maximum student enrollment and optimum mix of students; (c) developing ways to increase the flexibility of faculty to fulfill essential teaching and research opportunities (through provision of faculty retraining programs and other developmental activities); (d) implementing retrenchment plans which do not directly influence the educational mission of the University.In these three paragraphs are some of the most challenging propositions I have heard since I came to UTK in 1972. We have formally committed ourselves to take all steps consistent with the educational and fiscal integrity of UTK to assure that none of our colleagues are laid off because of financial exigency. We must begin immediately to make good on this promise. To do so, we must take seriously the likelihood that UTK's real purchasing power will continue its present decline over the next five years. I would, for example, posit a 10%/annum decline in our purchasing power. We must also heed Chancellor Reese's warning that our "instructional and support programs have been marginally funded for so long that we cannot make major cuts in these programs without seriously impairing quality." These are not happy thoughts, but they should move us to identify now a sequence of steps we will take to shape what UTK will look like in 1985--steps we must hope will not require "the abrogation of continuing faculty contracts."
1.2. Retrenchment. Retrenchment efforts shall be defined as all cost-cutting measures prior to and other than the abrogation of continuing faculty contracts. The Chancellor has the authority to effect a wide range of retrenchment actions without explicit authorization by the Board of Trustees. The two principal exceptions are the discontinuation of an academic program and the layoff of tenured faculty members or of probationary faculty members before the end of their appointment term as specified in the University's tenure policies. Methods of retrenchment which would affect academic programs shall be considered through the normal channels of faculty consultation. Such alternatives might include (a) general salary freezes or reductions, (b) teaching overloads without additional pay, (c) elimination of released time, (d) reduction or elimination of faculty support services, (e) development or research leaves without pay, (f) voluntary retirement, etc.
1.3. Communication. The existence of adverse financial conditions and the need for retrenchment planning shall be communicated early to all faculty so that an atmosphere of cooperative and shared decision-making may be established. The Faculty Senate shall be regularly involved in retrenchment efforts. Such involvement of faculty will establish credibility for any later declaration of a state of financial exigency.
The clauses in our financial exigency plan dealing with averting exigency and retrenchment provide a starting point for our deliberations. This report has already addressed the role of the faculty in cultivating new sources of income. As an example of how quickly things can change, the financial exigency plan calls for maintaining maximum student enrollment. UTK is now talking about enrollment limitations. The underlying goal, however, is the same: averting financial exigency and maintaining program quality. We should look closely at our student mix, in particular the relative proportion of graduate and undergraduate students and the allocation of funds to those programs. The Educational Policy Committee was charged with that responsibility last year and should renew its efforts. The Faculty Affairs Committee should examine the suggested methods of retrenchment. Particularly intriguing is the suggestion that every effort shall be made "to develop ways to increase the flexibility of Faculty to fulfill essential teaching and research opportunities (through provision of faculty retraining programs and other developmental activities)." This provision was included in the hope that we might act now to reduce the trauma associated with shifting program needs and program elimination. Simply stated, a highly specialized faculty member is hard to shift around, but reassignment may be preferable to abrogating the contract of a faculty member whose specialty has been eliminated. Maybe we can do something to broaden the usefulness of our highly specialized faculty.
Finally, as it undertakes these initiatives, the faculty should be aware that the Financial Exigency Plan does not apply to program cuts made prior to a declaration of financial exigency. For the rights of a faculty member affected by such program cuts, we are left to the general provisions of the Faculty Handbook. Because in the past we have thought more about program additions rather than deletions, we may not have paid sufficiently close attention to the provisions of the handbook related to this matter. I would urge the Faculty Affairs Committee to do so.
c. Long Range Strategic Plans: In the Spring, the Faculty Senate began its review of the long awaited strategic plans for UTK--the product of the Long Range Planning Task Forces which had been convened in 1977. After a series of open committee meetings to secure faculty views about the plans, the Senate suggested many changes. Some were minor, but in the areas of academic program, faculty development, space and facilities, and affirmative action, the Senate suggested some major changes in direction.
This planning effort cannot be accepted as a model for future long range planning at UTK. For whatever reason, the delay between commencement and completion of the plans was excessive. It undermined the enthusiasm of the faculty who worked on the task forces and those in the Senate who, as a result of the delays, were asked to participate in a crash-course review of the plans. I was also disappointed by the inability of the Senate to secure a quorum at several meetings called for the specific purpose of reviewing the plans and the general lack of faculty interest in the plans. Some of my expectations for this process were probably naive, but they derived from. My sense that this planning effort was very important for the future direction (or indirection) of UTK.
The plans themselves have some serious shortcomings. Many of the goals are overly general. Few concrete steps for the accomplishment of the goals are suggested. Even when the plans are relatively concrete, the proposals are not costed. Finally, the plans do not establish our funding priorities--a critical shortcoming in our present fiscal environment. Because of these problems, a faculty member in planning was heard to declare that our plans were not planning documents at all.
It would be irresponsible for me not to acknowledge the faculty's frustration about the planning process and its product. Having said this, UTK is still better off having these documents in hand that it would be without them. They provide a quite adequate description and assessment of where UTK is now--an essential foundation for figuring out where we might want and be able to go in the future. The plans do suggest some general directions for UTK and also alert us to some of the issues which we should address during the next five years. What we have produced, then, is a series of documents which provide a foundation for real planning, i.e.,--the establishment of concrete goals and the specification of the steps we should take toward the implementation of those goals. In particular we must pay close attention to cost estimates, funding constraints, and the prioritizing of the many aspirations we have for UTK. The plans we have now can contribute to such a planning effort. If, however, we accept them as our planning, we will drift with them rather than be directed by them.
Chancellor Reese fully recognizes that we are beginning rather than ending our planning for the 1980s and is committed to the task. Now we must rekindle the faculty's interest in this project. Having acknowledged our frustrations with the planning effort to date, we must now assume some responsibility to take what is useful in the existing documents and start shaping, in more concrete terms, our direction for the next five years.
The responsibility for the preparation of campus budget resides with the Chancellor and his staff. Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Homer Fisher supervises the overall process and Vice Chancellor Walter Herndon has primary responsibility for the academic affairs budget. The role of the faculty in budgetary matters is advisory only. Within the Faculty Senate, this advisory role is divided between the Budget Committee and the Executive Committee. The Senate Bylaws provide that the Budget Committee shall:(1) ... provide for campus-wide faculty input into the University budgeting process, (2) ... encourage the use of faculty expertise in budget matters, (3) ... inform the faculty, through the Senate, concerning budget matters. Both long-range and short-term aspects of its role will receive the Committee's attention, including budget priorities, THEC formulas, and system-campus fiscal relationships. The primary concern will be policy, along the above lines; the Committee is not expected to become involved in the detailed and comprehensive investigations necessary as a basis for budget decisions.Similarly, the Executive Committee is instructed to"concern itself with the formulation and review of the long and short range educational policies of the University as represented by the monetary allocations made in the budget. This committee shall not concern itself with individual salaries nor with College or departmental allocations, except as they may relate to the aforementioned educational policy decisions."These provisions recognize the interrelatedness of budgeting and educational policy. Blending them is a tricky business. It becomes even trickier when our governance structure posits faculty primacy with regard to educational policy and administration primacy with regard to budgeting. Our recent financial stringency has helped us to recognize that this boundary line is simply not as clear as our governance structure assumes.
The bylaws also distinguish policies and priorities from specific budgetary allocations to individuals, departments, and colleges. While theoretically plausible, this distinction is difficult to apply at UTK where our academic life is organized, administered, and funded on a departmental basis. In many ways, UTK's academic program is no more than the sum of the programs of our departments and colleges. There are some exceptions to this pattern and the pattern may change as we begin thinking on a campus-wide basis about the relationship between graduate and undergraduate education and the place of general education in the undergraduate curriculum. Right now, however, our educational policies, at least those reflected in budgetary allocations made at the campus level, do not seem to transcend individual programs, departments, and colleges. This makes it quite difficult to draw the boundary line between a proper concern about educational policies as reflected by budgetary allocations and an improper concern about specific College and departmental allocations.
Acknowledging this problem of role definition, the relationship between the Faculty Senate and the campus administration in budgetary affairs remains basically sound. Chancellor Reese and Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Homer Fisher have regularly and willingly informed the Executive and Budget Committees about budgetary developments and have solicited our views about the budget. In particular, Homer Fisher has played a very important role in fostering Senate input into the budgeting process. Indeed, in many instances, he has taken the faculty's role more seriously than do many faculty members. Generally all involved in this advisory relationship seem committed to it and are aware of its peculiar importance in times of fiscal stringency. There are, however, three aspects of this advisory relationship which could stand improvement.
First, Faculty Senate involvement typically occurs late in the budget cycle and usually includes little more than a review and endorsement of a relatively final product. This limits greatly our ability to contribute to that product. In the future, the Budget and Executive Committees should discuss budgetary priorities and policies at the beginning of the budget cycle and after the completion of each major step in the process. We need to remember, of course, that our role is advisory, that we are not comprehensive investigators, and that our advice should be limited to priorities and policies. It is not enough, however, that we review the final product. Our advice should shape the final product.
Second, over the last two years, I have sensed that the part of the budget about which the Faculty Senate knows least is the academic affairs budget. This is true with regard to both faculty salaries and program allocations. We have never examined, for example, a department by department profile of salaries and salary adjustments. Nor have we examined a department by department breakdown of program budgets and changes in them during the budgetary year. This has probably occurred because of the rather uncertain definition of the Executive Committee's role and a concern that such examinations would concern us too directly with departmental and college allocations, instead of policies and priorities. We cannot, however, exercise our responsibility to "formulate and review ... the educational Policies of the University as represented by the monetary allocations made in the budget" unless we can identify where our money is going and how it is being used. There is obviously a limit to the amount of information that would be useful to the Executive Committee in exercising its advisory responsibilities, but we have not reached that point yet. If we are to take seriously our role with regard to budgetary policy, the Executive Committee needs to specify what information it would like to have about the academic affairs budget and ask for it. It also needs to establish more regular communications with the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and work with him to develop a better understanding of the Committee's role.
Third, the Faculty Senate needs to review how it allocates responsibility for budgetary matters. We have not adequately differentiated between the roles of the Executive Committee and the Budget Committee. We also have so centralized budget matters in these two committees that other committees of the Senate may be acting without sufficient information about or attention to budgetary considerations. This may weaken our efforts to correlate our educational aspirations with fiscal reality.
As a first step, we should more closely honor the distinction in our bylaws between the responsibilities of the Executive Committee and the Budget Committee. The former should devote its attention exclusively to the Academic Affairs Budget, leaving to the Budget Committee the more general oversight of UTK budgeting. The Budget Committee will not, of course, close its eyes to the Academic Affairs budget, but its responsibilities are broader and should focus on the choices the campus must face in order to protect the Academic Affairs budget in general. The Executive Committee should limit its attention to how we use the Academic Affairs budget. If this is done, the Executive Committee will not be distracted from its primary task, and the Budget committee can regain a sense of its more general responsibility for representing the faculty in budget matters.
Beyond this specific realignment of budgetary responsibility, the Executive Committee needs to consider ways to integrate budgetary reality into all our thinking about university policy, whether it be done in the Student Affairs Committee, Faculty Affairs Committee, Research Council, or any other committee of the Senate. We need a hub where all these spokes meet, and that should be the Executive and Budget Committees, but right now we do not have the spokes. There are budgetary issues relevant to the charges of almost all our committees, and I believe they should be securing information about them, discussing them, and sharing their views about them with the responsible campus administrators and the Budget Committee. If these steps are pursued, we could greatly improve the role of the faculty in our budgetary governance process.
III. The Educational State of UTKI do not presume to know how to evaluate the educational state of a university. There are very few subjects which prompt as much controversy within academia. Witness the reaction when quality rankings are published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Concern about the quality of such evaluations underlies the growing controversy about the role of accrediting agencies. Tennessee's experience with the T.H.E.C. performance funding formula and its use of outcomes assessment provides another case in point. On campus, we can look at our perennial discussions about the pros and cons of student evaluation of teaching and our more recent initiative with regard to program review. A common, but unacceptable response to the difficulty inherent in assessing the quality of an educational institution is to say that it cannot be done and to prove it by not trying. Alternatively, we will be warned that if we overemphasize evaluation of what we do, we will not have any time to do it. To avoid devoting too much attention to self-assessment, one then does not attempt it at all or does it in a very offhand manner. Both these orientations to self-assessment can be tempting, but they must be resisted.
A. Scholarship: Scholarship is essential to the educational health of UTK. It is a prime (some would say ultimate) responsibility of a professor. Scholarship is also a slippery subject matter. It can mean different things to different people. We need some collective understanding of the concept if we are to employ it in an assessment of our institutional health. In this regard, I commend to the faculty the introduction to our Strategic Plan for Research and will limit my comments to a few points not explicitly developed in that document.
First, at the risk of triteness, I must emphasize the distinction between scholarship and lists of published articles and books. Although we are usually sophisticated enough to avoid the trap of treating scholarship and publishing as synonymous another reminder about this fallacy does no harm. To say this, however, is not to oppose compiling lists of publications, as we do on an annual basis. Nor is it to say that we should not expect each faculty member at UTK to contribute to that list. We should not, however, focus on that list to the exclusion of all else. Rather we must remain alert to scholarship in all its varied forms.
More positively, and in its most general sense, scholarship requires a contribution to the evergrowing body of knowledge about ourselves and the world in which we live. The scholar adds to the accumulated wisdom of mankind. It is not enough that we learn what is already known and transmit that knowledge to others. It is also not enough that we think our profound thoughts in the privacy of an office. The scholar must share new insights with others around him. In this regard, then, it becomes important to distinguish between scholarship and either research or learning. The latter are stepping stones to scholarship, but if they do not add to our collective knowledge they are not scholarly activities. Also, scholarship can be distinguished from both formal publication and teaching. Both necessarily involve the dissemination of information, which is one aspect of true scholarship, but unless the information supplements rather than repeats what is already known, neither constitutes scholarship.
Finally, it is important that we distinguish scholarship from the surrogates we use in our efforts to assess whether a particular activity is scholarly. We need some shortcuts to make this task manageable. We also need some safeguards to assure that we do not apply the scholarly label to work which does not merit it. Our emphasis on formal publication is both a shortcut and a safeguard. Our disinclination to accept classroom exchanges as evidence of scholarship derives in part from a concern about the reliability of our impressions and the very high monitoring costs associated with class visitation. We need some shortcuts and safeguards. We must, however, guard against the risk that our shortcuts and safeguards will cause us to see scholarship where there is none, or, conversely, blind us to the real thing. We should be particularly wary of shortcuts. As for safeguards, two should be sufficient--that all evidence of scholarship be in writing and that it be subject to the scrutiny of other scholars. With these safeguards, we should be able to identify additions to our collective body of knowledge, label it scholarship, and distinguish it from other faculty activities. It is from this perspective that I will attempt to assess the quality of scholarship at UTK.
First, I have no hesitancy about proclaiming we are No. 1 in Tennessee. We had better be. Also, given the limited (but noticeably improving) institutional support of scholarship at UTK, our collective scholarly product might be seen as rather impressive. Second, scholarship at UTK is undeniably increasing and improving in quality. Having said this, and acknowledging that we do not have at present the analytical models and information necessary for a sophisticated assessment of UTK's scholarship, I must nonetheless agree with the conclusion in the Strategic Plan for Research that as a faculty our scholarly productivity is significantly less than it should be and that our progress is not commensurate with our pretensions. At the very least, complacency about our scholarly achievements would be grossly misplaced.
There are definite bright spots on our scholarly horizon. Many are cataloged in the Strategic Plan for Research. Specific note should be taken of the increased funding available for summer research. In particular we need to acknowledge the contributions from Tennessee Tomorrow. Also noteworthy is the centripetals program sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs. The environment for scholarship is enhanced when the faculty is able to partake of each other's research and ideas. It is also important to keep our scholarly life visible. Another major plus for scholarship at UTK is the Strategic Plan for Research. While it will prompt some argument, (particularly with regard to the question of centralized versus decentralized administration of our campus' scholarly efforts) and some of its aspirations may be a bit unrealistic (UTK among the top twenty U.S. universities in scholarly productivity), it is a strong document reflecting a strong faculty commitment to scholarship. It provides a firm foundation for a renewed initiative on behalf of scholarship at UTK.
With the bright spots, there are inevitably some clouds as well. Three come immediately to mind. First, there are a significant number of faculty members at UTK who are not producing written scholarship. In almost all cases, this inactivity is not due either to laziness or inability. Rather, the faculty has made a principled decision to devote primary attention to other aspects of the professorial role. This might not be too serious a problem if the Faculty Handbook permitted the substitution of additional teaching and institutional service in place of scholarship. The Handbook seems, however, to require that we do all three and do them well. I can think of only three possible courses of conduct: 1) ignore the reality, 2) act upon the Handbook's expectation that all faculty members at UTK will remain productive scholars throughout their career, or 3) explicitly accept the proposition that extra amounts of high quality teaching and service can serve as a substitute for scholarly activity, and divide our labor accordingly. While equating faculty status with scholarship is philosophically appealing, it is less clear that it is realistic or desirable for UTK, at this point in its history, to rigidly adhere to an expectation that all faculty members will be productive scholars. This is a frightfully troublesome and controversial matter. To do nothing, however, about the inconsistency between our universal scholarly expectations and our uneven scholarly productivity is to risk the demoralization of those faculty who are carrying the burden of UTK's oft-proclaimed institutional commitment to scholarship. I look to the Research Council and Faculty Affairs Committee for their thoughts about this thorny issue.
Second, as pointed out in the Strategic Plan for Research, UTK has not yet sorted out the problems inherent in interdisciplinary scholarship on a campus where the administrative structure adheres to traditional disciplinary boundaries. Right now, a faculty member who seeks to engage in interdisciplinary scholarship does so at some risk that his efforts will not be recognized in any discipline. This problem has been particularly acute with regard to joint appointments or split assignments. If, as both the Strategic Plan for Research and the Strategic Plan for Academic Program project, there will be a greater need for such interdisciplinary adventures in the future we must develop a better mechanism for evaluating the scholarly accomplishments of the faculty member who has a foot in several intellectual camps. Again, I look to the joint leadership of the Research Council and the Faculty Affairs Committee for an assessment of this situation.
Third, a major weakness in the scholarly environment at UTK is our habit of seeing scholarship as the exclusive province of the faculty and Ph.D. candidates. Some master's degree programs require theses, and many programs offer a thesis option, but in most cases scholarship is not a requirement for receipt of the master's degree at UTK. The same is true with the bachelor's degree. This is sad. Scholarship, broadly conceived as the attempt to add to mankind's wisdom, should be the culminating experience of all higher education, including the undergraduate program. It certainly should be the culminating experience for every graduate program. Also, to the extent we excuse our students from any responsibility to engage in scholarly efforts, we make it easier for disinclined faculty to excuse themselves as well. It may not be feasible to require that every recipient of the bachelor's degree at UTK produce at least one acceptable piece of scholarship. If it is possible, however, we should do so. I feel even more strongly that no advanced degree at UTK should be awarded unless the candidate has produced a significant piece of quality scholarship. While there will be disagreement about these propositions, our collective reaction to them can serve as a test of our commitment to scholarship as the core of higher education.
On a concluding note, we must acknowledge, as does the Strategic Plan for Research, that our assessment of scholarship at UTK is rather haphazard. Nor have we reached much agreement about what faculty activities should be accepted as scholarship. We need to grapple with these problems. A first step has been taken with the development of program reviews by the Undergraduate and Graduate Council. Part of the review focuses on scholarly activities of the faculty which relate to the academic program. This, of course, is not the same as a general review of scholarly productivity, but it is a step in the right direction. The Faculty Senate's Research Council should engage the Graduate and Undergraduate Council in a discussion of whether the program review format could be used for a more general assessment of the scholarly life of each department. If such an integrated approach seemed unworkable, the Research Council should develop a separate review of scholarly activity, so that when we engage in our next round of strategic planning we will be better able to assess where we are. This should improve our capacity to decide where we should go. Such a step would be consistent with the aggressive attitude reflected in our present Strategic Plan--an attitude which encourages me about the present and future prospects for scholarship at UTK.
B. Teaching-Learning at UTK: The quality of the teaching-learning function at UTK is a complicated issue. It is the sum of many parts. It is course content. It is the curriculum. It is teaching methodology. It is student-faculty relations. It is our impact on our students. It is their impact on themselves. The difficulty of assessing the quality of teaching and learning at UTK, not to mention planning for its future, is captured in a metaphor employed in the Strategic Plan for Academic Program. Assessing and planning for academic programs is "... like the way one must act and think on a canoe moving fast over white water." For the purpose of this report, however, I will assume that the goals of higher education are: 1) to increase the amount of information each student possesses about himself, other people, and their relationships with each other and the world, and 2) to develop each student's capacity to discover additional information, to use that information, and ultimately to add to the existing body of information. The second goal is much more important than the first.
UTK does well the job of increasing the amount of knowledge its students possess. The substantive content of most of our courses is sound, and the faculty keeps abreast of changing developments in their fields. While we can always stand some improvement in the way we convey information to our students, this aspect of our academic life is on firm footing. With regard to our success in cultivating in our students the habits of mind necessary for the successful completion of future intellectual undertakings, the record is less clear. It is not even clear that we are No. I in Tennessee. We need, therefore, to pay continued close attention to the teaching-learning function at UTK, and we need to be as committed to improvement in this regard as we are to improvement in faculty scholarship. Several issues merit attention.1. Curriculum: UTK professes to be more than a bunch of courses, concentrations, majors, departments, and colleges. It professes to be a university. First and foremost, then, UTK's curriculum should reflect the general goals of higher education and guide its students through an orderly progression of steps leading to the accomplishment of those goals. We have, however, so fragmented our intellectual existence into colleges, departments, disciplines, majors etc. that the curricular offerings in the General Catalog reflect little, if any, sense of purpose and order. From this catalog, which is admittedly rich with subject matter, a student might be able to create a curriculum which reflected the orderly pursuit of a higher education, but in most cases this would occur in spite of rather than because of UTK's curricular planning. We have made some efforts to connect the many disparate elements of our curriculum, but it still remains more a collection of fragments than an integrated whole.C. Evaluation and Planning in Academic Affairs: The complexity of UTK's educational enterprise makes it difficult to evaluate our programs and plan for their future development. Unless, however, we are complacent or willing to handle academic affairs exclusively on an ad-hoc basis we must regularly assess where we are, decide where we want and can realistically aspire to go, and specify what we need to do in order to get there. Then we need to get going. For UTK to improve its educational program, there must be a self-conscious, visible, and recurring cycle of assessment, planning, and implementation of plans.
Some faculty members will challenge this assessment. Others will dispute the need for a purposive curriculum on the grounds that every course serves the purposes of higher education at UTK. Inevitably, some will argue that a purposive curriculum is a threat to academic freedom. Fortunately, UTK's present broad-based examination of "general education" testifies to our willingness to confront the complex and controversial issues raised by our belief that higher education transcends any one course, concentration, major, department, or college.
The faculty should participate enthusiastically in and carefully scrutinize the continuing work of the Committee on General Education. In particular we need to resist the tendency to equate general education with the College of Liberal Arts. Nor should we think of general education as a return to course requirements which do no more than force our students to test the water in a larger number of our academic departments. Rather let us think broadly about how we would shape our curriculum if we postponed admission to the Colleges until the end of the sophomore year. Could we create a curriculum which serves the purposes of higher education and which draws upon the expertise of all our Colleges and departments, but transcends the offerings of any one of them? Whatever the outcome of this present initiative on behalf of general education may be, it remains important that we continue to work for curricular coherence at UTK. That we are devoting both time and money to this task is a sign of educational health.
2. Teaching Methods: Teaching entails more than subject matter. How well we transmit our knowledge and ideas to our students, how well we engage them in inquiry, and how well we evaluate their mastery of their assigned tasks are critically important to the health of our educational process. Unfortunately, many discussions about teaching methods do not go beyond the stereotype of the bright but boring lecturer--which does no more than demean the importance of the subject. At UTK we need to do better than that, and we do. One does not, however, have to be a secret agent for the College of Education or the Learning Research Center to conclude that there remains significant room for improvement of teaching methodology at UTK.
We can confirm this need by listening (even with a skeptical ear) to the persistent request of student leaders for mandatory student evaluation of teaching. This request comes from some of our best and most responsible students who are sincerely interested in the improvement of instruction at UTK. Even more telling are some student concerns which were aired during campus discussions about advancing the deadline for dropping courses. The students faulted the faculty for not providing sufficient information about course requirements. At most, they said, they were given a syllabus which revealed substantive coverage, test dates, and paper due dates. Because of this, the students argued that they needed a longer period of time to figure out for themselves the goals for the course and the professor's expectations for their performance. Apart from the specific issue of the drop deadline, these comments raise some questions about the soundness of our instructional methodology--unless, of course, one believes in the educational value of the hidden ball trick. Finally, we must acknowledge that most faculty at UTK have had no formal training about teaching methodology and do not devote the same care and attention to the mastery of pedagogy as they do to the mastery of their substantive discipline. Unless we believe that teachers are born, not made, or that untutored experience is an adequate substitute for experience informed by prior and ongoing study, we cannot expect that our teaching methods will be as good as our course content, or as good as it should be.
UTK has not ignored this problem. We promulgated Teaching-Learning Guidelines and appended them to our Faculty Handbook. Lest we forget those guidelines, the faculty should be aware of student initiatives to have those guidelines made mandatory so that faculty members could be held accountable for failures to honor them. UTK supports the Learning Research Center and its publication and distribution to all UTK faculty of Teaching-Learning Issues. The Faculty Senate initiated and the administration funded a seminar on teaching for G.T.A.'s. While we are still evaluating this program, we should begin to consider a comparable program for the faculty, perhaps requiring it for new faculty members without teaching experience and granting released time as an incentive for existing faculty members to study about teaching. We have specifically earmarked some of our summer research funds for projects designed to improve teaching effectiveness. The Faculty Senate has appointed a special committee to consider and make recommendations about evaluation of teaching effectiveness both for the purpose of encouraging faculty development and for recognizing and rewarding excellence. Their recommendations deserve extremely close attention. Finally, the new Faculty Development Committee of the Senate has been specifically charged to expand our initiatives on behalf of better teaching.
These are encouraging developments. The improvement of teaching at UTK, however, will ultimately depend on the willingness of individual faculty members to devote a little more attention to their teaching methods, to consciously seek to improve their knowledge about teaching, and put their increased knowledge into practice. It will also depend on the willingness of departments and colleges to assess teaching effectiveness and reward it. Our teaching is not bad, but it could and should become better.
3. Student-Faculty Relationship: The ideal for the student-faculty relationship was captured in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education where a father beseeched a college to provide his daughter with, among other things, "a friendship with at least one faculty member (maybe two)." The father, Richard W. Lassegard, a school psychologist, explained his aspiration as follows:"Physical education or philosophy, art or accounting--I am indifferent as to the academic discipline, but I want her 'turned on' by a mature mind. She needs to know the youthful thrill of worshipful adoration at the feet of a master teacher. That human feet are clay she will discover soon enough. Let her be, I pray, a late bloomer when it comes to cynicism, a zestful disciple, a Plato before a Socrates."This ideal is realized at UTK, but not for most of our students. Whether this ideal is realizable on a campus with 28,000 students and only 1800 faculty may be doubted. We must, however, question whether we are even coming close. We heard Judge Higgs, invited here to help us with race relations, report an overwhelming impression that UTK is a "cold and impersonal place." We should not mistake cold and impersonal for intellectually demanding and dismiss these observations, particularly when our own studies of student retention indicate a large number of students in good academic standing are leaving UTK. This problem will always exist in an institution as massive as UTK, but it must also always remain on the agenda of any faculty truly committed to quality education.
On an institutional level, the major faculty action with regard to this problem has been the institution of mandatory student advising. While this program has met considerable resistance from both students and faculty, has had its problems, and falls far short of satisfying Mr. Lassegard's aspirations for his daughter's education, it is a significant step in the right direction. It reflects a collective faculty commitment to one-on-one engagement with our students, to the significance of the individual in a mass educational setting, and to the educational importance of a coherent curriculum fashioned with the assistance of an interested, knowledgeable and thoughtful faculty member. The success of this effort will depend on the spirit with which it is approached by both faculty and students. ideally it would not have to be mandatory. Hopefully the mandatory sessions will be sufficiently rewarding that truly voluntary advising relationships will grow from the seeds of coercion. We must, however, continue to pursue this initiative.
It almost seems strange to be talking about one-to-one advising when we have students receiving course credit without ever having been in the same room with the professor (closed circuit TV) or ever having exchanged words or ideas with the professor (large group lecture; small sections taught by graduate assistants). We must establish as a very high priority the improvement of this situation. A perhaps not too unrealistic aspiration in courses of this nature would be for each student to have at least one 50 minute session where meaningful exchange with the professor is possible. Lecturing, particularly if well done, can be a very powerful teaching tool, but we need to combat the professorial remoteness which the large group lecture can foster. Given our resources, we probably cannot take more than a few small steps in this direction, but it is very important to the educational health of UTK that we combat the impression, not completely unfounded in reality, that UTK is a "cold and impersonal place."
4. Student Learning: The same father who aspired for his daughter to have a friendship with at least one faculty member also asked the university to help her develop "the ability, honed by four years of practice, to think sharply and incisively." More specifically, he said, she "must learn to write the tangible indication of an orderly and creative mind." It is impressive how much educational philosophy can be captured in so few words.
I have already mentioned scholarship as the culminating experience of all higher education and urged the adoption of a thesis requirement for all master's degrees and, if possible, for bachelor's degrees as well. If that seems too grandiose, let us just set our sights on combating the intellectual passivity which marks too large a percentage of the learning experience of most students at UTK--a passivity which dulls, rather than hones the ability to think sharply, incisively, and critically. Let us also resist the decline in the number of occasions when UTK students are required to communicate their knowledge in well structured, grammatically correct English prose.
These problems have not been ignored at UTK. Particular emphasis has been placed on writing. For example, the Undergraduate Council's Committee on Student English has brought forth many recommendations, some of which have resulted in concrete actions which have improved the state of writing at UTK. More recently, in the Strategic Plan for Academic Program, there is a call for more courses specifically designed for the purpose of developing composition skills. These do not need to be offered by the English department, but they do need to be offered. We may even need to require our students to take more of them. In particular, the Strategic Plan proposes that each department should require at least one upperdivision composition course as part of the major program. In my judgment that should be a minimum. The plan also calls for more writing assignments in all coursework, and asks the Committee on Student English to find out the extent to which written assignments are required at UTK and "to provide resources for those instructors who need to increase writing in their courses."
These are steps in the right direction. Until, however, we specifically recognize the importance of student writing in our budgetary allocations, and in our evaluations of faculty performance, I question how much progress we will make. We need to make some hard choices, one of which might be the specific reallocation of funds to support the writing function. We may also have to increase our expectation about the amount of time our faculty will devote to student scholarship--possibly at the expense of faculty scholarship. In this way, we can test our commitment to student literacy.
Writing, of course, disciplines our thought, but we must avoid the trap of equating writing and thinking. Much more than communication is involved in the ability to "think sharply and incisively." How to teach or, more appropriately, how to foster the development of thinking ability is the most difficult and most important problem that faces any educational institution. No aspect of the educational enterprise at UTK should concern the faculty more. It is probably the aspect of learning which suffers the most from inadequate faculty-student ratios. It is also the area where the faculty probably has its least collective impact on our students--partly because we do not exercise our students' minds sufficiently, partly because we too often convey to them an intellectual product without ever exposing them to the process which produced those ideas, and partly because we do not possess and employ in our teaching sufficiently well-developed theories about the phenomena we call "thinking sharply and incisively." Finally, as will be revealed by a brief perusal of the Strategic Plan for Academic Program, student thinking is the aspect of higher education to which the faculty has devoted the least attention. We should, of course, do nothing to suggest that there is a way of thinking, or thinking about thinking, or teaching thinking, or teaching how to think about thinking, but our activities in the classroom and our curriculum must explicitly and consistently reflect our commitment to these activities.
A possible starting point for some initiatives with regard to this subject would be the formation of a Committee on Student Thinking. Several specific things this committee could undertake right include 1) an identification and evaluation of all courses or programs at UTK which specifically focus on intellectual methods, i.e., where the course or program substance is intellectual method, 2) an identification and evaluation of all assessment instruments which might be employed for the purpose of determining the intellectual skills of our students when they enroll at UTK and/or complete their course of studies, 3) an identification and evaluation of the extent to which thinking tasks are explicitly incorporated in substantive courses at UTK, 4) the cataloging of the intellectual tasks every student at UTK should have mastered prior to graduation, and 5) a consideration of how the faculty, both in individual courses and through our structuring of the curriculum, might better contribute to our students' efforts to develop their intellectual abilities. While this suggestion may sound bizarre, it is completely consistent with our concern about student writing. It just takes that concern a step further and focuses on the skills which are needed for a student to produce a writing not only grammatically correct and well organized, but worth reading. After all, writing is no more than a "tangible indication of an orderly and creative mind." At the root of all writing worth reading must be an "orderly and creative mind" which has been honed "to think sharply and incisively."
5. Academic Integrity: Last year, the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education warned against the deterioration of both ethical and academic standards in higher education. The Council specifically noted 1) "cheating by students on academic assignments", 2) "inflation of grades by faculty members", and 3) "the awarding of academic credit and degrees by some departments and by some institutions for insufficient and inadequate academic work." (Chronicle of Higher Education, April 23, 1979) This report must be taken seriously at UTK. We must be sure our house is in order.a. Cheating: With regard to student cheating, UTK anticipated the problem before the Carnegie Council published its report. In 1978, the Council on the Improvement of Teaching and Learning prepared a detailed report about cheating at UTK and offered a list of recommendations for faculty action to combat what was seen as a substantial and growing problem. Chancellor Reese circulated this report to the entire faculty. At the beginning of this year, I asked the Student Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate to reexamine existing university policies in light of the Council's report and to assume an ongoing responsibility for this sorry side of academic life. As an initial response to my request the Student Affairs Committee proposed that every person at UTK who has direct instructional responsibility be required6. Academic Excellence!: This discussion of academic standards and integrity should be ended on a positive note. There is real academic excellence at UTK. I wish every faculty member at UTK could attend the Chancellor's Honors Banquet and the initiations to Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and other academic honorary societies. These students deserve every bit of the recognition they receive. It is also encouraging to see our Alumni Association awarding scholarships to the Valedictorians and Salutatorians of Tennessee's high schools. We cannot, of course, limit our attention to our best and brightest, but is is critically important that we continue to honor them and provide them with tangible rewards for their accomplishments. In this regard, UTK needs to go one step further and begin to recognize those students who have shown the most improvement in their academic work while at UTK. In many ways, these students are UTK's real success stories, and I would like to see them recognized at the Chancellor's Honors Banquet.a. to formulate a definition of academic integrity to which he or she can give personal assent.When the Committee's proposal was brought before the full Faculty Senate, debate focused on whether these actions on behalf of academic integrity should be required of all faculty or just recommended for their consideration. The latter view prevailed. I and members of the Committee were disappointed by this dilution of the proposal. As a first step, however, this recommendation is a very important action of the Faculty Senate. First, it suggests that each faculty member bears an ongoing responsibility for the cultivation of academic integrity. Reference to Hill Topics is not enough. Second, it emphasizes the importance of each faculty member testifying on a personal and regular basis to the importance of academic integrity. We can no longer take academic integrity for granted. Third, it encourages a positive approach to academic integrity. Our students should know what is (as well as what is not) consistent with our ideals. Fourth, reducing this to writing will eliminate the common plea of ignorance as an excuse. Finally, the committee has called for a broad based examination of the ways in which campus policy and educational practices affect the incidence of cheating at UTK. In spite of what some members saw as a setback in the Senate, I encourage the Student Affairs Committee to pursue this and other initiatives on behalf of academic integrity. And I applaud the Senate for endorsing the idea that every faculty member should personally contribute to a broad-based and aggressive effort to promote academic integrity at UTK. It is a very encouraging step.
b. to generate a list of actions or practices, each of which exemplify the spirit of academic integrity--whether by instructor or by student.
c. to decide how he or she will respond to such violations of the spirit of academic integrity as may be observed or discovered in the course of discharging his or her instructional responsibilities.
d. to present to each student for whom he or she has direct instructional responsibility a written statement incorporating the results of the activities described above.
b. Academic Standards: With regard to grade inflation and academic standards at UTK, I do not have the benefit of a report like that on cheating. Although everyone has opinions on this subject, and although the administration polices aberrational grade patterns and compiles statistics on grading patterns, the Faculty Senate has never undertaken a detailed examination of either grade inflation or the rigor of our academic expectations.
A review of the grade profile issued each quarter reveals that grades at UTK have risen since 1971. In Spring Quarter 1971, a senior at the 50th percentile of his class had a G.P.A. of 2.56. In Spring Quarter 1980, the G.P.A. of a similarly situated senior was 2.87. Actually, the phenomena is more complex. For example, freshman and sophomore grades have only risen about 2/3 as much as junior and senior grades. Graduate school grades have not changed much at all--probably because they were so high to start with. Grades of students in the middle and upper part of their classes have risen significantly more than the grades of students at the bottom of the class. Freshman grades are regularly lower in the Spring Quarter than in the Fall Quarter, while the reverse is true for seniors. Finally, in the last two or three years, our grading patterns have stabilized.
Of course these statistics tell us very little about academic standards at UTK. Whether they document inflation or real growth reflecting better students or improved teaching remains to be established. The statistics just do not reveal their causes. Nor do they reflect grading disparities between departments and colleges. More importantly, the statistics tell us nothing about what we expect of our students in return for a particular grade, or how well we assess our students' performance. They do suggest, however, that there is something going on at UTK with regard to either academic expectations or academic performance which the faculty should examine more closely.
In the last year, certain steps have been taken for the express purpose of reinvigorating academic standards. The College of Engineering, for example, was permitted to advance its drop deadline, in part because of the problem of oversubscription of courses, but primarily because the present mid-quarter deadline was thought to be too permissive. A concomitant of such a shift, of course, must be greater attention by all faculty to setting out, clearly and completely, their course expectations and sticking to them. The College of Engineering was also permitted to depart from the campus policy for computing a student's cumulative GPA when he/she repeats a course. With the exception of the College of Engineering, an undergraduate who repeats a course enjoys the benefit of having only the higher grade computed in his/her GPA. This benefit is available no matter how many times a student repeats coursework. The College of Engineering now only offers this option to its students with respect to 12 hours of repeat work. According to the late Dean Peebles, the faculty of the College sought this change because they questioned the academic integrity of our present policy.
That these initiatives were undertaken by the College of Engineering and approved by the Faculty Senate is an encouraging sign of renewed faculty attention to academic standards. Hopefully, we will soon adopt comparable policies on a campuswide basis. In particular, UTK should return to its prior practice of computing the cumulative GPA on the basis of all graded work. If, as has been suggested in justification of the present policy, there are related problems in the area of admission and retention, address those problems directly. Do not address them by telling a student that his cumulative gradepoint is a 2.5 when it really is a 2.1. At best this demeans the accomplishment of students who perform well the first time they take courses. At worst, one might label the practice academically dishonest.
One final thing has always bothered me about academic standards at UTK. I can never figure out how it is that 50% of UTK's graduate students earn a gradepoint of 3.5 or better. I am sure I would be able to understand it better if there was a highly competitive admissions policy, but that is not the case. Maybe the students are better than their composite undergraduate records reveal, or maybe they have really improved, or maybe our teaching is better, but all that remains to be proven. Nor can I accept the common answer that a graduate student must maintain a 3.0 gradepoint to remain in school. My question would then have to be why are so many still in school. There is just too much excellence in graduate school grades to be believable.
There is real excellence in our graduate school. The problem is that we demean that excellence and our evaluation process when we tell 80% of our students that their work is good or excellent. If our standards are high enough, most student work is acceptable, not good or excellent. The same is true for faculty. We demean the significance of the labels good or excellent if we use them too profligately. I am not saying that more graduate students should be flunked out of school. I am, however, saying that more graduate students should be told that their work is acceptable, rather than good or excellent. The Graduate Council should look at this matter as a problem of grade inflation, consider whether this inflation is impairing the academic integrity of our graduate programs, and, if so, what should be done to remedy the situation.
c. Admission Standards: Much has been said about admission standards and enrollment limitations at UTK. More will be said over the next year. Although the primary cause of this discussion is financial stringency, it is important for the faculty to approach this issue with an eye toward the implications of our decisions for UTK's academic integrity. We must remain sensitive to the relation between admission policy and funding, equal educational opportunity, and affirmative action, but these concerns should not blind us to the equally important relation between admission criteria and our basic purpose as an institution of "higher" learning. In this regard, two simple points merit consideration.
First, one does not have to be an academic elitist to conclude that many high school graduates are not ready for higher education. Rather than dilute our offerings or spread our insufficient resources thinner to accommodate unprepared students, we should tell these students they are unprepared, direct them elsewhere for the additional work they need, and then welcome them when they are prepared. We simply have to make some choices about the best use of our scarce resources, and I would like to emphasize our role in "higher" education. Second, one does not have to be too skeptical about human nature to acknowledge that students will work harder, try harder, and probably do better if they know that the quality of their performance will determine whether they will be able to do what they want to. One step toward greater academic integrity at UTK would be the imposition of higher standards for admission into and advancement through the various levels of higher education. This will reward and provide a needed incentive to academic achievement in Tennessee's high schools and at UTK. In particular, standards for admission to the Graduate School should be tightened as one part of any effort to limit enrollment at UTK. The standards for admission vary from program to program, and some are quite high, but on an overall basis, they are not very stringent. We will not accomplish our special mission in graduate studies until we replace an emphasis on quantity with an emphasis on quality as evidenced by a distinguished undergraduate record. This would also have the side effect of providing additional incentives for our undergraduates to devote more attention to their studies. Too much competitive pressure on students can be a bad thing and can actually be academically counterproductive, but I think we need to set against that concern the reality that we all work harder when we want something and know that we will only get it if we perform well.
Enrollment limitations and the imposition of more stringent admission criteria are controversial and complex subjects. Adding a concern for UTK's academic integrity to the many other issues raised by these subjects does not make them any easier or less controversial. UTK's purpose, however, is to provide higher education, not just more education. It is this purpose, not elitist pretensions, which requires that the faculty take seriously the relationship between enrollment limitations, admission criteria, and UTK's academic integrity as an institution of higher learning.
Higher education has never been free from the problems associated with evaluation, grading, academic standards, admission criteria, and academic integrity. We never will be. In recent years, developments both within and without the university have brought these questions to the forefront. On a collective basis, the faculty at UTK has been relatively silent about these concerns. Recent actions suggest that the collective faculty is beginning to reexamine issues of academic integrity. We must avoid a knee jerk reaction for or against proposals to tighten academic standards, but we must not shy from a close examination of our expectations for the academic performance of students at UTK. That we are moving in this direction is a sign of educational health.
This theme has recurred throughout this report because at present UTK has more assessment and planning initiatives underway than at any time in its recent history. In the academic sphere, we have prepared Strategic Plans for Academic Program, Research, and Faculty Development. Work continues in response to the reports of the Task Forces on Student Retention and Summer School. Presently underway is our campus-wide exploration of general education. Forthcoming soon should be a report of the Faculty Senate's special committee on evaluation of teaching. The Faculty Senate is also awaiting a report from the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils on a proposal for regularized review of all academic programs at UTK. This proposal is an outgrowth of the Graduate Council's Ph.D. program review and is presently being implemented on a trial basis. It is scheduled for Faculty Senate action in Spring, 1981 and represents an important step in UTK's efforts to improve its quality.
UTK, then, is devoting considerable faculty time to self-evaluation and planning for the future. There remains, however, a concern that all our efforts will go for naught because nothing will happen in response to our evaluations and plans. Given the extent of our self-evaluation and the large number of plans and programs for the future which have been prepared for UTK, our commitment to act will be well tested over the next several years. Hopefully, we will be both sufficiently aggressive and careful that our actions will reinforce the belief of the faculty that self-assessment and planning can improve the educational state at UTK.
D. Conclusion: This discussion of the educational state of UTK may seem to emphasize problems. If that is so, it is because there are many problems inherent in any educational enterprise as large and ambitious as UTK. Actually, given the peculiar nature of our enterprise, our resources, and the number of students at UTK, our scholarly and pedagogical accomplishments are probably commendable. Additionally, UTK is getting better and is doing so by dint of the hard work of many conscientious faculty members. Finally, what is really important is that we are wrestling with the major problems facing all higher education and UTK in particular. We are doing so on careful, principled and campus-wide basis. The problems discussed in this report, then, are not presented as symptoms of disease, but rather for the purpose of identifying the health reflected in UTK's efforts to combat the intellectual malaise which many people see invading higher education in America. These efforts, more than anything else, will determine the future quality of UTK's educational program. We seem headed in the right direction.
IV. ConclusionIn preparing this report, I have tried to remain true to my charge to focus on the "economic and educational state of the University for the past year." Almost all of the issues addressed in the report are issues which were raised or discussed within the Faculty Senate during the 1979-1980 academic year. Some matters were carried over from the previous year and most of them will be carried into the 1980-1981 academic year, but they were on our agenda as well. Upon reflection, it is rather remarkable that so much activity about so many important things occurred during one year. That this occurred testifies to the many challenges facing UTK's administrative and faculty leadership. The 1980s will only add to those challenges. More importantly, last year's activities testify to the vitality of UTK's leadership and commitment to collegial governance. We faltered at times, but more often our action reflected a real willingness to tackle UTK's problems. This was due to an administrative leadership committed to the principles of faculty governance and to many individual faculty members who devoted the time and effort necessary for faculty governance to work. Therein lies the real strength of UTK. To those individuals who are providing UTK with the leadership it needs in this era of fiscal stringency and whose efforts made my year as President not only bearable, but satisfying, I conclude this report with a sincere thank you.