Meeting of the Faculty Council

February 11, 3:00 p.m.

Assembly Room, 2nd Floor, Wilson Library

Chancellor William O. McCoy and Professor Richard N. Andrews will preside.

Agenda

INFO DISC 3:00 Chancellor’s Remarks and Question Time

  • Chancellor McCoy invites questions or comments on any topic.

INFO 3:15 Chair of the Faculty’s Remarks. Prof. Richard N. Andrews

DISC 3:25 Summary of the Report of the Peer Review of the Office of Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research. Prof. Arne Kalleberg, Chair

DISC 3:55 Special Report of the Educational Policy Committee on Grade Inflation. Prof. Boone Turchi, Chair.

DISC 4:35 Annual Report of the Copyright Committee. Prof. Laura N. Gasaway, Chair.

DISC 4:40 Annual Report of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds. Prof. David Godschalk, Chair.

DISC 4:45 Annual Report of the Committee on Faculty Welfare. Prof. Steven Bachenheimer, Chair.

ACT 4:50 CLOSED SESSION

  • Second Report of the Committee on Honorary Degrees and Special Awards. Honorary degrees to be awarded at Commencement 2001. Prof. Barbara Moran, Chair

ACT 5:00 RETURN TO OPEN SESSION

Adjourn

 

Joseph S. Ferrell

Secretary of the Faculty

 

KEY:

ACT = Action

INFO = Information

DISC = Discussion

Minutes

Attendance

Present (53): Angel, Black, Bluestein, Bromberg, Carl, Clegg, Collins, Cordeiro-Stone, Drake, Eckel, Elvers, Fink, Fishman, Graves, Grossberg, Harrison, Huang, Janda, Johnson, Kalleberg, Kaufman, Kjervik, Kupper, LeFebvre, Lubker, Ludlow, Madison, Marshall, McCormick, McKeown, A. Molina, Otey, Panter, Pfaff, Plante, Postema, Raab-Traub, Raasch, Rao, Raper, Rosenfeld, Schaller, Steponaitis, Straughan, Strauss, Taft, Thorp, Topal, Vaughn, Vevea, Walsh, Weiss, White.

Excused absences (26): Adler, Ammerman, Bender, Blackburn, Bolas, Bowen, Boxill, Bynum, De La Cadena, Debreczeny, Gasaway, Hooper, Kallianpur, Kopp, Margolis, Meehan-Black, Melchert, P. Molina, Moran, Moreau, Nord, Savitz, Sekerak, Slatt, Ward, Williams. Unexcused absences (5): Assani, Covach, Graham, Ketch, Regester.

Chancellor’s Remarks

Chancellor William McCoy reported the actions taken this morning by the Board of Governors on the General Administration’s 2000-01 budget request.

2000-01 Supplemental Budget Request.

The Board agreed to resubmit priorities that were not funded in the 1999 session for consideration in the 2000 session. System-wide items of particular interest to UNC-CH include: $14 million for distance education and extension enrollment changes; $36.8 million for additional need-based student aid; $30 million for information technology; $62.9 million for 6% EPA academic salary increases (this includes faculty, librarians, and EPA non-faculty personnel); $7.5 million for 1% salary increases to reward teaching excellence; $3 million in State matching funds for distinguished professorships; and $2 million for professional development/teaching and learning centers. Items specifically directed to UNC-CH include: $60,000 for the Institute of Outdoor Drama; $5.6 million for the genomics/bioinformatics initiative; $500,000 for the International Financial Services Institute; $50,000 for the Institute of Nutrition; $350,000 for the Institute on Aging; $350,000 for the Small Business and Technology Development Center; $788,922 for Local Government Information Technology; and $4.9 million to restore appropriations to UNC Hospitals to the 1996 level.

The Board deferred action on the President’s plan, presented in January, that would address capital needs for two years of construction and renovations with debt serviced by a facilities fee and a matching appropriation. It was felt that additional consultation with members of the General Assembly, representatives of the Community College System, and the business community should be undertaken before a finalized plan is approved for submission to the General Assembly. The Board also decided to defer to the 2001 session requests for funds identified by the study on Faculty Salaries and Total Compensation ($28.5 million for faculty salaries and $11 million for improvements in the Optional Retirement Program).

Tuition increases.

The Board approved a 2.1% across-the-board tuition increase for all students based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index and an additional $300 increase in each of the next two years for all students at UNC-CH and NCSU in response to our requests. Special increases were also approved for the School of Law, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and for the M.B.A. and Masters of Accounting programs of the Kenan-Flagler Business School. We (and other campuses receiving permission for special tuition increases) will be required to submit plans for expending the additional receipts. The plans must provide for increasing financial aid in order to attain a “hold-harmless” effect on qualifying needy students.

Planning.

The group of administrators and faculty who have been meeting to discuss a new process for planning and budgeting has agreed on the budgeting process. Chancellor McCoy said he would be sending out a budget call letter soon. Budget hearings will be conducted by a group that will include the Chancellor, the Provost, the Vice Chancellor for Finance, two representatives from the Chancellor’s Cabinet, two from the Dean’s Council, and three from the University Priorities and Budget Committee selected to provide faculty and student representation. Other members of the Dean’s Council, the Cabinet, and UPBC will be welcome to attend as observers.

A library milestone.

Chancellor McCoy announced that at 5:00 p.m. today, in the Wilson Library, there will be a special program to receive the five millionth volume for the Library. The Library was founded January 15, 1795. It took 165 years to acquire the first million books, and another 40 years to acquire four million more.

Chair of the Faculty’s Remarks

Professor Richard Andrews recognized Joanne Kucharski, newly elected Chair of the Employee Forum. Ms. Kucharski is a 27-year employee and Assistant University Registrar.

Prof. Andrews thanked Chancellor McCoy for his leadership on the issues of tuition and faculty salaries during the past few months. He especially expressed the faculty’s thanks to the Board of Governors for their action today in approving special tuition increases earmarked for faculty salaries over the next two years, rather than just one year as President Broad had initially recommended. He said that the students and faculty had to work together to persuade the General Assembly of the ongoing and growing needs of the University.

Prof. Leon Fink (History) commented on the tuition increases and faculty salaries. He said that President Broad had recommended a special tuition increase only in the setting of temporary emergencies. Real political planning needs to be done by the faculty and the students in order to have a voice in the future State budgets for the University System. He felt that the General Assembly has in recent years focused its attention more on tax cuts than it has on addressing the real needs of the State during a period of bountiful prosperity.

Professor Andrews thanked Nic Heinke, President of the Student Body, for his leadership in the difficult and divisive issues that have arisen from the University’s budgetary needs. He agreed with Professor Fink that the students and faculty should take the leadership in persuading the voters and our legislators to provide the financial support needed to achieve a high quality public higher education system.

Summary of the Report of the Peer Review of the Office of Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research

Professor Arne Kalleberg (Sociology) spoke to the recent peer review of the Office of Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research, which he chaired. The review committee included three senior research officers at other public universities and four faculty members from this institution. The committee’s full report is available on the faculty website. The report is now in the hands of the Faculty Research Committee, chaired by Prof. Michael Stegman (Public Policy Analysis), for recommendations as to how to respond to its recommendations. This is an opportunity for the faculty to discuss the report and to make recommendations for its implementation. The Committee found that the University has substantial external support, but has several problems on the research front. These include relatively limited technology transfer activities, inadequate matching and start-up funds, and very limited sabbatical leave and other professional development opportunities. The major recommendation is to increase the visibility of research as an activity on the campus. One step is to underscore the visibility of the senior research officer by establishing the position of Vice Chancellor for Research, to report directly to the Chancellor. The research centers that are inter-school should report to this office.

Prof. Stegman added that the Research Committee sees itself as the vehicle through which the voice of the faculty can be heard. His E-mail address is stegman@email.unc.edu. He urged the faculty to contact him after reading the Report.

Prof. Andrews asked if there had been any thoughts about how some of the ideas could be communicated to the Capital Campaign Case Statement Committee. Prof. Stegman said this is under discussion. Prof. Kalleberg said the campaign has a number of items that impact on research; in fact, research will permeate the capital campaign because of the interdependence of teaching, research and service.

Prof. Marila Cardeiro-Stone (Pathology and Lab Medicine) expressed hope that the need for sabbatical leaves will be addressed in the capital campaign. She acknowledged that it is difficult to convince private donors of the importance of one-year sabbaticals for the faculty’s research activities. Prof. Kalleberg said that visiting faculty are usually amazed at our lack of sabbaticals.

Special Report of the Educational Policy Committee on Grade Inflation

Professor Boone Turchi (Economics), Chair of the Educational Policy Committee, presented a preliminary Report on Grade Inflation. He distributed a summary of the Report. The full report can be found on the Faculty Governance website. He said that the Report grew out of work that the Educational Policy Committee did on web publication of the Carolina Course Review in 1998 and 1999. The Committee felt that high grade expectations held by undergraduates play an important role in course evaluations; consequently the Committee turned to a study of how grading policies have been applied over the past three decades. Prof. Turchi presented graphical data showing changes in grade point averages (GPA) from fall 1967 to spring 1999. He pointed out a significant rise in GPA in the period 1986-1989. It was during this period that the University first began to use student evaluations in faculty personnel and salary decisions. He then turned to data showing the changes in GPA by department for the period 1987-1999. Sixty-eight departments experienced significant GPA increases during this period. Next, Prof. Turchi reviewed data comparing GPA by student class for the period 1973-1997. One might expect that the GPA of the Senior Class would be significantly higher than the Freshman Class. The data demonstrate, however, little difference by class. Next, he presented data showing the distribution of undergraduate letter grades in spring 1987 and spring 1999. The large majority of grades are A or B. Next, Prof. Turchi presented data on the distribution of letter grades by department grouped by departmental GPAs in the spring semester 1999, arrayed by quartile.

Prof. Turchi called attention to faculty legislation adopted in 1976 that establishes the grading system and describes the meaning of the various grades. He pointed out that these descriptions remain authoritative until changed by the Faculty Council. He suggested that the data the Committee has developed call into question whether the faculty continue to support the existing grading system. Turning to the obvious question of whether there is cause for concern about grade inflation, Prof. Turchi asserted that it short-changes outstanding students. He called attention to the increasing difficulty faced by Phi Beta Kappa in using GPA as its principal selection criterion. Prof. Turchi then listed several possible reasons for grade inflation, none of which the Educational Policy Committee believes to be valid justifications for the phenomenon. The Committee asserts that the faculty are responsible for grade inflation, and that the continuing phenomenon can severely damage the University’s academic integrity. The Committee believes that the faculty needs credible incentives and sanctions in order to assure the integrity of the grading system.

Prof. Vincas Steponaitis (Anthropology) asked if the Committee had considered reforms that work internally, rather than changes that would affect the students externally. Upon graduation, our students’ grades will be compared to those of students graduating from other institutions.

Professor Turchi said the private universities have every incentive to give the highest grades they can in order to justify their very high tuition. We must do a much better job in explaining our grading system to those who make use of that information. With the average GPA being about 3.5, our system communicates basically nothing about a student’s academic accomplishments. A study conducted at Harvard indicates that graduate admissions directors use other criteria such as standardized test scores and faculty recommendations. Professor Turchi said that the all-academic football team was announced recently and only one Carolina student was included. He does not believe that this fairly characterizes our student-athletes; it is primarily reflective of the fact that GPAs at other institutions tend to be even higher.

Prof. Stanley Black (Economics) said he felt that the Report was excellent. Grades are a system of rewards and punishments; they are an incentive system to which students respond. We hope they respond positively by studying harder. The Report suggests that the incentive system that we have established has become biased and now has some false incentives that can lead to an incorrect allocation of student resources. There is the danger that students will select courses or fields of study on the basis of a perceived easier level of grading. If we are in fact operating a biased system of incentives, we are not serving well either our students or the larger society. We should be taking this Report very seriously indeed.

Prof. Larry Kupper (Biostatistics) raised three points. First, he pointed out that grade inflation at the undergraduate level has a major impact on graduate education because grades become less useful as a means of discriminating among applicants for graduate study. Second, he observed that the purpose of examinations is to discriminate among students. Designing a good examination, one that is an accurate discriminating tool, requires much time and effort on the part of the instructor. A part of the problem may be that we are simply not doing a good job of designing and grading our exams. Finally, he wondered to what extent the phenomenon of grade inflation is due to an increase in the level of ability of the students we are admitting. He asked whether there has been a significant increase in SAT scores of entering students.

Director of Admissions Jerome Lucido responded that over the past five to six years we have experienced an annual increase in the average SAT score at Carolina of 10 to 20 points. The average SAT of this year’s freshman class is around 1250, whereas five years ago it was about 1190. From a number of indicators it is clear that the level of ability of our student body has continued to climb over time.

Dr. Cynthia Wolf-Johnson, Assoc. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, pointed out that grade inflation is occurring in the high schools as well.

Prof. Anthony Molina (Prosthodontics) said that junior faculty members in his department are reluctant to give low grades, partly because the burden is on the instructor to remediate a student who is given an F. In graduate programs, a C grade is considered to be as bad as an F.

Prof. Jack Vevea (Psychology) said he had serious questions about the methodology of the Report. There is no valid basis for implying causal relationships from temporal coincidence, yet the Report does suggest a link between the onset of grade inflation and the beginning of the use of student evaluations in faculty personnel decisions. He also has problems with the Report’s explicitly stated assumption that the basis for grading and the definition of excellence is derived from comparison of students with their peers, as opposed to evaluating how well students have mastered the subject matter. Prof. Turchi said this was not what the Report intended to say.

Dr. Edward Neal (Center for Teaching and Learning) suggested that a major influence on the rise in GPA over the time period covered by the Report is the change in the demographic composition of the student body which is now 60% female. We know that women present higher SAT scores, do better at academic work, and tend to major in the areas that exhibit what the report calls grade inflation. A study at the University of Texas showed that the GPA tracked almost exactly the rise in SAT scores, and the researcher concluded that the GPA at Texas actually should be somewhat higher given the increase in SAT scores. Dr. Neal then turned to the grading system, pointing out that we do not have a 5 point grading system. It takes a 2.0 to remain in school. With 4.0 at the top of the scale, a 3.0 GPA should be expected and is in fact the case. Published research documents that grades and grade point averages are symbols—a form of academic shorthand whose meanings are always influenced by a host of variables, including the socio-historical era, the educational institution, the particular academic discipline, as well as the individual instructor’s idiosyncrasies and policies. For example, many faculty in recent years have turned to a grading model which measures whether the student has mastered the content of the course. If so, a high grade is awarded. If all students master the learning, all will be awarded As. To properly determine whether faculty have begun to relax academic standards in a given course, department, or institution, one should review in a thoughtful and careful fashion the specific evaluative procedures being employed.

Prof. Richard Pfaff (History) said that the assignment of grades and the computation of grade point averages are separable but linked. He has become disturbed over the years at how absolutized this has become, particularly with respect to financial aid programs at both the state and national level. This suggests a naïve confidence in the value of grade point averages. Referring to Dr. Neal’s remarks, he characterized our current grading system as “Good, Better, and Best, with the possibility of Failure.” At present, counting from A to F there were 11 or 12 possible grades, depending on whether one counts D-minus. Prof. Pfaff questioned whether this system has become too complex and does not in fact lead to the pitfall of absolutization. He asked whether we would do better with fewer than 12 possible marks, given the reality of the “Good, Better, Best” model.

Prof. William Smith (Mathematics) pointed out that the Report recommends that the GPA should be in the range of 2.6 to 2.7 not only overall but within each individual department and school as well. He thought that expecting this of each department is neither realistic nor desirable. There are many justifications for variation among departments. Among these are the extent to which the department is involved in teaching service courses to freshmen and the number of grades awarded.

Professor Turchi agreed that Prof. Smith’s points are valid, but he does not agree with the proposition that some disciplines are inherently more difficult than others. He then turned to the argument advanced by Dr. Neal that the mastery learning model may legitimately result in every student earning an A. Prof. Turchi conceded the conceptual validity of that model, but he argued that our currently legislated grade policy does not support it. If the faculty no longer support the current policy, it should be changed.

Prof. Philip Bromberg (Medicine) spoke in support of the mastery model, asking if it wouldn’t be simpler to have grades of “Pass, Not-Passed, or Honors,” rather than the present scheme which calls for attempting to differentiate among degrees of acceptable mastery. He felt that it was pointless to attempt to distinguish between a grade of 75 and a grade of 86.

Prof. Turchi said that a faculty member who grades according to the currently prescribed standards must be prepared to explain to students why they have received the grade awarded and what additional degree of mastery is expected for award of a higher grade. One of the ways to avoid that responsibility, he was afraid to say, is to give all As and Bs.

Prof. Holden Thorp (Chemistry) pointed out that the Medical School Admissions Committee seems to have no problem with our highly stratified grades and appears to be able to use them effectively. He said that the Chemistry Department purposefully applies a strict grading standard. The reason is to challenge our students to attain the level already achieved by foreign students. In the hard sciences, students graduating from UNC-CH will be competing in a global arena. He and his colleagues in Chemistry would prefer that the level of mastery expected of students be even higher than what now will achieve an A grade. If we place all of our grades near the top, there is no room to raise the bar over the long term. He hopes that over time he will be able to ask more and more of his students. By the year 2020, he would hope that Carolina graduates would have the degree of subject matter mastery displayed right now by German exchange students. Exchange first-year students from England now can immediately skip the first two years of Chemistry.

Rudy Kleystueber, a Sophomore student and a member of the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor, complimented the Report, but expressed concerns about how it handles the issue of student evaluations. He did not think that students base their evaluations on grades received but rather on whether they have been intellectually challenged by the instructor and feel that they have been evaluated fairly. He thought that the Report’s recommendation calling for budgetary penalties against departments in certain circumstances was undesirable. He thought this would lead to grading according to a bell curve.

Professor Turchi said the Report did not support forcing grades into any particular pre-determined distribution, normal or otherwise. The Report supports the idea of “C” being a satisfactory grade.

Prof. Joseph Plante (Mathematics) responded to Mr. Lucido’s point about rising SAT scores by pointing out that the Mathematics Department uses the SAT2, which is an achievement test. During the 1990s there has been a dip in student performance on that test. He thinks it is hard to argue that students are getting better, at least in terms of the measure used in his department. He agreed with the Report.

Prof. Catherine Marshall (Education) suggested changing the name of the Report, so it would not be so inflammatory. She asked for clear delineation of grades for graduate students and well as undergraduates. In response to Prof. Molina’s remarks, she thought the University should make it easier for students to retake courses without penalizing either the student or the instructor. She would also like to see some means of giving students credit for learning to work collaboratively rather than competitively. We should be encouraging self development within the context of mastering content material.

Professor Turchi urged the faculty to convey comments and reactions to him at his E-mail address: boone_turchi@unc.edu.

Annual Reports of Standing Committees

The Annual Report of the Copyright Committee was received.
The Annual Report of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds was received.
The Annual Report of the Committee on Faculty Welfare was received.

Adjournment.

The business of the day having concluded, the Council adjourned at 4:40 p.m.

Joseph S. Ferrell
Secretary of the Faculty

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