Present: Cassidy, Deskis, Dillman, Goldenberg, Griffiths, Jeris, Miller, Munroe, Payvar, Prawitz, Rintala, Thompson, Weilbaker, Wheeler
Guests: James Dye, Chair, Department of
Philosophy; Frederick Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,
Leanne VandeCreek, Subject
Specialist, University Libraries
The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of October 28, 2002, with revisions, and the motion passed unanimously. Goldenberg informed the APC that Legg was unable to attend today’s meeting, and he would be chairing the meeting.
Cassidy distributed two handouts to the APC members. The first handout was entitled “Grading the States.” The article provides an overview of the criteria used to rank states for the higher education report card and the ranking of all 50 states. Illinois ranked #1 in 2000 and was ranked #3 in 2002. The second handout is the executive summary of a report entitled “Greater Expectations,” which describes factors that will affect future directions in higher education including the changes in demographics of the student population, the mal-alignment between high school preparation and college expectations, and the need for evidence to demonstrate high quality programs in colleges and universities. The URL for the full report is listed in the document.
Goldenberg introduced James Dye, Chair, Department of Philosophy and Frederick Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Goldenberg turned the meeting over to Prawitz for the discussion of the subcommittee report. Prawitz thanked the subcommittee members for their help with the preparation of this report. She noted that the departmental strengths include the increasing use of instructional technology and the strong faculty. The faculty have been recognized for their expertise in both teaching and scholarship. All faculty members teach 100 and 200 level courses as well as courses in the major. The department also has good library resources, and has three funded scholarships, which is exceptional for a small department. The department is working with the College of Business to develop new courses for a certificate in applied ethics and participates in URAP, FIGS, and the Honors Program. Another departmental strength is the opportunities provided for students to serve on its advisory committees.
Prawitz said that the areas of concern identified in the program review document include less than ideal configuration of space, the need for additional travel support, and the low faculty diversity. The space allocated to the department does not provide for opportunities for graduate students and faculty to mingle and have philosophical discussions because the graduate assistant offices are housed in a different building than the faculty. She stated that the faculty pool for minority hires is small nationally. Thompson asked if the space problem is due to changes in the configuration of the building. Dye replied that it is not, and this is a long-standing problem. Our graduate students have grown by about 50 percent over the last several years. Cassidy asked if there was space that could be converted to use as a conference area. Kitterle replied that it is difficult to see how the college could address this issue. This is not the only department in the college with space issues: mathematics and computer sciences also have the same problem. It was suggested that one avenue to address the issue of faculty and graduate assistant communications is to conduct virtual meetings. Cassidy asked if graduate assistants have access to computers where they are housed. Dye responded that they do have access to computers. Wheeler added that this is an unfortunate problem. The graduate assistants are housed in DuSable and the faculty are housed in Zulauf. Cassidy stated that the review indicated that some or many of the faculty computers are old. Dye replied that most of the faculty computers have been upgraded in the last year. Kitterle informed the APC that the college has a three-year plan in place for computer upgrades. Cassidy said these upgrades should help with faculty access and the use of Blackboard. Dye replied that only a few faculty are using Blackboard. Cassidy added that the review stated that faculty are moving toward using instructional technology in their courses, including Blackboard. Dye replied that he did not think the report indicated that many of the faculty are doing this. I have encouraged faculty to use the computer resources we have as much as possible, but I have not been entirely successful at this. I would say there are some who are using Blackboard, and we do have one faculty member who is very proficient in using Blackboard. Prawitz said that she thought Cassidy was referring to the portfolio project that uses Blackboard to assist students with their portfolio development. Kitterle stated that the information in the report about faculty computers needed to be updated
Prawitz stated that the strengths of the B.A. in Philosophy program noted in the subcommittee’s report are: the creation of a certificate in applied ethics in collaboration with the College of Business, the work being done on a proposal for a minor in ethics (also in collaboration with the College of Business), the contribution to general education and the course options available to students in the major, and the interdisciplinary involvement of the program. Dye noted that there are philosophy courses that are intrinsically interdisciplinary, for example, those that address philosophy in the social and natural sciences and symbolic logic. Payvar noted that some of the general education course offerings are not offered on a regular basis, especially the interdisciplinary courses. Dye replied that this is true, and the reasons were that there is not great demand for the interdisciplinary junior level courses and we do not have the faculty resources to offer them on a regular basis. There is generally only one person who specializes in some of these interdisciplinary courses. Payvar said that one of the old ABET standards was that engineering students must take a course beyond the introductory level that provides depth. Engineering students would take the 100 level course, but then they could not take the 300 level course because it was not offered. Kitterle responded that the college has put on the schedule a number of courses to address the issues you raise, but no one signs up to take them. Cassidy asked what size enrollment is required for a course to make. Kitterle responded that it would probably be 15 to 25 students. If you hire an instructor for a course, this means that the majors are not served, and the department costs go up. We need to work out a funding mechanism to be able to offer these courses. Cassidy asked if engineering students could be tracked so their program of study could be aligned with the course offerings in philosophy. Payvar added that the depth requirement previously required by ABET had been somewhat relaxed. This requirement is now left up to the school to decide. Kitterle stated that if there was an agreement, the courses would be offered every other year. Cassidy restated with the new ABET criteria it is less of an issue. Payvar said he thought there were rules if you did not offer a course for a certain period of time, then the course was deleted from the catalog. Wheeler replied that it is a long time before a course would come out of the catalog. Griffiths said it could be construed as false advertising to have a course in the catalog if you are not teaching a course on a regular basis. Miller added that it is up to the General Education Committee to pursue these course issues for the general education courses. Dye stated that the department just purged one course because the only faculty member who taught it was no longer at the university, and there were not any other faculty members in the department interested in teaching it. You would not want to purge a course too quickly though because you may hire someone in the area in the future.
Griffiths said he wanted to follow up on the interdisciplinary discussion. The Graduate Council just had a discussion on increasing student involvement in interdisciplinary research. Griffiths added that there is an increased interest in ethics too. The university is creating a new committee, the Committee on the Responsible Conduct of Research, and this may be a place to ask for some assistance from the department. Kitterle said that the Northern Illinois Ethics Consortium could assist the council with this issue. Griffiths stated that there is a real interest in interdisciplinary involvement and research. Dye responded that the department would be glad to help on these matters.
Prawitz said that the concerns in the B.A. program were the assessment plan lacked direct measures of student outcomes and the lack of gender diversity in the student body. The department needs to revamp its assessment plan to indicate less what the department is doing and more of what students have learned. The portfolio assessment project could help with this if a rubric is developed indicating the areas where students have achieved competency. Stating that a program is designed to do something is not a measure of whether a student has achieved this specific skill. Prawitz indicated that there are more men than women in the program, and the department has suggested that it can send senior women students and a faculty member when recruiting at the community college level. Wheeler asked what percentage of philosophy majors is transfer students. Dye replied he did not know off hand, but it is probably 50/50. Kitterle said that when the college was going through the first phase of its downsizing, the department stood to lose an instructor position that was filled by a woman who had been in the department long term. With the assistance of the college the department converted this position to a regular faculty position to help maintain faculty diversity
Cassidy asked if the use of a comprehensive exam proposed in the review was done frequently at the undergraduate level. Dye replied that it is done in some quality liberal arts programs. Deskis added that it is also done in some programs in English. Dye stated that some of the very elite programs even require a senior thesis. Payvar added that biology has a competency requirement too. Griffiths said that this is a recent development in biology, and added that with assessment you can argue the issue of how your own courses or exams are a fair assessment. If you could use external evaluation, it would be better. Thompson stated that she was concerned sometimes with external tests and the notion that anything external is better than what we do internally. We do not always need external validation that we are doing something right. Cassidy added that there are some advantages to external tests. One advantage is that the data provide some evidence of validity, but you also have to consider if the exam is appropriate to your program.
Prawitz turned to the review of the M.A. in Philosophy, and noted that there is a definite niche for students going to pursue a Ph.D. program. It is a good bridge program for this purpose. Another strength of the program is that there is increasing occupational demand, especially for doctoral graduates. The program is well respected, and the graduates are doing very well. The assessment plan, as in the discussion of the B.A. program, does not contain outcome assessment measures to determine if objectives are being met. This plan is currently being worked on.
Griffiths said that the review mentions that problem solving is an important part of education that is on-going. This statement makes it sound like it is rare to prepare students with competencies in problem solving but it is common in other programs. Cassidy asked if the issue was the approach to teaching problem solving or problem solving itself. Griffiths asked if there were specific courses offered that help a student obtain this skill or is it embedded in all the courses. Dye replied that it is embedded in the courses. The graduate level courses involve identifying a specific issue, doing research on the literature, and problem solving.
Griffiths said that the review indicates that students are “forced” to develop a research program and recommended it use a term like “encouraged” instead. Dye responded that “encouraged” would be better. Dye stated that the point is that for any student in the program, if she/he is going to pass the comprehensive examine, she/he cannot rely only on what has been learned in courses. Kitterle said “expectation” would be a good word to use.
Griffiths noted that the comprehensive exam was taken during the second semester of full-time study, and students usually are unsuccessful in passing it the first time. Cassidy asked if a student passes a section, does that section have to be written again. Dye replied if they pass the first time, they are done with that section. We did have two students this year who passed all the sections of the exam the first time they took it, but these were exceptional students. Before the early examination requirement was instituted, students were postponing the exam until the last semester. Many of these students would fail and the next semester they would not have a funded graduate assistant position. Our graduate rate was not good due in part to this issue. Cassidy asked if students were required to be enrolled the semester they take their comprehensive exam. Dye replied yes.
Griffiths asked how frequently students elected the thesis option. Dye responded that normally no students are writing theses but that this year one student is pursuing the thesis option, the first in the last three years. One student has expressed an interest in doing a thesis next year.
Griffiths asked what the largest student/faculty ratio the department could accommodate. Dye said that ratio is already problematic. Griffiths asked what the ratio was. Dye replied that it depends on how you count it. We have 17 graduate assistants, 3 graduate assistants on tuition waivers, 3 students supported by the English department, and 3 to 4 students who are not supported for a total of 26 to 27 students. Griffiths added that this sounds like two or three students per faculty member on average. Dye stated that faculty also teach general education courses and that needs to be a consideration in the balance between serving graduate students and the general education program.
Thompson asked if the program retains the minority students who start in the program? Dye replied that some students drop out, but not at a higher rate than others. The biggest problem is getting them into the program, especially women. We compete nationally for students. This year we had three women in the top tier of students who would be offered assistantships. None of these students came here. One went to the University of Illinois, which has a Ph.D. program; one went to Tufts, which is a quality program and one we compete with for students; and I am not sure where the other student went. The number of female applicants is fairly small. If we receive 64 applications, less then 10 percent of them are from females. Thompson asked if they were successful. Dye replied that they go through the program at the same success rate as male students.
The meeting adjourned at 3:55 p.m.
Carolyn A. Cradduck