Present: Aase, Cassidy, Goldenberg, Griffiths,
House, Isabel, Jeris, Legg, Munroe, Payvar, Prawitz, Rintala, Thompson,
Guests: Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office of the Provost; Jeff Chown, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Communication; Frederick
Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Lois Self, Chair, Department of Communication; Jamie Rothstein, Assistant to the Dean, College
of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of November 4, 2002, and the motion passed unanimously.
Legg introduced Lois Self, Chair, Department of Communication; Jeff Chown, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Communication; Frederick Kitterle, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Jamie Rothstein, Assistant to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Legg turned the meeting over to Jeris for the discussion of the subcommittee report. Jeris thanked the subcommittee members for their help with the preparation of the report. She then asked Kitterle if he had any opening remarks.
Kitterle said that the Department of Communication is one of seventeen academic departments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This is a combined department of communication studies and journalism and an intellectually rich department. The department provides a major service component in the college and university. There are also over 400 pre-communication studies students who are currently working on the pre-admission requirements for that program. The program is attractive to a large number of students because writing and speaking skills are in high demand in the workplace, but much of this demand comes from students who are not admitted into their selected major in the College of Business. The department could also play a major role in the development of a humanities institute that promotes research in the public domain. One faculty member has made an award-winning documentary about barbed wire and DeKalb; the department has many noted scholars. There is a strong commitment from the alumni of this program.
Jeris noted that the departmental strengths include the increase in grant productivity, strong faculty scholarship, and program costs that are below the statewide average. The credit hour production is high due to the large number of majors served and the large number of general education courses offered by the department each semester. Other departmental strengths are excellent connections to alumni, benchmarking activities, and student and faculty diversity. Legg asked what the faculty diversity numbers looked like. Self replied that 45 percent of the faculty are women and minorities and 3 of the 24 tenure track lines are filled by minorities. Jeris said another strength of the department is its responsiveness to changing needs in the disciplines, which is reflected in the extensive use of media technologies in the curricula.
One item that is both a strength and a discussion point is the issue of high demand for the major and enrollment pressure. Self said that the pressure is greater currently in the B.A./B.S. in Communication Studies, but the demand in journalism is growing as well. Students take courses in both areas, and many students major in one field and minor in the other. Enrollment management strategies are best handled at the department level, and the department has a permit process in place for communication studies majors. Students may declare pre-communication studies and they have some priority over the other students for course permits, but majors get courses based on the number of hours they have completed and when they will graduate.
Wheeler expressed his concerns about the exit declare process that was in place for the baccalaureate degree in communication studies. Self explained that in the summer meeting with the provost’s staff the exit declare process was discussed at some length. She informed the council that some students do not meet the GPA requirement for admission into the communication studies program, but through perseverance it is possible that they can complete the course requirements for the major and meet the university’s graduation requirements. It is a relatively small number of students who complete the degree in this manner, and many are minority students. These students complete the major without having declared the major. Wheeler said that this is a limited admissions program, and certain students who do not meet the admission requirements for the major are allowed to continue in the program. Some students are encouraged to do this and some are not. Wheeler added that some students do get a 2.0 GPA and graduate, but the paperwork for both the declaration of the major and graduation is processed after the end of the semester, which is a concern to him and creates additional work for Registration and Records. There are also students who stumble along this path. None of these students receive DARS reports, they are not protected by university processes, and they are not included in the program major count. Wheeler added that this is not the only program that allows students to complete a major in this way. The advising deans will meet tomorrow; the hope is that some approach to this issue will emerge from that meeting. Kitterle stated his concern that this issue would detract attention from the overall quality of the programs in the department, which is very good. He asked if the university plans to look at changing its guidelines. He noted that we have minority students who are successful in this program. Wheeler said creating a structure upfront to deal with the matter should be investigated. Self said there is a problem with taking students’ money and saying that they cannot declare the major that they have earned. Kitterle said that if there is an issue, we need to ask what substantive factors need to be addressed; one size fits all may not be the best solution. Goldenberg noted that in his department it is possible to accept someone on a probationary period. Self responded that in effect this is what exit declare is. The department does not encourage students to do this; in fact, our advising staff errors on the side of saying to students “you probably will not make it through the program if you do this.”
Payvar asked what the 2.3 GPA is and how is it stated. Self replied that this is the current overall university GPA that a student must have in order to be accepted into the major, and students are told to complete their general education courses before applying. Rintala said that this is a floating GPA. As the number of applications increases, the GPA would increase too. Self added that years ago the department floated the GPA by emphasis, but now the floating GPA for admission is the same for all emphases. She added that toughness of access is not related to program quality. This has serious implications for the department and the university. Cassidy asked how this addresses the exit declare issue. Self replied that the issue is that we are saying that those students do not deserve a degree. Cassidy asked if anyone has looked at the legal implications of this practice. What liability is the university open to if two students are not admitted to the program but one is able to complete the degree without having met the admissions requirements or being admitted to the major? Kitterle added that he would be concerned about verbal feedback given to the students; it needs to be very clear in the record what students are being told. Rothstein observed that a student could complete all the course work for the major in English, for example, and not declare the major until the end of the program. She asked how that was different from the exit declare in communication studies, and added that what you are denying is admission to the major. Cassidy stated that this is a limited admissions program, which is a key difference. If you are not admitted to a major, how can you graduate from it? Griffiths said that the advising, especially in such a large department, is going to have to be consistent.
Payvar asked what the student/faculty ratio was. Self replied that it is much higher than the university ratio of 1:17 but that she had not calculated the ratio. We have 600 majors and 24 faculty. This does not include the oral communication core competency and general education courses. Thompson asked if you did away with the permit process, would this drive away students. Self responded that it would not allow students to complete the program in a timely manner and added that the department is not fond of the permit system. Cassidy asked if the program of study is laid out for students semester by semester. Self replied that the department has sample programs that they give to students, but over half of the students in the department are transfer students. Cassidy asked if the department could do some things with prerequisites that would channel students into courses. Self replied that a few years ago some courses that were bottlenecks were removed. Legg asked how the permit process worked. Self replied that there is a 2.3 GPA requirement for admission, and then the number of hours and proximity to graduation are factored into how the permits are distributed to students. Askins informed the APC that based on the data in the program review the faculty to student ratio at the undergraduate level was 1:21. Self noted that this includes communication studies and journalism majors but not courses provided for general education credit.
Payvar asked how the department felt about the number of faculty. Self responded that she felt that the department is understaffed and has become much more reliant on temporary faculty. This does tend to erode the quality of a program over time. I think we do a good job with what we have. Our department is ½ tenured and ½ untenured faculty.
Self said that the there is a search going on right now for a senior faculty member and a search for a photojournalist faculty member. Legg stated that some searches for senior faculty are currently being done, but they are being done very selectively. Self noted that in the past it has been a problem to hire faculty with doctoral degrees to teach in some specialized areas. Legg asked how other programs managed to fill positions. Self replied that some schools hire faculty who have a master of science in journalism degree. Legg said that he would consider hiring someone without the doctoral degree in select cases and asked if there was some evidence of good journalism schools that also do this. Self said she would gather information and added that this would only be appropriate to pursue in very limited areas. Kitterle stated that any discussions about hiring non-doctorally prepared faculty should include the chair, the dean, and the provost.
Jeris stated that an area of concern identified in the program review document was facilities. This includes a shortage of space, too many locations, and inadequate funds. Many faculty share office space, and space to meet with students privately is inadequate. The faculty, SPS, and teaching assistants are located in several different buildings. Kitterle said that these are issues the college struggles with, and they are not unique to this department. Self added that the department is very short of office space now. Wheeler asked about the status of space in the Cole Hall basement. Self replied that the department was assured last spring that the leaking problem had been solved. This is solved for now, and we have been investing in equipment for a small advanced photo lab in this space. Kitterle added that this department has lots of friends, and there are different ways that you can look at the facilities. Jeris said that the APC subcommittee recommends that the facilities concerns be given priority at the college level. There may be some creative solutions possible given the success in collaborative programming and partnering that the department has already achieved.
Jeris turned to the review of the B.A./B.S. in Communication Studies
program. A concern of the subcommittee was that the assessment plan
needed updating. She noted that the plan has undergone some revisions,
and an updated plan was submitted to the provost’s office for review.
Jeris noted that the breath of the curriculum in the M.A. in Communications Studies program is a program strength. This program has a good generalist focus. Jeris said that one concern at the M.A. level is students falling below the 3.0 GPA requirement. When a student’s GPA drops below the 3.0 requirement, the student is advised to reduce her/his course load for a semester. Chown added that this situation only applied to a few students a semester, and some semesters it does not apply to any students. When grades are posted at the end of the semester, we meet with students who fall below the 3.0 GPA requirement. We start with telling them to move back to six hours. If there is a good reason why a student’s grades slipped, then they go ahead and take nine hours. This is done in concert with Carla Montgomery’s office. Over the last three years all the students have met the 3.0 GPA requirement within the nine semester hour limit. Jeris noted that some of these students are teaching assistants. Griffiths asked if any of these students are on visas. Chown replied yes, but overall their performance was not different from that of native students.
Griffiths asked what percentage of students write theses and what percentage write scholarly papers, and who decides which option to pursue. Chown replied that the department had just had a colloquium on this subject. The students interested in doctoral work are encouraged to write a thesis; however, few of them select this option. We are doing about 3 theses per year out of 25 students. Griffiths asked if this was noted on a student’s diploma. Chown said that the thesis or non-thesis option is noted on the transcript. Thesis students write six hours of comprehensive examinations and non-thesis students write eight hours of exams. Self added that more students choose the scholarly paper option because it allows them to take more courses. Legg asked if the thesis was published. Chown said some of them are presented at meetings, and Self added that some graduate students do publish with faculty members.
Jeris turned to the review of the B.A./B.S. in Journalism and noted that the enrollment is strong. The department has successfully completed the merger of the programs in journalism and communication studies, and there is a restoration of confidence in the journalism program’s stability and quality. Self explained that the journalism accreditation was allowed to expired one year after the merger. Accreditation in journalism requires a free-standing unit with a separate budget and faculty. The curricular requirements for the degree program continue to reflect accreditation standards. Many of the better journalism programs in the country do not seek accreditation, and there is no evidence of problems in not having an accredited program. Students can get good jobs if they complete the degree program. Kitterle added that students benefit in many ways from the merger; it opened up many more avenues for cross-disciplinary work. Self informed the APC that the department appreciated all the feedback it had received from the review process.
Legg stated that this is a good report and discussion. He stated that this review ended the APC’s work for the fall semester. The agenda committee will meet in late January and set the agenda for the spring meetings. Legg said that he looked forward to working with the council in the spring.
The meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
Carolyn A. Cradduck