Category Archives: Academic Proposals

Implications of the New Faculty Workload Policy

I am convinced that revising the faculty workload policy is absolutely necessary for FSU to become the kind of university we want to become. Effective, engaging, and innovative teaching is the single most important way that faculty help develop highly qualified graduates who will bring about the “…educational, social, cultural, and economic transformation of southeast North Carolina and beyond.”

Yet, faculty must also have time to devote to service and community engagement, research and creative activities, mentoring of students, and other professional development activities. The new policy establishes time for these non-instructional activities.

With this new policy, tenured and tenure-track faculty will teach six courses per year (18 credits) while full-time non-tenure-track faculty will teach eight courses per year (24 credits.) “Non-standard” instructional activities like supervising internships and directing dissertations will have to be translated into credit-hour equivalents for the purposes of implementing and monitoring teaching load.

The workload policy affirms the priority of teaching by indicating that faculty will spend approximately two-thirds of their time on instruction and instructional related work. At the same time, it reserves approximately one-third of faculty time for service and research/creative activities.

The new workload policy complements our procedures for faculty evaluation. At the beginning of each year faculty have the opportunity to specify their annual goals; these goals provide the basis for the end-of-year evaluation. By offering general guidelines for the percentage of time for teaching, service, and research/creative activities, the workload policy provides a foundation for setting realistic goals.

The new workload policies has significant implications for course reassignments and extra duty assignments for pay. Except for those funded by external grants, both will become very rare – for the following three reasons.

  1. Teaching four courses per semester leaves little time for other activities. Hence, course reassignments and extra duty pay were necessary to support non-instructional activity. By reducing the teaching requirement, faculty now have time for the activities for which they previously received course reassignments and extra-duty pay and which should be considered part of a faculty member’s normal responsibilities.
  2. The UNC Board of Governors’ (BoG) policy requires faculty at Master’s Comprehensive 1 institutions, like FSU, to teach six courses per year. So, previously we could reduce a faculty member’s teaching load without violating the BoG policy. Such is no longer the case.
  3. Finally, we cannot ignore the costs associated with the new policy. My rough estimate is that moving from a standard load of 4-4 to 3-3 for tenured and tenure-track faculty will cost about $600,000 a year. Additional course reassignments and extra-duty pay increase the costs of implementation.

For these reasons, I will be very skeptical about requests for any course reassignments or extra-duty contracts. (Except for those funded by external grants. Bring in those grant dollars if you want course releases or extra-duty pay!)

Next year will bring many challenges and unintended consequences of the new policy. I am confident that we can work together to address these issues so that we can realize the potential benefits of the new policy both for faculty members and FSU.

Proposals Regarding Commencement

I enjoy our commencement ceremonies!  It’s one of the few occasions when everyone is joyous and happy!

The image of graduates walking across the stage receiving degrees is the single best reflection of all our collective efforts.  It is a vivid reminder of why we come to work each day.

Yet, I don’t always enjoy the days leading up to and days immediately following commencement.

As a faculty member, I have always found it difficult to administer two final exams – one for graduating seniors and one for other students.

I certainly do not enjoy the panic of students and often their families about missing final grades.

All too often, I have heard the complaints of disappointed students and their families – who have often invested significantly in travel and lodging to be here – when they have been informed just hours before commencement that they cannot participate.

Or, I have had to explain to transfer students with 4.0 GPAS that they are not eligible for the highest honor, Summa Cum Laude, because they have only earned 70 hours at FSU.

Two proposals pertaining to commencement currently under review by the Faculty Senate will help resolve some of the problems we regularly face at commencement.  They will also bring our written statements in line with practices that have emerged in the past several years.

The first proposal establishes guidelines for participation in commencement.  This proposal states that students who are enrolled in all outstanding degree requirements in a semester and have no class withdrawals that semester will be permitted to participate in commencement. This provision also permits students who are able to complete degree requirements in one or more summer terms to participate in spring commencement.

This proposal states in writing what we have been informally practicing since spring 2012 when we started encouraging students to complete outstanding degree requirements in the summer rather than waiting until the fall semester.  Participating in May commencement has proven to be a strong incentive for students to complete degrees in summer.  Our catalog statement about commencement has not been updated to reflect the current practice.  This proposal does so.

This proposal “rewards” the students who make it to final semester by permitting them to participate in commencement. It avoids the situation described above of last minute notification of non-participation. This means that some students who do not successfully complete all requirements in the final semester will be permitted to participate in the ceremony.

But, the real prize – having the degree conferred – will not occur until all degree requirements are met.

This proposal has a second beneficial consequence for faculty.  It eliminates the need for early administration of final exams for graduating seniors.  It permits us to clear students for graduation after commencement when all final grades have been submitted.

The second proposal does two things:  1) it revises the FSU hours required for graduating Summa Cum Laude (the highest distinction) and 2) it discontinues recognition of Valedictorian and Salutatorian.

To make sense of this proposal, it is essential to understand why virtually all higher education institutions require a minimum number of hours for graduating with honors.  Students who earn degrees at the same institution where they enrolled initially must earn grades of A and B over their entire academic career – at least 120 hours — to graduate with honors.

The situation is different for transfer students.  When students transfer from one institution to another, only their credits – but not their grades – transfer to the new institution.  This means that their final GPAs may be based on as few as 30 credits – the minimum permitted for earning a degree at an institution.  Earning a high GPA for one or two years is not as challenging as earning them for 120 credits.

Requiring a minimum number of hours for graduation with honors is an attempt to balance the disparate challenges of graduating with a high GPA.

Currently, at FSU we require at least 60 institutional hours for graduating Cum Laude and Magna Cum Laude and at least 90 FSU hours for graduating Summa Cum Laude. These hour requirements are coupled with required minimum GPAs of 3.2 (Cum), 3.5 (Magna), and 3.8 (Summa).

Transfer students have regularly called on us to reduce or eliminate the required FSU hours since it has prevented some of them to graduate with honors.  It is easy to understand the disappointment of students who complete degrees with very strong GPAs, but do not qualify for honors because they have earned fewer than 60 hours at FSU.

In light of these concerns, the Academic Affairs leadership reviewed all other UNC institutions’ policies regarding graduation with distinction.  (This information is summarized in the attached proposal.) The minimum hours required range from 30 to 70, but the most common are 45, 48, and 60.  Institutions that have a minimum of 45 credits tend to require higher GPAs.  We concluded that a minimum of 60 credits is reasonable especially with our current GPA ranges.

We found, however, that we are the only institution that requires 90 hours for graduating Summa Cum Laude.  The proposal to reduce the required hours from 90 to 60 for Summa Cum Laude brings our criteria more in line with other UNC institution.  Though it does not lower threshold for earning honors generally, it will permit more transfers students to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

A second component of the proposal discontinues the recognitions of Valedictorian and Salutatorian.  FSU is currently one of only two UNC institutions that name these honors at commencement and the other institution reports that efforts are underway to discontinue them.

Discontinuing these distinctions will eliminate the rush to submit final grades early enough to calculate the two highest GPAs.  The feedback from other UNC institutions suggests that this is a main reason why they do not recognize these distinctions.

Taken together, these proposals achieve the following important results:

  1. Clarifies who can participate in commencement.
  2. Eliminates the need for early final exams for graduating seniors and reduces the panic over missing or late final grades for graduating seniors.
  3. Permits our top performing transfer students to graduate with the highest honors.
  4. Eliminates the rush to clear students in the few days before commencement – a practice that can lead to serious errors.
  5. Establishes consistency between our written statements and practice.
  6. Brings our practices in greater consistency with other UNC institutions.

Please review these proposals for further details.  Please feel free to contact me by email if you have questions.



Proposed Reorganization (disapproved by Faculty Senate)

Update:  This proposal was not approved by Faculty Senate. 

I have submitted a proposal to the Faculty Senate for reorganizing Academic Affairs. The proposal is based on feedback from faculty and deans. The proposal must be approved by the Faculty Senate so please share your concerns and questions with your department’s senators.

The proposed reorganization has several major components:

  • Define “college” and “school” to distinguish their meanings. A college includes multiple degree programs and multiple departments. This change will entail renaming our current schools to colleges so that we will have a College of Education and College of Business.
  • A school, according to the new definition, includes a single discipline that focuses on preparation of professionals. Based on this definitions Establish a School of Nursing and a School of Social Work consistent with the new definitions.
  • Establish a College of Science and Technology (CST) to support an increase in the number of graduates in STEM disciplines.
  • Establish an Office of Adult Learning and Professional Studies (OALPS) that will serve as a one-stop portal of entry for all adult learners seeking to complete a degree.

The proposed reorganization is driven by the need to increase enrollment and degree completion over the next decade by highlighting those areas in which we have potential for significant growth. Remember that as an Institutional Partner for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we have committed to increase our number of graduates by one-third over the next decade.

The Nursing Program is now producing more graduates (BSN) than any other degree program at FSU and the number of Master of Social Work (MSW) graduates is greater than all of the other graduate programs combined. Part of this success is due to the MSW at Fort Sam Houston, the only such program on a military base in the country! We can expect continued growth in these two disciplines over the next decades because of the demand for graduates with these degrees in the region. Establishing schools in these disciplines helps to highlight their importance to FSU and should help us with student recruitment and grant writing.

Thanks to the grant-writing success of our faculty in STEM disciplines, we have developed instrumentation and support programs that significantly enhance our capacity for teaching and research in STEM disciplines at FSU. In view of the state and national need for graduates in these disciplines, it is an important potential area of growth for FSU over the next decade.   Establishing the College of Science and Technology means that we will have an academic unit whose singular focus is on increasing degree productivity in the STEM disciplines.

Another area of potential growth is with adult learners, those students 24 years or older. We have already made great progress in this area with nearly half of our current enrollment comprised of adult learners. The ACE Alternative Credit Project, the professional studies program, expansion of online programs, establishment of professional advisors, our community college articulation agreements, and other factors have the potential for increasing enrollment of adult learners. The proposed Office of Adult Learning and Professional Studies will facilitate enrollment of these student by providing information and assistance to all prospective students seeking to complete a degree.

I look forward to receiving comments and suggestions from faculty as the Senate reviews this proposal. If approved by the Senate, the proposal will also have to be approved by the Chancellor, Board of Trustees, and Board of Governors.