Meeting of January 14, 2003

Held in the Poole Board Room of the Wardlaw Center



Members Present: Agrawal (ChE); Chameau (Provost); Clough (President); Henry (OSP); Jayaraman (Mgt); Mark (CoC); Marr (Psy); Swank (GTRI); Telotte (LCC); Warren (EDI); Alexander (Staff Rep); Michaels (G. Stu); Jackson (for Massey, U. Stu); Abdel-Khalik (SoF).


Members Absent: Allen (Arch); Boyd (Stu. Servcs); Evans (GTRI); Horton (GTRI); Kahn (CEE); Peterson (ECE); Uzer (Phys.) 


Visitors:  Begovic (ECE); Hoey (OARS); Hughes (ECE); May (Pres. Office); McMath (V. Provost)


1.      The meeting was brought to order by Jack Marr (acting as Chair in the absence of Larry Kahn) at 3:05 PM.  He called for approval of minutes of the November 19, 2002 meeting of the Executive Board (as amended on 11/25/02); minutes were approved without dissent. (See Attachment #1 below).


2.      The Chair presented the proposed agenda for the joint meeting of the Academic Senate and General Faculty Assembly to be held on February 4th, 2003 (See Attachment #2 below).  He pointed out that the main item on the agenda is a presentation by the Provost.  The agenda also includes a proposal to extend the time period for students to submit course evaluations through the end of final exam week. A question was raised as to the motivation for this proposal; the Secretary of the Faculty indicated that the purpose is to provide a longer period of time for the students to input their evaluations; the Chair stated that this may increase the level of student response. The proposed agenda was approved without dissent.


3.      Marr initiated a discussion on the academic quality of undergraduate education at Georgia Tech. (Copies of the slides used in his presentation can be found at the web address referenced below -- Attachment #3a).  He began by stating that this discussion is, in no way, meant to be an “indictment” of the academic quality of undergraduate education at Georgia Tech; instead, it is a call for an examination of the factors which will help Georgia Tech sustain and enhance academic quality, and identify possible threats to that quality.  Georgia Tech has undergone tremendous changes in the past decade or so, which elevated its prestige and quality; undergraduate education at GT has changed enormously from the days when it was primarily an undergraduate institution -- we will never return to that state; nevertheless, there were certain qualities that are worthy of retention. Institutional dynamics are very interactive; changes in one part of the system may produce un-intended changes in other parts.  The issue of academic quality should be in everyone’s interest; therefore, there should be some means to provide an overview and an evaluation of the challenges faced to sustain and enhance academic quality.  He indicated that the discussion has been stimulated by conversations with many faculty and students over the years, and, more recently, by the Executive Board’s discussions of ways to enhance and enrich the non-academic experience of undergraduates at Georgia Tech.   Hence, it is appropriate to consider the Academic quality issues in a parallel discussion.  Marr proceeded to define the “issues” involved, enumerate the factors affecting “quality” in an educational context, and enumerate the “threats” to quality for undergraduate education at Georgia Tech.  A near-verbatim transcript of Dr. Marr’s presentation entitled:  “Ensuring Academic Quality for Undergraduates at Georgia Tech,” is attached (see Attachment #3b).  He concluded by proposing the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Quality to:  (1) identify the threats to quality and ways of addressing them, (2) determine best practices within and outside the Institute, (3) examine problems with current curricula and ways of addressing them, (4) identify ways to encourage effective instruction, particularly in the core and introductory courses, and (5) suggest priorities for intervention to address quality concerns.  He suggested that the committee membership would include representatives from the Provost’s Office, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee, and the Office of Assessment.


McMath commented that, if the ad hoc committee is to be established, it should have student representation; in addition, since the activities of this committee would most likely overlap with the SACS accreditation effort, it would be a good idea to include Jack Lohmann on the committee since he heads the accreditation effort.  He indicated that, while relatively broad, the suggested charge for the committee is appropriate.  He also pointed out that a substantial body of information on this issue already exists, and that the Office of Assessment recently produced two studies which compiled and analyzed a great deal of student survey data; the committee should take advantage of all these resources, so that they would not have to duplicate that effort.  He indicated that, based on recent discussions with the Provost, he intends to talk to student leaders to let them know that we are looking at this issue, and that the faculty would like to hear the students’ opinions and ideas.  He intends to follow-up by meeting with small groups representing a cross section of faculty to discuss the issues.  If the ad hoc committee were to be established, all the information that comes out of that process will be made available.  A comment was made that quality means much more than simply “student satisfaction.”  Marr commented that addressing this issue may not require a separate committee; however, with the exception of the Provost’s office and the Office of Assessment, it appears that no one has a view of the big picture.


Hughes commented that a question which needs to be addressed ahead of the seven issues listed in the presentation is: “what do we want the academic climate at GT to be?” or “what do we think the academic climate at GT should be?” -- The words “engagement” and “responsibility” come to mind.  We have observed a lack of engagement & responsibility on the part of some students in the classroom, which may not be their fault -- it may be a result of the way classes are taught.  For example, with the expanded use of distance education, class notes are often placed on the web, which caused a significant reduction in on-campus class attendance -- need to understand how people will react to the use of such technologies.  GT students may be “too focused” on exams rather than on learning the subject matter itself. So, we need to answer the question of “what is a community of scholars -- a learning environment?” Another factor which was not included in the list of issues presented is the expansion of “avenues” by which we now deliver undergraduate education -- Dual Degrees, RETP, GTREP, GTL, Study Abroad, On-Line Education, etc.  We have not fully adjusted the ways we implement our programs to account for this expansion; the effects show up in problems such as transfer credits, advising, inflexibility of curricula for transfer students which impact time to graduation (e.g. the 3+2 Program),  etc.  These issues ultimately impact our attractiveness to students. 


Hoey commented that we need to consider what constitutes an “educated person” graduating from GT, and how we can engage students to take responsibility for that goal?  We need to define a broad set of general educational goals and objectives which represent the minimum standards that a GT graduate should be expected to have.  A lot of work has been done on that issue last year by a subcommittee of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  The proposed ad hoc committee may want to consider the means by which our awareness of what constitutes an “educated person” can be heightened.  They may also want to look at ways to demonstrate the extent to which students have achieved those educational goals. 


Swank commented that GT has traditionally had one of the largest undergraduate co-op programs in the country, and that GTRI hires a large number of those co-op students; the “quality” of students has varied over the years.  GTRI and other employers should have insights into the quality of the education received by our students; so, it may be a good idea to include someone from GTRI on the proposed committee.  Marr responded that a great deal of that information has been collected over the years -- these types of survey data are usually not very informative.  Swank indicated that several of the issues listed in the presentation such as “integration of learning” are seen first hand by employers.  Marr indicated that this demonstrates the need for careful analysis, since the employers and the alumni themselves may not recognize/quantify the skills/problems they have/need. 


Agrawal pointed out that, except for semester conversion, the list of issues presented could have been looked at twenty or even fifty years ago, and would have been viewed as relevant.  So, it is important to emphasize that we are not in a “crisis mode” and that we are simply trying to make things better -- Marr concurred.  Agrawal asked if there is a quantitative measure of “quality” for undergraduate education and how we compare vis-à-vis other programs across the country -- Marr responded that assessment of students is directly linked to the quality of the education they receive.  Agrawal pointed out that we may also need to look at inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary team work versus the “compartmentalized” approach we tend to take.


The President commented that the issues presented today are all very important, and that it is a good idea to discuss them periodically -- a group of faculty and students looked at some of these issues about four years ago; it may be useful to look at what they did.  Since that time, semester conversion has resulted in additional issues.  The questions may need to be divided depending on whether we are talking about the first two years (the “core”), or the upper level courses since the issues may be quite different.  It is important to look at what we want to accomplish in the core -- this impacts student retention and graduation rates, since most of the students who leave do so in the first two years.  There are many people on campus who are working on, and have a great deal of experience with, these issues; getting those people involved in the discussions is important.  The President indicated that he would encourage and support such discussions.   He suggested that, if initial discussions were to focus on the core, a larger group of people who are involved in teaching such courses should be brought together -- starting with the list of issues identified here, they can come up with an expanded list, and then proceed with a broader discussion among the various constituencies.  With regard to an earlier comment regarding “disengagement” of some students, the President noted that one of the frequently-heard student complaints is that they do not have enough positive engagement with the faculty -- this may be related to the question of early advising, which should be added to the list of issues to be discussed.  


The Provost indicated that getting a committee to look at these issues may be the right approach, but we need to reach out and pay attention to the people on campus who care about these issues, many of whom are doing very interesting work to address the problems.  Hughes commented that there are advantages to assigning this issue to a committee or a task force, rather than a standing committee such as the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee because the membership can be appropriately selected.  He indicated that it is important that the answers to the questions do not always end up being “more resources.”   He indicated that some of the problems may be related to our “institutional culture” and offered as an example the case of MIT where there are more faculty volunteering for freshman activities/seminars than they could actually use, versus the limited faculty involvement at GT.  It is important to get faculty buy-in, so that these activities can become a part of the job/culture, rather than for tenure/rewards.  The President commented that nearly 40% of the current GT faculty members were hired during the past eight years, which points to the importance of having these discussions, in order to engage the new faculty.


Mark asked whether the intent is to focus only on the core -- Marr responded that this is not true, however, the core courses have the most impact, inasmuch as they affect what happens later, and should logically be addressed first. Mark commented that all the “threats” listed in the presentation apply to the later two years as well -- Marr concurred, and indicated that given the possible resource constraints, one needs to determine where to place the initial effort, and where we are likely to have the greatest effect.  McMath commented that while the core is crucial, a part of the problem involves articulation of the core within the majors -- an isolated discussion of the core may not properly deal with the issues.  A comment was made that the ad hoc committee may want to focus on the core and ask the individual units to address the upper level concerns.


Marr asked if the new Chancellor may be more receptive to relaxing the restriction on the total number of hours which was implemented at the time of semester conversion, since it has a significant impact on “cumulative” education, especially for science and engineering majors.  The President indicated that such a change would be very difficult to achieve, since even if the Chancellor were to lean in that direction, all the other units in the system would need to allow for it -- it may, therefore, be easier to focus on problems with the present semester curricula, which may have been “over engineered,” i.e. allow little latitude within them. He pointed out that we have 150 class days per year, versus 140 class days for most other schools which do not have a constraint on the total number of semester hours; we may want to see what we can creatively do with the extra ten class days -- may be able to work within the constraint on semester hours.   One needs to look at the curricula from all units, which is a major task.  The Provost commented that several units (e.g. ChE) have made significant structural changes in their curricula after semester conversion, and that there may be “best practices” to learn from.    


The Provost indicated that while he does not wish to slow down the faculty’s enthusiasm about this issue, we need to recognize that over the next 24 months a great deal of effort will need to be directed towards accreditation/SACS re-affirmation -- we need to make sure that the activities of the proposed committee do not divert our resources/attention.  The President indicated that there are other ways to maintain this discussion without necessarily appointing a committee or diverting effort; we may, for example, use the same approach we used when we debated the “grading” issue by having a discussion at the Faculty Senate with thoughtful invited speakers; we may follow-up those discussions with a workshop including outside “experts” -- there are many people interested in these issues.  Marr indicated that we can begin in that manner, and that he is not necessarily focused on the establishment of the ad hoc committee. 


Hughes commented that there are three major thrusts to today’s presentation:  (1) What is general education, what are we trying to accomplish in the core, and how that is related to the upper divisions, (2) The “instructional environment,” how do we teach, how do we engage faculty and students?, etc. and (3) The “rule base,” namely, how to address semester conversion issues, curriculum design, transfer credits, etc.  It may be appropriate to have the UG Committee look at the third set of issues, but the UG committee is not the best group to look at the first two; there is still a need for a group at look at the whole picture.  Hughes indicated his willingness to meet with Marr, McMath, and others to formulate the best way(s) to proceed -- Marr concurred and indicated that he will arrange such a meeting prior to the Board’s next meeting.   The Provost suggested that this small group consider the idea of planning a workshop on this issue; the workshop can be held next year with wide participation.  Hoey commented that one of the deliverables for the SACS re-affirmation process is a “quality enhancement plan” -- this topic (Academic Quality of Undergraduate Education at GT) may be a potential focus for that plan, so that it would not divert from the SACS effort.  The President commented that such a focus would fit quite well within the re-affirmation process, and would provide a “holistic” approach to the quality issue.  The Provost cautioned that we have a structure in place to handle the SACS re-affirmation, and that we need to work in “real time” within the structure headed by Jack Lohmann.   Marr concluded the discussions and indicated that he will arrange a meeting with McMath, Hughes, and others interested in the subject to decide on how best to proceed and will report to the Board at the next meeting.


4.      The Chair invited the President to comment on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech Community.  The President commented:


a.       Our main focus at this time is to make sure we stay on track, since we do not have a lot of resources to undertake new initiatives. 


b.      We are working hard to build relations with the new administration; Governor Perdue previously served on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board for three years; he is familiar with and a strong supporter of Georgia Tech and higher education in general -- he previously served as Chair of the Higher Education Committee of the State Senate; so, none of the issues will be new to him.  He is making good appointments to his administration, several of whom are GT alumni -- they have shown themselves to be receptive to listening and being thoughtful on how to move forward.


c.       This will be a tough budget year; at best, there will be no budget cut.  We hope the formula will be fully funded since GT is still “owed” money based on the formula calculation.  We also hope that other areas of the budget will be restored, e.g. the maintenance and renovation budget which was cut by more than half in the last budget cycle -- the entire University system is working on these issues; the new administration is sympathetic to our issues and is willing to listen, but there is no money in this year’s State budget.  Next year’s budget will also be lean; perhaps not quite as bad as this year -- we will have to work through these two tough budget years.


d.      We are also keeping track of what is going on in Washington, since a significant portion of our creative activities are funded by the Federal Government.  The Federal budget for research looks very good; the President has supported and signed a bi-partisan bill to significantly increase the budget for NSF -- 15% per year over the next five years; GT receives a significant amount of funding from NSF.  There are other initiatives which we support, e.g. a major computing facility to be placed at Oak Ridge National Lab, which will be of great benefit to many of our faculty -- we are working to make sure we have the right bandwidth to take advantage of that facility.  Two new members of the Georgia delegation to Washington are Georgia Tech alumni; the committee assignment for the Georgia delegation is very good and will be very helpful to us in the future.


A question was asked regarding the proposal put forth by the University of Georgia to establish an Engineering Program at UGA.  The President replied that we have had discussions on our campus and that we are also having discussions with UGA; it is, of course, the Board of Regents’ decision, and we will take a position on this issue.  UGA recognizes needs in certain areas, just like we did when we established the Ivan Allen College and added the MBA Program.  We are not concerned about a small number of engineering programs in certain locations -- they already exist; UGA has two programs in agricultural engineering and biological engineering; Southern Poly has a program in software engineering, and we have a very successful GTREP program.  Georgia is now a huge State with a big technological base; the State needs to consider what is important to deal with its demographic and population changes.  We would like to see that, if UGA wants to add another engineering program, it would be shaped in such a way that it would not directly compete with GT.  A follow-up question was asked regarding the nature of the UGA proposal; the President indicated that they do not yet have a specific proposal.


5.      The Chair called on Abdel-Khalik, who reported on appointments made to fill openings on Faculty Committees using the procedure previously-established by the Board:


a.       Appointment of Tom Akins [Co-op Div] to fill the unexpired term [02-05] of Barbara Hall [Enroll Serv.] on the General Faculty Assembly as a representative for the Services & Central Administration units.  


b.      Appointment of Michael Chang [EAS] to fill the unexpired term [02-04] of Jackie McGill [GTRI] on the Faculty Benefits Committee.


6.      The Chair called for any other business.  Dr. Narayan Jayaraman, acting in behalf of the Faculty Honors Committee, requested that the Board asks the Statutes Committee to explore the possibility of increasing the size of the Faculty Honors Committee from its current membership of four elected faculty to six or seven.  He indicated that the request was motivated by the recognition that the range of expertise among the current small committee membership may not be sufficiently broad to evaluate candidates for the various awards, who may have widely different areas of expertise.  Nevertheless, a specific distribution of membership from the various units (colleges) was not advocated.  It is recognized that, if approved, such a change would not have an impact on this year’s committee.  However, this is recognized as a long term issue which needs to be addressed.   A motion was made that the Statutes Committee be asked to examine and formulate the necessary Bylaws’ modifications to increase the size of the Faculty Honors Committee in order to address this concern.  The motion passed without dissent. 


7.      The Chair called for any other business; hearing none, he closed the meeting at 4:40 PM.



Respectfully submitted,


Said Abdel-Khalik

Secretary of the Faculty

January 17, 2003


Attachments (to be included with the archival copy of the minutes)


  1.  Minutes of the EB meeting of November 19, 2002.
  2. Draft Agenda for February 4th, 2003 Combined Meeting of the Academic Senate and General Faculty Assembly.
  3. Ensuring Academic Quality for Undergraduates at Georgia Tech. (Presentation by Jack Marr).

a.Slides shown during the presentation.

b.Narrative used during the presentation.