Faculty Senate hears reports on residence life, Sakai and strategic indicators

2:21 p.m., March 11, 2008--A report of the Senate Student Life Committee on the discontinued residential life curriculum and recommendations for future residence life programs and updates on the Strategic Planning process and the transition from the use of WebCT to a Sakai learning management system topped the list of items discussed at the UD Faculty Senate Meeting held March 3 in Gore Hall.

Provost Dan Rich presented the third installment of a report, The Historic Overview of Strategic University Indicators, with data from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning's 2007-08 Facts & Figures Report. Previous installments featured information on UD finances and faculty. This presentation featured information on UD students, and is available online at [http://www.facsen.udel.edu/sites/index.aspx]. Rich said that the report offered a historical perspective on UD's progress over the past 15 years and provides a framework for consideration of new initiatives.

“This is a refresher course on the baselines for future development of the University. We have been compiling retrospective data of some key indicators that relate back to our institutional characteristics,” Rich said. “This review will help us to better appreciate the initiatives proposed later this spring by the Strategic Planning Committee.”

A University of Delaware Forum, to be held on May 10, will be devoted to panels and presentations that address key themes for the University, Rich said.

“The highlight of the forum,” Rich said, “will be a presentation by President [Patrick] Harker on the initiatives proposed by the Strategic Planning Committee, and his vision of the path to prominence in the decade ahead.”

Leila Lyons, director of Information Technologies-User Services, reported on the WebCT problems that required the learning management system to be taken down for a week beginning Feb. 14. The problem was due to a few corrupt files on the University's server and the inability of WebCT support services to provide a rapid response.

As full support from the WebCT vendor, Blackboard, will end by October 2009, Rich announced that UD has decided to replace WebCT with Sakai, public software, used by more than 100 colleges and universities, including Stanford, MIT and the University of Michigan.

Fred Hofstetter, a professor in the School of Education, and Bob Simons, a professor of psychology, gave presentations of Sakai and how to incorporate course content into Sakai based on their experience. Hofstetter's review of Sakai is available online at [www.udel.edu/fth/lessons/sakai/].

Matthew Robinson, director of UD's sport management program, reported on the assessment of the residential life curriculum program, which was discontinued by Harker during the fall semester, and what can be learned for the improvement of residence life programs.

As chairperson of the Faculty Senate Committee on Student Life, Robinson was part of a group that worked with Michael Gilbert, vice president for student life, and Kathleen Kerr, director of UD's Office of Residence Life, to examine problems with the discontinued program and work towards the creation and implementation of a new residence life program.

“In conducting this assessment, the Student Life Committee made observations in regards to the curriculum content and implementation, faculty inclusion, reliance on residence assistants in the implementation of the curriculum, the clarity over whether the program was mandatory or voluntary, learning outcomes and activities and the posting of materials on the University Web site,” Robinson said. “The Student Life Committee hopes that these observations will initiate progress in the development of a residence life program that is consistent with the University's mission and that will meet the needs of the students in the University's residence life programs.”

The report, which is available on the Web at [www.facsen.udel.edu/sites/Student%20Life/studentlifeassessmentreport.htm], issued recommendations in nine areas including:

  • The use of the term curriculum;
  • Simplification;
  • Learning opportunities are optional;
  • Content and implementation;
  • Integration of the broader UD community;
  • First Year Experience (FYE) student learning outcomes;
  • Assessment data management;
  • Social milieu of the residence hall; and
  • Ongoing review.

“The committee feels the term 'educational' still conveys a classroom image and not an extracurricular activity that should be enjoyable as well as mind-expanding,” Robinson said. “To avoid any confusion, when talking abut education that is planned to occur in residence halls, it is recommended that the term curriculum be replaced with 'residence life program.'”

Robinson said the number of recommended plans should be reduced from eight to two, with one for use primarily in first-year residence areas and the other in residence halls for upper classmen.

It was also recommended that students clearly understand that participation in residence life programming is voluntary, Robinson said.

“Respecting the moral autonomy and intellectual integrity of students should be a primary goal of all residential life programs,” Robinson said. “Such respect requires that no educational program of residence life be mandatory.”

The report also suggested ways that residence life can better identify how the educational experts among faculty and staff can be interwoven into the overall residence life program.

“Future residence life programs should be assessed to determine if they are achieving stated objectives and if students feel their needs and interests are being met,” Robinson said. “Such an assessment should be in partnership and collaboration with the Office of Educational Assessment, rather than a full spectrum of tools being developed solely by residence life.”

Resolutions approved

Thirty-nine items were presented to the senate for challenge and all were passed. Included among those items were additions of new majors and minors, revisions to graduate and undergraduate requirements, program name changes and the deletion of several concentrations.

The senate approved the establishment of a program leading to the master of science degree in finance provisionally for five years in the Lerner College of Business and Economics.

A proposed master of science degree in fashion studies in the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies provisionally for five years was approved.

The senate also approved a resolution requiring at least 60 credits for the completion of all master of fine arts programs currently in the University.

The creation of a food science major in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences to be established provisionally for five years beginning fall semester 2008, also was approved.

New majors in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences and animal and food science were approved for five years beginning in the semester 2008. The deletion of majors and concentrations in animal science and food science and technology were approved.

The Faculty Senate also endorsed proposed revisions to Section IV--Personnel Policies for Faculty--Promotion and Tenure--Faculty Promotion and Tenure and Minimum Standards for Promotion in the Faculty Handbook.

The Senate received for comment a revision of the UD mission statement that was proposed by the provost's office and supported by the Senate Executive Committee and Coordinating Committee [www.facsen.udel.edu/sites/Executive/MissionStatement.htm]. The revised mission statement will be presented for approval to the University's Board of Trustees.

Article by Jerry Rhodes