26, No. 11, Dec. 7, 2006
Senate votes not to endorse current form of Global Campus
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
At the Dec. 4 meeting of the Urbana-Champaign Senate, senators voted not to endorse the Global Campus online degree program in the form proposed by President B. Joseph White and Chester Gardner, special assistant to the president. The UIC Senate passed a similar resolution on Nov. 30, and the UIS Senate is expected to do so when it meets Dec. 8.
Vernon Burton, chair of the Senate Executive Committee, said that while the SEC and Senate’s Global Campus Task Force support the concept of an online degree program, they had strong reservations that a separately accredited, for-profit institution was the best means of execution. Burton said: “A wider consensus than currently exists is necessary for this initiative to succeed, and we are prepared to work with (White and Gardner) to secure the wider consensus.”
Prior to the vote, White spoke to the Urbana senate by conference call from his Chicago office. White met with the members of the Global Campus Task Force to discuss their report, on which the vote was based, prior to the senate meeting. The report recommended numerous modifications to the proposed program, such as mechanisms to protect course quality, integrating the online program with the three existing campuses and ensuring that the program is “cutting edge.” If the proposal were modified accordingly, the senate might be willing to endorse the program, the task force said in the report’s executive summary.
White said that the Global Campus is vital to the educational mission of the university by enabling it to provide affordable education to tens of thousands of off-campus students, to the university’s commitment to educational quality by ensuring a rich mix of online and classroom-based courses and to the university’s financial future by creating a new revenue stream.
“I think our future without the Global Campus is clear and quite grim,” White said. “I think without it, we will not achieve the Urbana campus’s goal of being the pre-eminent public research university in America. I think we will not, over the coming decade, be able to close the faculty compensation gap … And, in fact, I think we will very likely decline over that period because we won’t have the money that we need to succeed. … I said a year ago in my inaugural address that we are on our own financially, and we certainly are.
“… I happen to think the risk of not doing it is much greater than the risk of doing it,” White said, adding that the UI is mitigating those risks by studying the problems that other universities encountered when they tried to implement similar programs. “The technology is much more ripe, and we’ve had many online successes at the UI already. We do know how to succeed.”
Richard Schacht, chair of the General University Policy Committee, asked White if it were possible to achieve the financial gains without overcharging the students or underpaying the supplemental faculty members teaching the courses. White responded that the university already cross-subsidizes many programs and suggested that the UI use the Global Campus implementation as an opportunity “to bring much more clarity, dignity and respect to supplemental faculty members” through careful recruiting, screening, development and
In response to a question from Senator Doug Jones, engineering, about the dearth of financial details and specifically which academic units are interested in participating, White said that he directed Gardner not to release what White considers proprietary information to prevent competing institutions from obtaining it. “There’s been intense interest by other institutions in what we’re doing and whether we can pull it off or not. … A lot of what you’re interested in exists, and we just haven’t given it to you.” White suggested that Burton find out specifically what information senators need to allay their concerns and then he and Gardner would give a presentation.
White said that he would not be perturbed if the senate voted not to endorse the Global Campus in its current form if the vote came in the context of shared governance and mutual problem-solving.
An informal advisory group comprising faculty members and students from the three campuses was scheduled to meet Dec. 6 to finalize the operational design for the Global Campus, addressing matters such as academic program development; the selection, training, mentoring and assessing of instructors, and the admission, enrollment and servicing of students.
White will hold a retreat on Jan. 8 at which he hopes to reach consensus with faculty members and students about the program’s organization and governance before he updates the UI Board of Trustees about the status of the Global Campus when the trustees meet on Jan. 18 at Chicago. “If we are not prepared to act on it with consensus (at that time), then we aren’t ready,” White said.
The senate endorsed a proposal sponsored by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure calling for university administrators to partner with faculty members during the next phase of the Global Campus initiative to develop a plan that reflects the shared governance, academic freedom and tenure provisions inherent in the University Statutes. The resolution also requested that any proposal for a Global Campus be submitted for the advice of the senates at the three campuses, in accordance with the statutes.
Senate members express concern for campus divisiveness
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
The Urbana campus is in a “crisis situation” with regard to creating an inclusive environment for minorities, said Belden Fields, chair of the Urbana-Champaign Senate’s Equal Opportunity Committee, at the senate’s Dec. 4 meeting. Fields said the committee has noted several “disturbing phenomenon” that contribute to divisiveness at Urbana, including the continued use of Chief Illiniwek as the campus symbol despite a senate resolution calling for the Chief’s retirement, and instances of racial/ethnic stereotyping at events sponsored by fraternities and sororities or at local bars.
The UI also was one of seven public flagship universities given a failing grade on enrolling and educating educationally disadvantaged students by the Education Trust, a nonprofit group. The Nov. 21 report rated 50 leading public universities on their success in enrolling and graduating low-income and minority students. The report, “Engines of Inequality,” is available at www2.edtrust.org/edtrust.
The group concluded that flagship universities are serving fewer educationally disadvantaged students than in the past, and Fields told the senate: “The mean socio-economic standing of students at this university has increased, reflecting either the increased difficulty that poorer students are having in attending this university, or the feeling that this is indeed not a welcoming environment, or both. It is unwise to think that an egalitarian solution for this increasing elitism is the creation of a separate online virtual campus. Rather, we need to come to grips with the opportunity climate and its relationship to the educational mission of our already existing campus.”
Fields said the committee plans to develop a resolution and present it at the senate’s next meeting on Feb. 19.
Vernon Burton, chair of the Senate Executive Committee, said that a “confusing cultural world” exists for students, and the SEC is reviewing the Student Code of Conduct and trying to determine what can be done on a broader level to promote sensitivity. “I plan to propose to the SEC that we work with the ethnic studies programs, the Center for Democracy in a Multiracial Society and the women’s studies program to develop a plan for what we’d like to see done on campus and in our communities,” Burton said.
In other business, the senate endorsed a proposal to form the School of Earth, Society and Environment within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, effective fall 2007. The school will comprise the departments of atmospheric sciences, geography and geology, and anchor interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate curricula and discipline-based and interdisciplinary research centers and programs. The three departments’ support operations and staff members’ responsibilities will be reconfigured but no departments or jobs will be eliminated.