Faculty meetings

President Harker discusses changes, challenges in higher education

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Editor's note: For more detailed information, including meeting minutes, visit the Faculty Senate website.

8:46 a.m., April 16, 2013--University of Delaware President Patrick Harker discussed planning for the University’s future amidst a climate of changing educational delivery methods and a declining student recruitment base during the General Faculty meeting on Monday, April 8, in Gore Hall. 

The regular meeting of the University’s Faculty Senate followed the General Faculty meeting.

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Harker noted that as UD marks the fifth anniversary of the implementation of its Path to Prominence initiatives, the time has come to begin a dialog about future options and ideas for where UD should be going. 

“The original plan addressed the main areas we needed to deal with, but it was written six years ago,” Harker said. “The world looks a little different now, and some of what we said then was a little naïve, given what we face today.” 

Noting that while it wasn’t impossible to foresee the launch of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, hardly anyone anticipated their growth rate and their impact on higher education. 

More significant for UD, Harker said, are demographics that project fewer college-age students overall and a shrinking pool of potential students in the East Coast areas where UD does its primary recruiting. 

“The demographics of the students we educate are changing, and there’s about to be considerable competition, especially in this region,” Harker said. “This will be combined with huge swells in the number of students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds. We have to ask how are we going to deal with that.” 

Harker also noted that at the time of the adoption of the Path to Prominence principles in May 2008, hardly anyone could foresee the most prolonged economic downturn since the Great Depression and the burden this has placed on families of college-age students.

“We don’t talk about the spiraling cost of higher education and how we tamp down significant yearly tuition hikes,” Harker said. “We provide assistance to about one-half of our students, so we need to talk about what kind of student aid packages work and what we can afford.” 

Harker concluded by fielding senators’ queries on issues including responsibility based budgeting (RBB), a decline in number of study abroad students and possible cuts in research funding due to cuts in federal allocations for the sciences.

“On the student aid side, the Pell Grants are safe for now, because nobody wanted to cut that,” Harker said. “Research funding is easier for politicians to cut, and we have a working group monitoring the effects of the sequester.” 

Harker also said that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to addressing the challenges faced by institutions of higher learning, including UD. 

“We have to stop talking about teaching and start talking about learning,” Harker said. “We have to start thinking about what is the most efficient way for students to learn, and adapt our resources to that.” 

Faculty Senate meeting

Senators approved a variety of regular agenda resolutions, including granting permanent status for the bachelor of science degree in cognitive science and the bachelor of arts degree in Black American Studies. 

Provisional approval also was given for a new bachelor of science in actuarial sciences.

Also approved provisionally for five years were a new master of arts program in social studies in world history and a master of education degree in teacher leadership. 

A new dual degree — master of hospitality business management and master of business administration in the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics — was approved. 

Senators gave the green light to the Office of Residence Life residential program for academic year 2013-14, as well as several procedural items including reviewing of the academic calendar as approved by the registrar and senior UD administration. 

A recommendation to add a new master of arts in speech-language pathology drew a mixed reaction from senators, who approved the curriculum, but deferred voting on the entire program until full financial support for the first four years of operation could be established. 

Consent agenda

Consent agenda items passed included requests to revise the concentrations for the bachelor of arts degree in interpersonal communication and mass communication.

Requests for revising the bachelor of science major in psychology and adding the electrical engineering and computer engineering majors to the list of foundation electives also garnered approval.

Revisions to the minor in bioelectrical engineering and adding a minor in sustainable infrastructure were passed, as was a request to add an honors degree with distinction in energy and environmental policy.

Requests to revise the doctoral and master’s program in computer and information sciences also were approved. Senate consent was given for the transfer of graduate credits beyond nine credits in support of the master of chemical engineering degree. 

For more information on the Faculty Senate, visit the website.

A special meeting of the Faculty Senate will be held at 4 p.m., Monday, April 29, in 104 Gore Hall.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Faculty Senate is 4 p.m., Monday, May 6, in 104 Gore Hall. 

Article by Jerry Rhodes

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