Issues in Progress

Faculty Council

The changing role of the Faculty Council from a mostly consultative body to one with more hands-on responsibility was clearly reflected in the Council's Sept. 17 meeting agenda, according to Faculty Council President Luke Johnson.

"We are no longer just a group that shows up to hear reports," Johnson said. "We are increasingly assuming more oversight responsibility." That responsibility to which Johnson referred includes the Faculty Council's vote at that meeting to create a University Teaching Committee, a counterpart to the Council's existing University Research Committee, and the anticipated creation at the Council's October meeting of a committee to oversee the fledgling Carter Center Faculty Liaison Program.

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Harriet King brought forth the proposal to create a University Teaching Committee, whose primary responsibility (at least initially) will be to administer awards granted to faculty through a Teaching Fund established by the provost last spring. King said the Teaching Fund Committee received 53 faculty proposals last spring for teaching-oriented projects ranging in cost from $1,000 to $90,000.

Several Council members expressed concern that creating a University Teaching Committee now could overshadow the work of the University Teaching Commission, which should be completed by next spring. King said the Faculty Council has the authority to change at any time the criteria under which the Teaching Committee would operate. She also stressed the importance of promptly establishing an organizational structure to administer the funds that Provost Billy Frye has earmarked for innovative teaching projects.

The Council voted to approve the creation of the University Teaching Committee, with the caveat that the committee's operational criteria be revisited next year when the Teaching Commission releases its findings and recommendations.

One supporter of creating the University Teaching Committee was Teaching Commission Chair Rebecca Chopp, who attended the Council meeting to update members on the activities of the Commission. Chopp said the Commission has formed six subcommittees to examine: 1) teaching evaluation and effectiveness, 2) rewards and incentives, 3) teaching practices, 4) interdisciplinary teaching, 5) teaching in the digital environment and 6) the future of teaching at Emory.

Chopp said a particularly important task for the Commission will be helping the faculty and administration imaginatively envision what teaching will be like in the 21st century. She said the Commission will take the six subcommittee reports and write a single draft report to bring to the entire University community for discussion. Then the Commission will write a final report with recommendations.

Prior to Chopp's presentation, Vice President for Research Dennis Liotta shared with the Council some ideas he has for the University Research Committee (URC), which he began overseeing last year as a result of his appointment. "The URC has been a great success story for the University," Liotta said. "And I think it can be even better."

Liotta asked Council members to ponder several questions regarding the URC and provide him with feedback on those questions in the near future. The questions included:

* Should Emory continue the URC? While Liotta said he expects the answer to be an "overwhelming yes," he wants to be assured that the majority of the faculty agree.

* Is the URC's present configuration yielding the best results possible? Liotta cited specifically the URC criterion of awarding $15,000 grants to all faculty applicants who are awarded grants. "A $15,000 award might have a major impact in the humanities," Liotta said. "But in the sciences, it could be compared to getting a new toy. We have a one-size-fits-all program."

* Would some decentralization be beneficial for URC grant recipients? "Can we find a more equitable way to divide up these funds and distribute them to the subsets of faculty," Liotta asked, "and then let them decide the criteria that best fit their disciplines."

President Bill Chace also attended the Council meeting to update members on several ongoing University issues. Chace said he and the senior administration are extensively involved in discussions about planning for the future of The Carter Center, specifically how the center will operate once former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are no longer able to play an active role.

Chace also mentioned that the first meeting of the new President's Advisory Committee will be held soon. The committee of nine senior faculty members will advise Chace on broad issues surrounding tenure and promotion and provide advice on especially difficult issues facing the University.

--Dan Treadaway

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