Thursday, January 12, 2012

Report on Program Changes

The Provost's committee on program changes has completed the final draft of its report (posted after the break), which is now making its way through the Faculty Senate and other venues for comment.

I'm not going to comment on this report at length right now, as I haven't had time to think it through. The committee was formed in part because the state is mandating that universities report on "low performing programs," meaning that those with low enrollment (<25 UG majors), few graduates (<6 per annum), or high cost (compared to peers). This process is also intended to help SIUC become more efficient. As the plan SIUC settles on could eventually result in multiple mergers, elimination of programs, etc., this is obviously an important matter, and I thought it appropriate to share this draft report as widely as possible to maximize faculty input and transparency.

An obvious problem with the process here, to my mind, is the idiocy of defining all and any small programs as "low performing". If we take that literally it will--to allude to my own department's plight--be hard to offer any language major other than Spanish. But that's not this committee's fault: it's the state's definition. And this report does suggest other ways to justify the existence of a given program, perhaps even a small one.

I am on the Faculty Senate committee that will be commenting on this report and will be happy to learn from comments made here. 

Introducing foreign grad students to US culture

Mike Sullivan of the Math Department suggested that I point readers toward a draft document he's prepared suggesting things that foreign graduate students, especially those planning on staying on in the US after their education, might want to bone up on. Compare the Beloit College "mindset list" meant to introduce faculty to their students--though that list is devoted to what humanities types call "little c" rather than "capital c" culture (i.e., popular rather than fancy pants culture). This is a nice diversion from our more divisive fare, so I'm happy to oblige.  Here's Mike:

This Summer I will become the graduate advisor for the Math Dept. A large fraction of our graduate students are from overseas. I started thinking about how to acclimate them to American culture. Many students in math, science and engineering are foreign but will stay here and become apart of our technological elite. Foreign undergrad students will be taking courses in the humanities, but foreign grad students in the STEM fields will not. So, I put together a web page I'm calling "An Introduction to American Culture for Foreign Graduate Students." It is just a series of lists of mostly books and movies that students or young academics could pursue when they have time over the next few years. It is pretty haphazard.

I'd like to get feed back on it either here or by e-mail (look me up). It is really a job for people in the humanities after all. I want to keep it short and be something a busy grad student or young academic could get through in a few years. I did not include recent movies that were widely seen overseas. I wanted to include both important literary novels and popular novels. So, here is the link, let be know what you think:

It is easy to think of things to add - but harder to decide what to prune. You may want to think about it yourself for a while before looking at what I have done.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New finals week policy

The Provost has sent out a memo requiring faculty to give final exams or "final unit examinations" only during exam week (the full memo is embedded below). The expressed purpose is "to ensure that students have the time to do their very best work" by not overburdening students during the last week of classes. If you aren't giving a final exam in your class on the regularly scheduled date (including if you are not planning to give any such exam at all) you are now "expected to provide an explanation" to your Chair, and the Chair will report you to the Dean, save in cases of "seminars, internships, studio classes, and independent work, where exceptions make pedagogical sense".  The Dean then submits a list to the Provost by the tenth day of the semester. So Chairs are being asked to gather syllabi, and if you're not giving a final as scheduled, your chair has to decide whether that makes pedagogical sense, and if the Chair decides it doesn't, you're getting reported to your Dean and the Provost. Just what they will do with such reports is not said.