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Senate Executive Committee Report, December 8, 2008

There are a couple of items on the agenda today that I’d like to provide some background for.

First, Global Campus. At our November 3 Senate meeting an Executive Committee resolution on the Global Campus proposal to seek independent accreditation was not approved. This has left a vacuum of sorts about where the Urbana Senate does stand on the accreditation issue and on the Global Campus generally.

When President White announced that he was pulling the accreditation proposal from the November 13 Board of Trustees agenda, the Executive Committee assumed that there would be time to revisit the issue with President White, get more information about the issues that rightly concerned this Senate, and bring back a new resolution for Senate consideration.

As everyone knows, on November 13 the Trustees made the decision to go ahead with the accreditation proposal after all. President White has said, and I take him at his word, that this was not at his initiative and that he was as surprised by this outcome as anyone.

However it happened, the fact is now that Global Campus is moving forward with its plans to seek accreditation, and is “borrowing” UI Chicago’s accreditation in the interim. These developments raise some important questions for us as a campus in relation to our future involvement with Global Campus, which remains an important, high profile initiative of the University of Illinois as a whole; and with our wider agenda of providing quality, affordable online programs to qualified students – which may or may not depend on the Global Campus.

Given these changed circumstances, the Executive Committee met with President White last Monday for a long and frank discussion about the accreditation decision, how it was made, and what it might mean for the future involvement of this campus in the Global Campus. We shared with him our disappointment that the issues raised by the Executive Committee, and by this Senate, concerning the accreditation proposal were not adequately represented at the Trustees meeting. If we had known that the issue was going to come up and be voted on after all, we would have been better prepared to do that.

We worked out with the President a way of proceeding. The Executive Committee is drafting a new statement that compiles and explains our concerns about the accreditation decision and how it might be implemented. Given that the decision has been made, now, how can we move forward in the manner that gives the Global Campus its best chance of success? Our aim is to be constructive and not just critical.

At the same time, we think it is important to remind the Trustees that this campus already has a robust and growing effort in online education, and that whatever happens with the Global Campus we have our own campus priorities and e-learning agenda to advance.

We will meet with the President and two of the Trustees some time in January to discuss the draft, get some responses, and then revise the statement further. Our intent is to have a final version ready for the Senate’s review by the first meeting of Spring semester. If approved, the statement would then go forward to the President and the Trustees as our considered position on the Global Campus and its future.

I’m bringing you up to date because the Senate’s vote rejecting the Executive Committee’s proposal has left some ambiguity about what our campus position is. The reasons for the Senate’s unwillingness to endorse the accreditation proposal, especially in questioning whether there were adequate protections in place to ensure academic quality and accountability, were legitimate in my view, and remain so. But now we need to speak more affirmatively. And that’s what we are trying to do.

We have an item on the agenda today, EP 09.32, which predates the accreditation decision and all that has transpired since then. Simply stated, it draws a sharp, and necessary, distinction between degrees that claim the label of the Urbana campus and degrees that claim the label of the Global Campus. Without prejudicing the decision on that proposal one way or the other, I would suggest that we defer that item to our next Senate meeting and take it up again in conjunction with the considered position statement I just described. I think the Educational Policy committee’s proposal is fine, but our consideration of it will be better informed if we decide the two items in relation to each other. And there is no rush to pass it immediately.

I also want to add the Executive Committee’s sense that we have spent an awful lot of time on the Global Campus – important as it is – at a time when the campus is facing huge budgetary challenges, as well as a number of other important related issues such as deferred maintenance and climbing energy costs. It is our job to keep those other matters before the Senate as well. Provost Linda Katehi and some of her staff will be with us at the February meeting to give us an update on the campus budget situation and to answer questions about how we will be responding to it, as well as how the appropriate Senate bodies will be involved in these decisions.

Another of these important issues came up last week, which I hope will be discussed today. The University Senates Conference made a series of recommendations to the President about revising the General Rules on intellectual property. The USC proposal has come back to the campuses for comment, and we forwarded a copy of those proposed changes to all of you last week, after the agenda for today’s meeting had been completed.

I think this is an extremely important issue, which needs the attention of this Senate. So I am requesting that when we get to New Business, we entertain a motion to add consideration of the General Rules changes. Dick Schacht, who was central in drafting those revisions, is with us to give a brief overview of the changes and why USC believed they were necessary.

On a related topic, we have a Committee of the Whole discussion scheduled at the end of this session, concerning the campus agreement with Proquest to publish student dissertations. A concern has been raised that publication with Proquest could jeopardize the rights of doctoral students to publish parts of their dissertations. We’ve invited Dick Wheeler, Dean of the Graduate College, and William Welburn, Associate Dean, to discuss these concerns with the Senate. We believe that it is very important for doctoral students, and their advisors, to be apprised of these issues.

Finally, immediately following this Senate meeting there will be the inaugural meeting of the Senate Women's Caucus in the Levis Library on the first floor. Refreshments will be provided, and all Senate women – faculty, students, and APs – are welcome.

Senate men are on their own.

Nicholas Burbules
SEC Chair