This interim report provides a synopsis of the University Senate's activities during the Fall semester of 2001, in accordance with Faculty Bylaws. An in-depth review would go beyond the scope of this brief report. Interested members of the university community are referred to the minutes of the Senate meetings posted at the Senate website http://www.albany.edu/senate (case sensitive!). Additional information can be obtained upon request from the chairs of the eight permanent Senate councils (names and contact information can also be found at our website).
* The Educational Policy Council (EPC) (chair: Prof. David McCaffrey, Public Administration and Policy) focused on two main issues: more clearly defining the Educational Policy Council's role in the University's resource allocation process, and the implications of evaluations of the academic climate at the University. The Faculty Bylaws indicate that the EPC should participate actively in academic planning and resource allocation. The Bylaws were written at a time when the budgetary system, and the University's fiscal profile in general, differed substantially from the situation today. For example, the University's Resource, Goals, and Priorities Advisory Committee (URPAC), which did not exist at the time the Bylaws were written, serves the President as a key advisor in the budgetary process. The sense of the Council to date is that the EPC can carry out its charge in an effective way, even given the institutional changes on campus, if it engages its responsibilities actively and adheres closely to its procedures designed to keep faculty, staff, and students informed of important developments. The President agreed to appoint an additional EPC Representative to URPAC (John Logan, joining David McCaffrey as EPC representative and Bruce Dudek from the Senate Executive Committee).
The discussion of the academic climate on campus stems from the fact that related surveys present a mixed picture. In particular, the Spring 2000 survey of students conducted by the State University of New York found improvements over time in advisement services on campus, but also declines in evaluations of several aspects of academic quality relative to other SUNY institutions. The EPC formed a subgroup of faculty and students, joined by other faculty, to examine the implications of this survey and other recent, similar evaluations on campus. The subgroup met initially in December and will be working through the Spring semester.
* The Undergraduate Academic Council (UAC) (chair: Prof. Mark Dalton, Theater Dept.) approved and moved several bills regarding the creation of new courses. (For details, please refer to the Senate meeting minutes posted on our website.) Other issues that are currently being considered in UAC are (1) the proposal to make the requirement for the minor optional (UAC is in the process of soliciting input from department chairs and the CAS council on this topic before proceeding with the discussion); (2)institutional inconsistencies surrounding the practice of processing and resolving "Incompletes" for students seeking degree clearance; and (3) development of a plan for the assessment of the General Education program.
* The Graduate Academic Council (GAC) (chair: Prof. Carolyn MacDonald, Physics) approved changes in a number of graduate programs. (For details please see the Senate meetings minutes on our website.) GAC also moved bills to establish two new programs: a BA/MPA Program in Public Policy and Public Administration and an M.S. Program in Literacy & Special Education. The Senate approved these programs. Further, GAC has begun to discuss what role it might play in the development of appropriate assessment criteria for a graduate program review in the context of an outside assessment.
* The Council on Research (RES) (chair: Prof. Bruce Dudek, Psychology) and its subcommittees kept busy with standard recurring activities (review of the Fall round of Benevolent grant applications by graduate students, processing of Frap A awards in preparation for review; and review of Journals and Conferences grant requests for the Fall round). In addition, a subcommittee of RES reviewed existing centers and institutes at U.A. and created a database on their activities, productivity, and funding record. This process has identified several defunct centers and motivated movement toward changed focus and/or merger of others. Another RES subcommittee has created an initial data base that will permit analyses to evaluate the effectiveness of FRAP awards.
* The Council on Libraries, Information Systems and Computing (LISC) (chair: Dr. Steven Doellefeld, Provost's Office) examined several important issues. First, LISC proposed an amendment to the existing Computer Usage Policy that would have imposed specific guidelines and limitations on the distribution of mass e-mailings on campus. The motion was defeated in the December 2001 Senate meeting. LISC continues to work on a modified version of this amendment. Second, LISC has been evaluating the pros and cons of subscribing to the Elsevier Science Direct, an electronic full-text database for hundreds of journals. The service is much more cost-effective than the acquisition of hardcopy journals; however, cost must be balanced against concerns about the long-term archival availability of journals. Third, LISC has discussed internet bandwidth problems. Recently the campus has expanded from a T3 to an OC3 connection, and will activate Internet 2 in the near future (with a 2-year funding support by NSF), potentially alleviating the problem. Lastly, LISC has been meeting with companies to examine the question of the internet media servers best fitting the current and long-term goals of the University.
* The University Life Council (ULC) (chair: Dr. Carson Carr, EOP) discussed issues centered around environmental and safety concerns, problems raised by handicapped students regarding wheelchair accessibility, problems with snow removal and bus transportation, and the lack of cleanliness in the Campus Center. Other major concerns were discussed in three ULC subcommittees. These concerns referred to (1) the University's progress toward goals stated in the master plan document and the Middle States recommendations; (2) possibilities to reconnect emeriti and retired employees with the University; (3) strategies to improve college spirit.
Respectfully submitted by:
Chair, University Senate