GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

CALLED MEETING OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

Followed immediately by a regular meeting of

GENERAL FACULTY ASSEMBLY

and of the

ACADEMIC SENATE

 

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

3:00 PM, Student Center Theater

 

MINUTES

 

 

1.      Robert McMath, Vice Provost, apologized for the delayed arrival of the President and opened the meeting at 3:05 PM. He announced that the meeting was first convened as a “Called” meeting of the General Faculty for the purposes of dealing with proposed changes to the Statutes.

2.      Sandra Corse, Chair of the Statutes Committee, introduced the proposed changes. The By-Law governing composition of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee [2.8.1.7.(j)(1)] would be changed by revising the formula giving representation by College, and addition of the Dean of Students as a non-voting members. The By-Law governing composition of the Graduate Committee [2.8.1.7.(k)(1)] would be changed by revising the formula governing representation by College. The Statute giving the UCC responsibility for periodic review of programs [2.4.6.2.(b)(8)] would be altered to place the review cycle on intervals “not to exceed six years”. A new Statute would give the GC responsibility for review of programs on a six-year cycle. [For copies of detailed language see attachment 2]. The changes to review cycles are designed to conform to the Board of Regents policy on such matters.

At the invitation of Corse, the Secretary explained that the UCC membership would increase from 11 to 17 members; under the proposed revision Engineering would have 6 members (currently 5), Sciences would have 3 members (currently 2) and the other Colleges would have two members each (currently one). No change would occur to the GC composition. The changes will remove from the Statutes an archaic representation formula that is no longer properly defined; the actual changes to composition are at the recommendations of the two Committees.

Corse moved approval for a first reading. This was agreed without dissent.

President Clough announced that the Second Reading of the proposed change would occur at a Called Meeting of the General Faculty on April 23rd (to be held in connection with a meeting of the Senate which is already organized).

At the invitation of the President, the Secretary gave proposed election arrangements for the UCC in Spring 2002. Elections would be held for the four seats coming vacant through normal rotation plus the six new seats. Office terms for these elections would be arranged as one, two or three years so that the whole UCC composition would re-elect on a three-year cycle. Persons elected this time for one-year periods would not have this counted as a normal service period towards the maximum permitted. In the event that the proposed changes are not approved at their second reading then only the election winners for the four existing seats would take office.

 

3.  The President commented on various matters impacting Tech:

(a) Budgets will be tight, cuts will occur. Tech will work hard to keep things in place. The supplemental budget contains funding for the Advanced Computing Building. It also contains funding for fitting-out the Yamacraw Design Center (the building itself is leased).

(b) The Governor’s budget for continuing funding includes an average salary raise of 3.5%, funding for the Georgia Research Alliance and continuing funding for Yamacraw. We must give the Governor credit for supporting the system, our situation is better than in most States. A significant increase in medical costs will be covered by the State. The University system enrollment by hours still lags the numbers in 1997, prior to Semester conversion. The system has so far been insulated against any consequent loss of funding. The enrollment at Tech has in fact increased; the problem relates to the University system as a whole.

(c) We can now see the outlines of the Bush R&D agenda. The fiscal 2003 budgets recommend a further increase to the NIH budget, the last increment in a five-year plan. There is a 7% increase proposed for NSF.

The President was asked to comment on hires into the Yamacraw project; is there progress on the conversion of the hires under special initiative funds to regular funding lines. Clough stated that this is being evaluated, the required lines are being placed into the funding formula as it develops, but we foresee a gap at the end of the 5-year special initiative.

 

4.  The President called for approval of the minutes of the meetings of the GFA+ AS (jointly) on 9/18/2001; the GF on 10/9/2001; the AS on 12/04/01. These were approved without dissent. Clough announced that further items in this meeting were business of the Academic Senate.

 

5.  Clough called on McMath to initiate a discussion of “Learning and Grading at Georgia Tech: Is There a Connection”? McMath stated that there are two debates nationally. First, how to retain students and improve the undergraduate experience. Second, the matter of grade inflation. There is a recent report by H. Rosovsky and M. Hartley called “Evaluating the Academy; are we Doing the Right Thing”. In this it is concluded that grade inflation is occurring; at Harvard, in 1967, some 28% of students gained a grade of C+ or below; by 1992 that figure has shrunk to 9%. At Tech, in 1985, the Freshman SAT was 1245, the HS GPA 3.5 and the Freshman GPA after a year at Tech was 2.5 (with the average GPA for all undergraduates at Tech being 2.6). By 2001, the Freshman SAT was 1331, the HSGPA 3.7 and the freshman GPA after a year at Tech had increased to 2.9 (with the average GPA for all undergraduates at Tech being 3.0). 

McMath noted that the Faculty’s statement of what grades mean is to be found on page 368 of the catalog. Surveys of incoming Tech students indicate that 90% expect to attain a 3.0 or better in their first year; in practice only 49% attain this standard. The percentage of students graduating with honors has increase sharply in the 1990s. We should ask whether there is a connection between these higher grades and learning.

Joe Hughes suggested that we examine the question of why we grade at all. The final grade is a measure of accomplishment. But we also grade along the way because this is seen as useful and helping with the learning experience. Hughes had two “peeves”. First the grading of extended student reports by giving a single number, say 82/100. What does this mean to the student? The meaning of a mark of 100/100 or a mark of 5/100 is clear; but a mark of 82/100 provides very little feedback to the student. The second peeve relates to major design classes where students work on group projects. Often the whole group receives the same grade of A while included in the group are students who never made higher than a C average in their time at Tech; this suggests that professors are unwilling to develop separate assessments. Concerns like these two result in an attack on the credibility of grades. As a result, organizations such as the IEEE now certify professionals because industry will not accept college grades and require an independent measure.

Yorai Wardi commented that at Tech we are on the lower side of grades when compared to our peers; this may hurt our students. He would prefer to see us “in the middle” of GPA statistics. Freshmen are “thrown in” to the academic program and have little time to absorb the shock. We might consider changing the strategy for dealing with Freshmen; perhaps, for a limited number of courses, permit a re-examination and re-grade after a course is finished. He worried that there are external pressures on instructors to implement a particular grade distribution.

Wardi was asked whether he saw pressures on Faculty to raise or to lower grade distributions; he responded that both seemed to occur.

Marr discussed reasons for the higher grades. There is now much use of passive items such as multiple-choice questions. Faculty are busy with other matters and do not give much attention to evaluating performance. Students will learn what we ask them to learn; possibly we may not be demanding enough in the early years. These various factors need to be evaluated.

It was suggested that there might be a subtle pressure on faculty to give higher grades so that their student evaluations would improve. Clough said that surveys at the University of Va., had shown that large classes received lower grades and that grades were not related to student evaluation of faculty. A faculty member commented that we should evaluate differences in grade distributions between classes to determine reasons; for example, do part-time faculty give higher grades than full-time faculty in order to boost chances of being re-hired? Some universities include on transcripts both student grades and also the average grade of a class.

Schuster said that a study in the Sciences suggested that there have been faculty definitional changes. Traditionally a grade of A was seen as a performance better than 90% of the rest of the class. We are now seeing a move towards an A representing mastery of the material.

There was some discussion of how research participation for undergraduates leads to improved overall performance and that to be effective this must start early. Hughes said that it takes effort to do this well and it is difficult to see how this can be provided for all 9000 undergraduate students. A former student commented that if we resist grade inflation then we place our graduates at a disadvantage when they apply for professional training or for employment.

Clough commented that there are some limits on what we can do due to our poor student-to-faculty ratio. He thanked the participants for this valuable discussion.

 

6.   McMath introduced the motion that “ The Academic Senate Recommends that the President request the Board of Regents to award the Department of Applied Physiology (formerly HPS) the status of a degree-awarding School and henceforth it be know as the School of Applied Physiology”. There was some discussion as to whether this formality was necessary and whether a unit known as a “Department” could award degrees. A vote was called and the motion passed with one dissent.

 

7.   Joe Hughes introduced the report “General Education Requirements” (See attachment 3). The University System mandates that each Institution define a general education program and how this program is to be assessed. This report is the first step. The report contains a mission statement and a discussion of Objectives and Outcomes. Hughes reviewed the Objectives in detail. The next step will be to determine how the Objectives are being met and to assess the Outcomes. Hughes encouraged faculty to read the report and comment. The activity was not intended to be a constraint on courses, faculty effort is to be minimized; any results will be presented to the Faculty for review.

Gatland asked whether the Outcomes would adapt to the assessment process. Hughes stated that he did not expect changes until the first round of assessment was completed. Then perhaps there would be revisions. Gatland stated that many of the Objectives cut across many units; is there a way of getting the constituencies together? Hughes stated that this would be done and there was no intent to match Objectives to specific courses.

 

8.   Clough called on Committee Chairs to present action items and minutes for approval.

(a) Hughes discussed changes to the TFE program (detailed in the UCC minutes of 11/28/01) These were approved without dissent.

Hughes discussed action items from minutes of 8/20/01, 10/29/01. These were approved without dissent.

Hughes moved that arrangements for 7-week summer terms, as discussed in the minutes of 01/09/02, be approved. Sayle expressed concern with the actual implementation of such terms. Accelerated terms were normally seen as a “total immersion” and operated with a daily attendance. In some cases, however, faculty were defining these courses to be two days per week with long meeting hours. This gives rise to problems in scheduling other courses and is not consistent with the normal design of accelerated terms. Which courses will be offered on an accelerated basis? Hughes responded that the matter of scheduling is not a responsibility of the committee and the Registrar is left to define that schedule. The decision on what courses to offer in this manner will be up to individual units. The motion was approved with one dissent.

Hughes further moved that all other minutes from this committee, listed in the agenda for the meeting, be approved. This was agreed without dissent.

(b) Peterson introduced minutes of the Graduate Committee. There were 31 new courses, Three new MS degrees and a certificate. He moved approval of all minutes listed in the agenda. This was agreed without dissent.

(c) Benkeser requested formal approval of minutes of the Student Regulations Committee as listed in the agenda. He reminded faculty that the action items from those minutes had already been approved at the December 4th meeting of the Senate. This was agreed without dissent.

(d) Abowd briefly introduced minutes of the Student Computer Ownership Committee. He stated that faculty input towards changes in the hardware and software packages had been sought through a solicitation sent out by the Secretary. These minutes were approved without dissent.

 

9.   The President asked for any other business. There being none he closed the meeting at 5:00 PM.

 

-----------------------------------

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Edward W. Thomas

Secretary of the Faculty

February 6, 2002

 

Attachments to the archival copy of the minutes (and links to web sites where these may be found):

 

1. Agenda. (http://www.facultysenate.gatech.edu/gfaasagen5feb2.htm)

2. Proposed Statutes Changes (http://www.facultysenate.gatech.edu/EB_11=27_statutes.html)

3. Report “General Education Requirements at Ga. Tech”. (http://www.facultysenate.gatech.edu/UGCmte_Final Report.html)