FACULTY SENATE MEETING
December 4, 2007
Regular Meeting No. 8 of the 54th Session
Present: Chair Martin, Secretary Kellner, Parliamentarian Corbin; Provost Nielsen; Ambaras, Akroyd, Anson, Bernhard, Dawes, Domingue, Evans, Fauntleroy, Fleisher, Genzer, Hanley-Bowdoin, Havner, Heitmann, Hudson, Levy, Lindbo, Moore, Murty, Ozturk, Raymond, Ristaino, Williams
Excused: Senators Lindsay, Overton, Robarge, Scotford, Shamey
Absent: Senator Hergeth, Muddiman, Poling, Schweitzer, Ting, Walker, Wessels
Visitors: Samara Fleming Burnette, Coordinator of Retention Studies; Marcia Gumpertz, Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff Diversity; Katie Perry, Senior Vice Provost; Thomas Conway, Dean, DUAP; Lee Fowler, Athletic Director; Amber Joyner, SG-Senate Academics Committee; Suzanne Weiner, Library Administration; PJ Teal, Secretary of the University
1. Call to Order
Chair James D. Martin called the eighth meeting of the fifty-fourth session of the North Carolina State University Faculty Senate to order at 3:00 p.m.
2. Welcome and Announcements
Chair Martin welcomed Senators and Guests.
The Executive Committee will meet in the Faculty Senate Conference Room Thursday, December 6 at 3 p.m.
The committees are not scheduled to meet next week.
Chair Martin urged faculty to attend the graduation exercise December 19.
The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled Tuesday, January 15, 2008.
3. Approval of the Minutes, Meeting No. 7, November 20, 2007
The motion passed to approve the minutes.
4. Remarks from the Chair
Today the topic at hand is largely going to be thinking about retention and graduation rates. Retention and graduation rates are obviously something that we as educators need to care about. The education of our students is obviously central to what we are about in an institution like this. In an academic setting like ours, retention is necessary because it’s hard to educate students if they are not here and we would like to hope that education would culminate in graduation. The rate in which our students are retained and graduate is obviously always of importance to us, but in particular these two topics have come into significant scrutiny in the last couple of years -- in part, because of the concerns over education. If students don’t have to take as many years getting that education, then the cost to them or their families is not as large.
In part too, we are dealing with these issues because the total number of students going to college is increasing and that has an impact on issues like retention and graduation rates. Related to all of this is UNC General Administration policy 401.5, calling for us to take a new look and give some serious attention to these issues. In a response to the retention and graduation rate policy, several others and I participated in the UNC wide conference titled “Student Success: A Campus-wide commitment.” This took place several weeks ago. Building on discussions from that conference and also recognizing the importance of faculty input on the matters pertaining to student retention and graduation, we have invited Thomas Conway here today to lead the discussion that we are going to be having in today’s meeting.
At that meeting several of us noticed one of the absences was the presence of faculty. It was heavily administration and registrar type people -- nuts and bolts. Clearly, we need to make sure that faculty are right at the heart of discussions when we are dealing with retention and graduation.
As we all know in the Senate, when we address critical issues such as these, we do need to be prepared to ask hard questions. We need to be able to sort what is political and what is pedagogical. We need to sort through what needs to be done globally and what should target local issues and so, here are just a few questions to stimulate some thinking.
What should our graduation rate be?
Our current graduation rate is about seventy percent. The stated goal for NC State is by 2010 we would like to have that up to seventy-six percent, allegedly a 6% increase. Currently Chapel Hill’s six-year graduation rate is 83.8%. They are tops in the UNC system. The UNC system as a whole has a six-year graduation rate of 59.3%, so we are much closer to the high end than we are to the average. The next closest university to us in the UNC system is UNC-W at 65.1%. By comparison I can’t help but also note, since I care a lot about faculty retention issues, that our seven-year retention rate for faculty hired as Assistant Professors is 63%. It has annually varied from 48 to 70 percent over the last decade. Many of the same issues that go into retention of students go into retention of faculty, so what should the graduation rate be? This is a question that is worthy of attention. Why seventy-six percent? Where did that number come from, is 70% good? I don’t have the answer. Collectively we may have a better idea, but these are all issues we need to consider.
A second set of questions that I would raise is: Whom should we target when we look at trying to increase that graduation rate? The news, whether it’s good or bad, depends on perspective -- our graduation rate has been slowly rising. I’m told, however, that the male graduation rate has been largely unchanged in a decade. That means the increase in the graduation rate that we are seeing is largely because of the female graduation rates, so this highlights the issue that when we look at things like graduation retention rates, we need to be careful not just to look at global statistics, but we also need to dig through those global statistics and look at some local issues, so consider a couple of statistics. The statistics that I give here are very simplistic interpretations of some numbers that I extracted from University Planning and Analysis enrollment data for this year. To increase our six-year graduation rate from 70% to 76% we are going to need to graduate an additional 288 students per year. That would be assuming a constant enrollment based on this year’s freshmen class, which currently are 4,791 students. For simplicity I am going to assume a 70% graduation rate for all colleges. That is not what happens, but for simplicity of figuring let’s use those parameters. Given that our colleges are very different in size, it turns out that if we simply would get two-thirds of all the 30% of all the engineering students who aren’t graduating to graduate (which would boost their graduation rate to 90%), that would take care of the entire graduation rate problem for the whole university. So just get on the engineers and we can solve the problem. That is simply because they are the largest college. By contrast we would have to achieve a 100% graduation rate in both the colleges of Education and the Natural Resources to have the same effect.
The point is if we just want to target a percentage increase in our graduation rate then maybe we need to look at it and say, where can we have the biggest bang for our buck to get our rate up to seventy six percent, but maybe we need to ask that harder question; Do we need to focus in areas that are going to maybe take more work, aren’t going to get the same bang for their buck if you will, but maybe you are going to have a real pedagogical impact?
Well, another set of statistics to look at for perspective is that if only one quarter of the white students who currently do not graduate in six years graduated in six years we meet our goal. We now have seventy-six percent graduation rate. But if we had 100% graduation rate of all the African-Americans, all the Native Americans, and all the Hispanic students, we would only meet 60% of our goal, a little bit of a sobering statistic. So where do we invest our resources? How do we prioritize what we do? Are we going to prioritize to meet a global statistic and get a seventy-six percent graduation rate or might we have the courage to tackle some of the more systemic areas, recognizing that there is a lot of need in those areas, but it may not give us the goal of our overall target. I’m not saying that it should be an either/or situation because I don’t believe it needs to be an either/or, but we need to make some hard choices in terms of distribution of resources and look at some of those areas where there is critical targeted need whether or not it gets us to our global statistic.
Well, that is where the real tough questions come, resources. When we know of things that work, things like quality advising, small class size, and early exposure to the practitioners of what majors actually do. As an adviser, I find that when my students take off is when they finally get a grasp of “yeah that’s what a chemist actually does, now I get excited and end up doing well.” The earlier we can get that kind of understanding of what practitioners of a major do, the better our retention, the more successful our graduation rates or what other things work -- like the quality of the faculty student interaction; making sure we have scholarship across our discipline. All of these are things that we know will impact retention and will impact graduation rates. The problem is they take time and resources. I think the real hard question is, are we willing to prioritize time and resources to do even the things that we know need to be done. That is a question -- yeah, we can pick on the Provost about it because he writes the big checks, but we need to pick on ourselves as well, because time is a resource that each of us has. How will we implement? How will we target? How will we prioritize?
Well, today, as we discuss these issues of retention and graduation rates, I hope we will become more informed with respect to the issues. I hope we will have the courage to ask hard questions but most importantly, as scholars, I hope we will consider creative solutions, some, being probably simplification and efficiency -- kinds of things that can be done and have an immediate impact. But some of the solutions we need to consider are going to require a lot of work to affect the long term and even systemic change we needed. So hopefully we can at least brainstorm and then work toward implementation of some solutions.
5. Remarks from the Provost
Provost Nielsen stated that he was in Kingston last Thursday to speak at a Rotary Club and was asked a couple of questions after the presentation. The first question was about distance education online learning and how interested NC State was in using online learning and distance education as part of its education portfolio. He was pleased to hear that question come from the Rotary Club.
Provost Nielsen stated that the second question was about how interested we were and how important we thought it was to link with Community Colleges and other schools in the UNC system and the early college programs in high schools in order to make the articulation for our students sort of seamless as they roll through their educational experience. Again I was surprised and pleased that these two questions demonstrated the depth of the thinking that folks out there were doing about the opportunities and the necessity for higher education and you know the new ways that we need to be thinking about providing education for our students. This course is in the context of my mentioning that we will have to go bigger somewhere around 40,000 students in the next ten years, and the consequences of that to fit the university system and to the university system in the state. I think that people out there are thinking about education in this way. It was very encouraging to me that those ideas are on their minds because truly those ideas are something that I have to stay up late thinking about or fail to fall asleep thinking about. It is how we are going to take care of these 40,000 students that are coming our way. Can we take advantage of DE? Can we take more advantage of the community college system? What do we need to attractively create a college experience?
It was interesting afterwards the number of people who came up to lobby for their child to get into college. One person asked, “do we have the potential to lose the essence of the college education experience if students aren’t coming to campus and fully participating in all of that.” Again, this shows the depth of the understanding of the issues related to the developmental aspects of being part of a university experience. I thought it was really interesting.
I wanted to show you something that I was particularly pleased about. Last week at the Council of Deans meeting we spoke with the study abroad folks. I took the total number of undergraduate headcount in 2001-02 and divided the participation into that and did the same for 2006-07. In any particular year 2.4% of our undergraduate population was going on study abroad and last year 3.4% of the student body did so, which is a major increase in the percentage participation. If you take 3.4% participation and assume the average student is here for five years and that there is no repeats that would translate to a 17% participation rate for students over the course of their time here. I think that translation is a little high. They have some formula to make these things convert into the percentage of the population so about fourteen percent.
I think for these straight kinds of programs we need to at least double the annual participation rate to get to a point where we are talking about maybe 30% of our student body doing formal study abroad programs. There are lots of other ways to get international experience. I just wanted to let you see that it’s going in the right direction. It’s not just parallel to our growth but it is actually accelerating relative to our growth.
I want to read you part of an email that I received from Carrie Ledger who was the Assistant Director in our academic support program for student athletes up until this summer when she was hired by the NCAA to come and be their national expert on the Academic Performance Rate (APR) of universities. It was not solicited. It reads:
During my years at NC State I always appreciated the strong collaboration between academics and athletics, in the institutional commitment to doing things the right way. My appreciation and admiration for the work being done at NC State has grown tremendously since my arrival at the NCAA. In my travels I have not yet come across an institution that is more committed to enhancing the experience of their student athletes and to the integrity of their institution. As the residence campus academic support expert at the National Office I am very proud to share information about the services provided by the collaboration of the eligibility team and the open communication that occurs at the Provost Roundtable. I am incredibly grateful for my time at NC State for providing me an example of a model program, and in my mind is leading the way to college athletics.
We hear a lot about what goes on but you don’t often hear that. This isn’t exactly an unbiased source, but I will claim it to be so.
The last thing I would like to share with you is the most important thing that has happened, which is last Wednesday at 10:54 p.m. I became a grandfather for the first time. We are all dedicated at NC State, but family trumps everything. Thanks for your attention to us and to the other important parts of your life.
Senator Moore asked, “Is the university making any progress toward getting tuition waivers for dependents?”
Provost Nielsen responded that it doesn’t get traction because he thinks when it comes to our funding priorities, it always land in the not getting funded category. It was a legislative request last year and probably will be requested again but he doesn’t think it will get funded.
Senator Moore asked if any progress is being made on graduate students’ travel?
Provost Nielsen responded that there hasn’t been any change. Dean Lomax is drafting a letter for the Chancellor to send downtown.
Provost Nielsen reported that F&A funds could be used to support student travel now when apparently there were some prohibitions about it in the past. A statement that came out of the state office of budget stated that state appropriated funds could not be used to send graduate or undergraduate students on trips.
Provost Nielsen reported that he and Chancellor Oblinger had one of their twice-semester breakfasts with faculty last week and the question came up about some of the restrictions on using F&A in certain ways that the faculty have found burdensome in the past. He has asked Matt Ronning and Ernie Murphy to review this issue some more to get answers related to this. Every year a report has to be sent to the legislature detailing all the ways F& A is used.
Chair Martin asked if faculty would be involved in that process.
Provost Nielsen responded that Matt Ronning and Ernie Murphy will report back to him in January and then he will get back with the Senate.
Senator Ristaino stated that it is a very important issue. Her department head routinely tells them that he spends a huge amount of time trying to justify to their college granting office how faculty can spend their grant money after they have already brought the grant money in. She thinks it would be a good idea to have people at all levels, even departmental bookkeepers, involved in a task force because she feels that it has gotten worse in the last few years.
Senator Hanley-Bowdoin feels this problem needs to be resolved to enable people to work efficiently.
6. Retention and Graduation Rates
Thomas Conway-Dean of Undergraduate Academic Programs
Dean Conway stated that the faculty’s role is often overlooked in the issue of graduation rates and retention. He noted that retention has been studied at this institution for approximately twenty-five or thirty years and one of the most interesting articles he has seen was an analysis of graduation rate change that pointed out some things that drive some guideposts in the conversation this institution needs to have.
Dean Conway reported that after looking at some rather elite institutions around the country it was found that graduation rates haven’t changed at institutions in the last twenty-five years. Dean Conway challenged anyone to find a program anywhere in the country that has reported a double-digit change in graduation rates that does not actively engage faculty in the process. He stated that there is clear evidence that faculty at North Carolina State have had to be engaged in this process.
Dean Conway reported that the university’s first or second year retention is about 88.9%, which puts it at the lower end of the average range for highly selective institutions. This is where it has been for more than a decade. If you look at the six-year graduation rate, it is well above selective institutions and just below at the 70% range. NC State is about 5 points below the highly selective institutions that we talk about comparing ourselves with.
Dean Conway reported that since 1997 North Carolina State has experienced a 15% increase in its four-year graduation rate, which 15% over a seven or eight-year period is relatively unheard of. He explained that the move from where we are now to the next level of increase in graduation rates is going to require some significant effort and some significant changes. The six-year graduation rate for the university over that same period of time has been as high as 7.3% but it has averaged around 6.8% or so. Both the four-year graduation rate and six-year graduation rate have increased to a significant extent, which goes back to those kinds of things don’t happen without faculty involvement.
Dean Conway stated that there is a broad range of programs to support students at North Carolina State. A student success inventory has been developed where colleges and units around campus that engage in programming toward student success are asked to list the things that they deliberately do to increase success. There are 168 programs listed on that inventory with sixty-three being in Student Affairs and more than half of them in academic units within the colleges that are being supported by the colleges.
Dean Conway invited faculty participation in five different areas.
- Faculty engagement and support for professional advisers. The Provost is going to provide funding for three positions and the majority of those positions will be spread across the colleges.
- Encourage faculty involvement through the Center of Excellence and Curricula Engagement.
- Expansion of undergraduate research opportunities in all colleges.
- Review of academic policies mentioned in Regulation 400.1.5
- Discussion on how to come to an effective resolution of core intra-campus transfer issues.
Dean Conway concluded his remarks with an economic argument.
“When we graduate students, we are graduating about 70% of our students. One of the conversations that we have is that a large number of those students are graduating with an average debt of about $15,000 because more and more families have to borrow money to put students through school. Let’s talk about that 30% that don’t graduate. One of the realities that they face is that student loan debt is a type of debt that can’t be discharged even in a bankruptcy situation so students who start higher education and borrow money, but don’t graduate, find themselves in debt without the benefit of the additional earning power that the graduation affords them. A study found that students who start and go through the process but do not graduate, the benefits of having participated don’t accrue to them, so it is the graduation metric that tends to make the difference.”
Questions and Comments
Senator Fleisher: What is the graduation rate for four and five years?
Dean Conway responded that our four-year graduation rate is 41.6% and if we look at UNC-Chapel Hill with 83% graduation rate and then look at NC State, and you go back and review one of the policy differences in the institution, UNC-Chapel Hill has the requirements that students participate as full time students on an ongoing basis. Ninety-nine percent of the incoming freshmen entering NC State tell us that they intend to be full time students all the way through and approximately half of them actually do that. We have found that one semester, part time, lowers the potential for graduation rate of our students. After a lot of dialog with general administration we have gotten them to start tracking these figures. When we look at our four-year graduation rate for students that are enrolled full time and census each semester our four-year graduation rate goes up around 55%.
Senator Levy: As faculty we have talked about this extensively in the halls and at lunch and what comes up time and time again is how do we differentiate between providing opportunity which is what we do versus guaranteeing outcome, graduation. There is campus-wide considerable pressure to graduate as many of those students as possible because the impact of students dropping out affects our college budgets so from the dean on down I think all the faculty are aware that it is our job to graduate as many students as we can. We do not admit students and I don’t think it occurs anywhere else that we don’t believe or prepare to succeed. However, over a period of four to six years things happen, students transfer, things come up and they just can’t make it. The question is, how much of this is political pressure and what can we really do about it?
We can identify those things that impede student graduation rates and we have just voted to change the GERs, which, will help to adjust that, but there is no way that we can really guarantee an outcome. That is basically a partnership between the faculty and students and there are times when I have seen this and there is just not a good match here. We admit students who after a year or two years probably should have gone elsewhere or they come to their third year and decide, 'I have all this debt and this is not what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’m open to anything at this point.'
Dean Conway: I think the answers have all been put out there and it’s how we approach those answers. The goal here is to seek out those things we are doing to ourselves rather than those political pressures that people place upon us. We are never going to have a one hundred percent graduation rate, because we can admit the best class ever and then adolescence make decisions that take them out of the process. I think we can graduate more of the right students if we are clearer about the expectations. One of the challenges that we have is to get this partnership between the faculty and professional advisers and people in Student Affairs, etc. to work more effectively. There are people out there telling the students what they think you want but we need to make sure that we are articulating faculty expectation in appropriate ways and very clearly. I don’t know that there is anything more powerful than a faculty member saying to a student, if you want to be a member of this profession then this is the way you are expected to think and perform and then it is very clear to the student where they are in the relationship and that they have to step up their game or they are not going to cut it in that major.
If as a large research institution that is turning out graduate students, we are not also turning out undergraduates that have the capacity for competing at least for slots in our peer institution classes, if we are not preparing those students coming through our tutelage to be competitive and we are bringing in our graduate students from abroad -- what we are ending up doing is actually throwing out national interest to some degree in that regard. I’m not saying we should not bring in students from other countries to be our graduate studies, but we should also have a commitment to helping make our students competitive in that process and that makes everyone better.
Provost Nielsen stated that every student that comes in is not going to graduate. How do we think about it? We should be looking at and making sure we are not putting obstacles in the way of students and that we should be putting incentive or opportunities in front of students. The other thing is to look at our peer institutions and we are on the low end of undergraduate/graduation rates for our peers.
Senator Genzer stated that these numbers are a little misleading. “I would be a little curious to see if someone tracks their performance. Has it been going up or down?” He stated, in Engineering they spend a lot of time fixing problems from high school education where there are humongous holes in math, chemistry, and physics. He has not seen any improvement over the past years.
Provost Nielsen stated that it is interesting to read what people said fifty years ago. They are saying that in college teaching we have to fix what high school didn’t do and if you go back seventy-five years you will see the same thing.
Conway: One is this balance between the political and reality. What we care about is how our students perform when they leave. What we are being measured on quite often are these data that are easy to grab about graduation rates, so to some degree we have to respond to them.
I sponsored a conference on campus a few weeks ago because one of the things I am concerned about would be a fairer statement, that is, we are having these conversations about what we need students to know in order to be successful in our programs, and the community college folks are having these conversations about what students need to know and what the transition and success rate is between the community colleges and the universities and then the K-12 folk are talking about how to measure their success and their curriculum, and everybody is talking within their own areas but it is hard to find a place where there is a conversation across the whole gamut. What you are talking about is talking to K-12 folk. I will give you an example of places where I think they are starting to get it right. In the University of California system they have started to embed placement test questions in their math and writing courses into the high school exit exams for junior level courses. When students take their end of course exams the system is getting a read on how well prepared those students are for the calculus and for the writing and then they are able to have a system to correspond with the students and their families to let them know where they stand. It offers a way forward but its an investment and that is a state wide investment.
Senator Genzer stated that it would be nice to see what the numbers show because that is the easiest fix for a lot of people. “How do you not fix it yourself? Do people really diligently say I will be top rather than how many of you graduate?”
Dean Conway: You watch the trends at what happens at institutions. I was studying what was going on relative to colleges that wanted to increase their graduation retention rates a few years back and what they were doing to attract better students. During that year I watched across the country as institutions announced that they were becoming more selective in the process. All of the institutions that announced they were becoming more selective, their applications increased and the quality of their applicants increased. We cannot assume that the students out there won’t be attracted to the rigor required to do what we expect them to do and need them to do in our curriculum, but we do have to be clear about what we expect. We have to synchronize our system so that your expectations are being transmitted both by faculty in the department and by professional advisers and by whoever else is interacting with students around these issues.
Senator Ambaras: It seems to me that one of the key things that various people pointed out in terms of getting students engaged intellectually with college and keeping them there, is small class sizes early on in the process, and FYI, which is something that has developed in the past few years and has been quite successful. It seems to me that in the GER revision process, and obviously it is very costly, there was an opportunity to put in something, either an item of desire or to actually try and mandate that every student coming in take an FYI class in their first year, preferably that would be a small class situation. I think that is one thing that we might want to think about in terms of not only telling students, this is what is expected of you to be a member of our profession, but say this is what is expected of you as somebody who is engaged in the life of the mind at a major university like ours. It will also tell students that it is someone that they can get close to that cares about them.
Another thing is there was an article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/education/20adjunct.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin (and some of you may have seen it) on the shift in the number of tenure-track faculty versus non-tenure track faculty at various universities. One of the things that the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute found was that there is an inverse correlation between the number of non tenure-track faculty that a student has in their career and retention and graduation rates, and the hard fact of the matter is that universities like ours rely increasingly on non tenure track faculty. The question is, what can we do to insure that students do get to interact closely with tenure track faculty early on, and, second, for the non tenure-track faculty who are here whose services we need to ensure that they have good working conditions to enable them to engage with students so that they are not shuffling around to other universities, giving one course here and never having time to actually communicate with their students. These are things that really cost a lot of money but they are important things to consider. I am concerned that as we move to the 40,000 student campus that this is going to hit us in the face if we don’t think about it carefully.
Dean Conway: It has to do with the tenure track faculty really being the custodians of the culture at the institution.
About the FYI opportunities, we are not abandoning that process and I will be encouraging expansion. The FYI courses, for those of you that may not be familiar with it have to do with identifying what are the core questions in the discipline and how do you present students with an introduction to the core questions and what the rules of evidence are early on in disciplines.
Senator Ozturk stated that engineering does have a problem with the high school education. It was mentioned that there was a high school problem, but I think we are also creating a problem for ourselves with the AP credits. These students pass the first physics course without taking these courses because they passed the AP exam or they scored B or better, and if they convince their undergraduate adviser, C or better and that may be good if you look at the students in general, but if you are talking about students from my department, they may have to do better than B to do well in our sophomore level classes. I have been teaching a sophomore level class for quite a few years and in that class about 25% of the students doesn’t pass. No matter how much you work on some of those students, they are not supposed to be there, they lack the background so upfront they are going to fail. Their background is not at the level for that class so at minimum they should not be skipping Calculus 1 and taking those courses here.
Dean Conway stated we know that for students who don’t do at least a B in Math 141, the likelihood of passing 241 goes down. You drop a letter grade with every course through the progression on average as you go through that process. If we know that the level of success or the grade point level for 141 is at least a C, then there are ways we can get at "do students know enough to move forward,” but we have never really finished that conversation between what it means to have sat in the course and finished it with a C, but not be prepared to go on. I am agreeing with you totally that we need to do that kind of analysis.
Senator Akroyd: I want to reiterate some of what Senator Ambaras said earlier and that is, research on retention indicates that student interaction with faculty members is one of the most powerful predictors of graduation rate and retention, and in many cases more powerful than a variety of other academic indicators, so your comment about faculty involvement I think is appropriate because research for decades has shown a positive, significant, and powerful on student retention. I think that his comment about the notion of how do we do that when we have 40,000 statistics is going to be challenging, but I think that is the direction.
Dean Conway: One of the things I’d say for an institution like this is that to some degree I think people are finding that student engagement with a faculty research group may have some of that. It doesn’t have to be that one on one with the faculty but if you have a research group where you are working with your graduate students and your graduate students may be working with undergraduate researchers, you can increase your impact significantly.
Provost Nielsen: I think that the question of what happens to students during their first year is really an important one and as we have been talking for the last year and a half about student success the sort of vexing thing to me is that first year experiences is critically important and we take most of our students into majors right away so there is not a university control of that first year experience. It is decentralized along with every thing else. How do you personalize an experience for 40, 000 students?
Dean Conway: Our freshmen class was 20% larger this year than it was in 1997.
Senator Heitmann: You had said that when you look at the incoming class they are all going full time and then only about half of them actually do this and the ones who do something else have a much lower success in graduation. What about coop programs? How does that affect the graduation rate?
Dean Conway: There are a lot of good reasons why students extend their college education coop, study abroad, and those kinds of things or internships or some of those. There is an inverse relationship with coops. Students who do coops graduate at about an 85% rate. It takes them an extra year but they are graduating. Not only are they graduating, but they are also going to work at higher salaries and employers deem them more productive so there are a lot of good reasons for doing it.
Senator Heitmann: If you look at the six-year rate, does it adversely affect the six-year graduation rate?
Dean Conway: One of the things we have been working with and general administration started looking at is whether they tell the NC State story appropriately. We have been talking about looking at semesters of enrollment as opposed to chronologic years enrollment.
Chair Martin: Is that 85% a six-year 85%?
Dean Conway: That would come out to be approximately six and a half years.
Senator Anson: Why are we not doing the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) if the NSSE is such a powerful measure of engagement, which is powerfully correlated to retention? Why are we not measuring engagement with NSSE?
Provost Nielsen: We do something else. A year or two we did NSSE, then we evaluated whether it was adding value and decided that it wasn’t, so we dropped out. The UNC system as a whole has decided that we would use NSSE as a tool so we are back on schedule starting next year.
Senator: The writing thing seems sort of counterintuitive in a sense because it is hard and it is messy but I think it speaks to the notion of engagement in learning to the extent that its used to carry on discussions and get students involved in their work. It would be great to sort of imagine the culture of a lot of writing on this campus across all the disciplines.
Dean Conway: I don’t know if there has been anything found to be more closely associated with student success than their ability to communicate and in that regard whether your son or daughter has a job when they graduate may be a function of how much science and mathematics and engineering related courses they took while a student here, but whether your son or daughter has a job ten or fifteen years out is probably going to be a function of how they did in their humanities and social sciences courses, because it is that understanding of how what you do relates to the human condition that allows you to make the adaptations. We need to push that message as a core institutional message. Yes it is important that our students raise the level of performance in the STEM disciplines and that we are rigorous in that regard, but it is also important that we not let our students in the stem discipline off the hook relative to humanities and that we recognize the level of competitive performance and caliber of our students in the humanities and social sciences so that they challenge our STEM students in important ways.
Senator Ristaino: The undergraduate research I think is a great idea because it allows undergraduates to interact with tenured faculty that might not necessarily be teaching undergraduates. Over the twenty years since I have been here that has been the way I have contacted most of these undergraduate students. In fact, I have more of them than graduate students in my program and they don’t always go on in the discipline that I am in, but they go to medical school or they do X, Y, or Z, and I really think it makes a big university seem a lot smaller to them, so I think that’s great to keep emphasizing that.
The other thing is this idea of learning community. My son is a freshman at another UNC institution and he is involved in a living learning community, which is just a wonderful way to make a huge university smaller. One hundred students live in the same house and they are taking six credits every semester together and they have pizza lunch brought in twice a week so that they share a meal together. This learning community idea could spread across a huge campus. You bring the big community smaller so that the students are talking to each other and engaging with each other so that they don’t feel isolated and drop out the first semester.
Senator Ristaino feels helicopter parenting is a good thing. She stated that it is helping improve retention rates. In fact, the involvement of mothers is really affecting the success rate of students so keeping the parents in the loop somehow is a great idea.
Dean Conway: In Student Affairs they do have a parent services association. The helicopter parenting process is now expanding into graduate professional schools. The numbers of parents showing up with their sons or daughters is expanding rapidly.
Dean Conway stated that this is an invitation to an ongoing conversation. One of the things that we have to be careful to do is we want to respect faculty workload, but we also need your advice and input in these processes and we will be talking about how to link what is happening with these other existing programs with the advice that has to come from faculty in this regard.
Senator Evans: First Year College students -- are their graduation rates better than other colleges as they seem to be more tutored, much more involved with some type of professional help as they are going through that first year or first year and a half?
Dean Conway: We are getting an interesting set of data out of First Year College. Those students that transfer in are staying in the majors and they are graduating and some colleges are reporting that they are finding as good or better students coming to them out of the First Year College as they are recruiting in their cohort. Because the First Year College focuses on the student decision-making process and where they are going, the First Year College has a larger percentage of students transferring out of the institution than any other program. To look at that is to say we have not recruited for the First Year College as such, but if we recruit students based on an ongoing knowledge of what we have here, and if we can lower that number of students that are transfer attrition, we can increase the graduation rates overall.
Secretary Kellner: My experience every semester is, there comes a certain point -- crunch time -- when students in perfectly good standing drop the course because they are afraid they are going to get a grade that will somehow affect their grade point average. They want to tailor the GPA and they can do it sometimes. Is it correct to suggest that a student who has dropped a course like that becomes a retroactive 'part time student' who think that they can often afford to extend their college years.
Perhaps the policy on re-taking courses and dropping them late needs to be, if not changed, at least reconsidered. We need to make it more clearly to students that they are expected to follow through with what they sign up for, even if things get tough around November and March.
Dean Conway: I totally agree with that sentiment. One of the things that we found is that our drop policy is a bit odd and one of the things that we will be looking at is, at very least, we are going to start telling students that if you are in a course at census take you own that course and perhaps it should count for that premium that students pay if they go over 125% of what it takes to complete a college degree. Other institutions are doing that.
One of the other issues is because of the way we have been allowing students to register for courses, students will sign up for twenty-one hours with the idea that they are going to drop down to sixteen after they see which ones they want to keep. The reality of that is if you are going to keep sixteen out of twenty-one you are holding three seats in courses you never intend to complete, and that may be a factor in some of the other students not being able to get the courses they need to graduate. We are going to be reviewing both the withdrawal and the drop.
Senator Levy: Getting back to the math and AP, who sets the acceptance rate? Does the adviser, department, or the university set the acceptance rate?
Dean Conway: Currently the disciplinary departments set the credit for AP exams; we have the latitude within the institution to do it but we have to talk about it as colleagues and really make sure that we are reflecting.
Senator Levy: When it comes to math, which is the basis of everything else from what I have seen, if a student fails one class and passes the other four, they have flunked out and they are gone that first year. So we are not serving them if we allow them to go ahead even though we think they are not prepared.
Dean Conway: I will repeat again this is an invitation to an ongoing conversation. We are going to be looking for opportunities to engage you in many instances.
7. Election of the Grievance Committee Chair Panel
An election was held to select three members to stagger terms on the Grievance Committee Chair Panel. Those elected were Aaron Clark (five-year term), Clay Clark (four-year term), and Alan Tonelli (three-year term).
Chair Martin updated the Senate on the issue of the course hosting policy that was tabled at the last meeting.
The legalism related to the online hosting material is not extremely clear. We need some reevaluation of the web accessibility policy. Likely the course hosting policy is correct largely as it was. The various parties who were looking into it are requesting an opinion from the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Education so they can get a formal ruling on this. We need that formal ruling before we can look at the accessibility policy. The web accessibility policy then needs to be dealt with so we can deal with the course hosting policy. The recommendation is that we leave approval of that policy tabled until such time that we have the ruling.
Senator Hudson stated that at the last meeting there was a lack of clarity. The revisions that the Academic Policy Committee suggested for the course hosting policy at the last meeting would not change the way courses are done. The revisions did not make any real change to the regulation. They referred back to a regulation that already governs the course hosting regulation. The only thing that changed was the period within which the accommodation had to be made. Senator Hudson stated that it did get complicated at the last meeting and she thinks if it comes back to the floor someone needs to come in and explain it more so that everyone is clear.
8. Issues of Concern
Senator Akroyd stated an issue of concern about the seamlessness between regular courses and DE courses.
Chair Martin replied that some headway was made on that issue this past summer. He agreed that it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
A motion passed to adjourn the meeting at 5 p.m.