Academic Senate

Faculty to Faculty February 2013

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This Month's Issue
Front Page
Call for Service
Reports from Standing Committees

Academic Affairs
Academic Preparation &
   Education Programs
Faculty Affairs
Fiscal & Governmental

San Jose State University Report on Udacity
Capitol Watch
Report from the Faculty Trustee
Resolution Summaries

Message from the ASCSU Chair

Cheaper and Faster Degrees for All?

Colleagues:  Now, more than ever, is the time for each of us to fulfill our professional responsibilities in shared governance, particularly in terms of promoting academic quality in each of our institutions. The message from our political leaders is quite clear: Public higher education in California needs to do more with less. Although the CSU educates higher percentages of Pell-eligible students and spends less per degree (it sounds different when we say less per student, doesn’t it?) than most other institutions in the nation, we are now told that the CSU needs to educate more students (increase access), more cheaply (even though state investment has been cut dramatically - don’t raise fees), and reduce time to degree.  But don’t sacrifice quality.

Due to our subject matter and pedagogic expertise, collegial governance assigns primary responsibility for the educational functions of the university to us, the faculty (CSU Board of Trustees Statement, see page 41; AAUP Statement). Although faculty are stereotyped as change-averse, foot-dragging Luddites teaching from the same yellowed lecture notes and telling the same jokes year after year, that is not what I see in the CSU. I see many colleagues teaching high-quality courses—face-to-face and online—and lots of innovation.  I spent the last Friday before  spring semester with department colleagues, reviewing our latest department student outcomes assessment data and discussing strategies to improve our pedagogy. Our department chair announced that our online degree program was approved by WASC.  A faculty member who was sick with the flu delivered a presentation to us virtually. As I was leaving in the afternoon, I passed three nursing faculty jointly designing course assignments for the coming semester. These examples illustrate that faculty are innovative and committed to academic quality.  Ongoing investment in faculty—including recruitment of new faculty and professional development of our current faculty—is critical for continued innovation and quality education. 

The Academic Senate CSU recognizes the value of innovation. But rather than wholesale adoption of the latest untested fads, we endorse pilot testing and assessment of curricular innovations to determine if the desired outcomes are achieved without producing unintended negative consequences for students
(AS-3103-13/APEP). A perusal of ASCSU resolutions across the years shows this ongoing commitment to empirical assessment of outcomes associated with system-wide initiatives. The ASCSU encourages innovation within a culture of evidence as we seek greater efficiency in all aspects of our operations. Faculty have the expertise to carry out this important work, and we should continue to take responsibility for it as we experiment with MOOCs (massive open online courses), flipped classrooms, open educational resources, large online courses, etc. 

Related to increasing efficiency and reducing costs, the Board of Trustees approved the 120/180 semester/quarter unit limit on baccalaureate degrees at its January meeting (see AS-2013-02 for details).  The ASCSU (AS-3092-12/AA - Rev) and Faculty Trustee (see her report herein) supported other strategies. The Baccalaureate Unit Limit item began as a proposal on the September Board of Trustees agenda to eliminate the upper division general education requirement.  The ASCSU passed a resolution supporting the continued inclusion of upper division general education in WASC accreditation guidelines (AS-3109-13/AA), and we will testify at the upcoming WASC hearing.