Faculty Senate discusses graduate college bylaws

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Kirk Smith /THE REVIEW
The Faculty Senate convened to discuss a bylaws draft for the Graduate College.

BY City Editor

On Oct. 29, the university’s Faculty Senate held an open hearing committee to discuss a proposed draft of the bylaws that would govern the graduate college.

It is tentatively set to be unveiled on Jan. 1, 2019, pending approval by the Faculty Senate.

The bylaws, which will eventually be passed by the Faculty Senate, could radically change how university faculty work within the graduate education system.

The hearing was intended for members of the Faculty Senate and the public to air any issues they might have with the bylaws draft.

University Provost Robin Morgan explained that there are a few outstanding issues which had not yet been covered by this draft of the bylaws, such as eligibility, size, apportionment and the approval process of the graduate curriculum. The Faculty Senate committee in charge of drafting the bylaws will try to address any outstanding concerns before voting on a final draft.

According to the proposed bylaws, the graduate college’s senior administrator would be both a dean and a vice provost. Normally, a dean oversees a particular college within the university, and a vice provost oversees broader functions and programs for the university. For example, there is a dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a vice provost of diversity.

“The graduate college will have many functions without analog in the regular colleges, necessitating the senior administrator to be both dean and vice provost,” Robin Morgan said. “The senior administrator will have to be in charge of admissions, professional services and other things.”

The primary legislative body for the graduate college will be the Graduate Council, whose function will be similar to that of the Faculty Senate of the university.

The members will consist of elected representatives of the graduate programs and three graduate student members chosen by a new Graduate Student Government. Members will serve two-year terms. To be eligible for election, candidates must retain a position within a college of the university and have an active role in graduate education.

Deni S. Galileo, an associate professor of biological sciences, sought to address concerns that representation in the Graduate Council would indeed be proportional and fair. The current draft of the bylaws could be interpreted to allow for as many representatives in the Graduate Council as there are graduate programs.

“No, there’s no way to have an elected representative from each graduate program because that’s way too many people,” Galileo said. “We have over a hundred program directors and many more graduate programs. I think we all agree that around two dozen people in the body is appropriate.”

The exact responsibilities and functions granted to the Graduate Council was a major topic of debate for the Faculty Senate.

The latest draft of the graduate college bylaws states that the Graduate Council would be responsible for developing university-wide policies to support and improve graduate education and advising individual graduate programs. Additionally, it will have to review any proposed new interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary graduate programs for submission to the University Faculty Senate.

Kami Silk, a professor and chair of the Department of Communications, drew on her experiences at other universities to recommend what the new administration of the Graduate College would be.

“I’ve never been at a university without a graduate school college, so it was a surprise to me to come here and not have a graduate school,” Silk said. “Some of the functions that I’ve seen in the past are responsible conduct of research being administered through the graduate school, fellowships, more orientation for international graduate students, dissertation completion fellowships, state authorizations for program funds.”

It is unclear from the bylaws draft if the Graduate Council will play any role in hiring new faculty or approving Ph.D. candidates. Many Faculty Senate members expressed concerns that they would lose some autonomy over their graduate programs to the new graduate college administration.

“The graduate college’s relationship to other units will often be lateral or subordinate to them,” Robin Morgan said. “Its meant to be an enabling force, not a police force or a new layer of bureaucracy.”

John Morgan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, questioned whether the new graduate college administration would needlessly interfere in or change existing college functions by adding a new layer of bureaucracy.

“Is this whole thing an overreach?” John Morgan asked. “Do we want a graduate college administrator overseeing things like doctoral candidates? In these bylaws, I see no clear delimitation on the power of the administration.”

The approval of graduate research done by doctoral candidates is the responsibility of the advisors. The draft of the Graduate College bylaws suggest that tasks such as this could be subject to greater oversight. Some faculty shared a concern that this would be unnecessary.

John Morgan also pointed out that, within the current draft of the bylaws, there is no provision preventing the Graduate Council or senior administrator from amending the rules to expand their own capabilities beyond what was intended.

University President Dennis Assanis insisted that the administration of the graduate college must have the necessary power to improve graduate education.

“The majority of graduate students want to enter industry, and that must be important to the graduate college, but post-graduates and post-docs who aspire to academia or teaching lack training resources at UD,” Assanis said. “That has to be improved in the graduate college. The graduate college will help units that may be stagnating to get better, to excel.”

The Faculty Senate will convene again for a regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 5. They will not be voting on a bylaws draft at that time.

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