University Council Minutes

November 15, 1999

Present: Greg Brown, Landrum Cross, Ben Dixon, S. Dru Forrester (for Peter Eyre), Eileen Hitchingham, Janet Johnson, Paul Knox, Peggy Meszaros, Carole Nickerson, Len Peters, Jennie Reilly, Minnis Ridenour, Mode Johnson (for Ray Smoot), Rich Sorensen, Janis Grubb (for Charles Steger), Bill Stephenson, Andy Swiger, Tom Tillar, Cindy Harrison, Pat Hyer, Julia Beamish, Irene Leech, Terry Herdman, Sean Blackburn, Jay Sullivan, Richard Bambach, Skip Fuhrman, Kamal Rojiani, Paul Metz, Tim Pratt, John Hillison, John Randolph, Rebecca Crittenden, Pat Devens, John Seiler, Pete Martens, Donna Cassell, Anita Haney, Aaron Hill, Delbert Jones, James Martin (for Ben Poe), Kimberly DeGuise, Tomoya Ochinero, Mike Whipple, Shawn Breck, Jennifer Smith (for Drew Lichtenberger), Taj Mahon-Haft, Peter Zippelius

Absent: Bob Bates, Erv Blythe, Paul Torgersen, Mitzi Vernon, Joe Hunnings, Deborah Mayo, Dan Connolly, Sam Hicks, Suzanne Murrmann, Bernard Feldman, Rodney Gaines, Jovette Gadson, Aaron McClung, Laurie Steneck

Guests: David Ford

  1. Adoption of Agenda

    A motion was made and seconded to adopt the agenda. The motion carried.

  2. Announcement of approval and posting of Council Minutes of November 1, 1999

    Dr. Meszaros noted that the minutes from the November 1, 1999, University Council meeting have been voted on and approved electronically. Once voted upon, University Council minutes can be publicly accessed on the Governance Information System on the WEB. (/)

  3. New Business - First Reading

    Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies
    Resolution 1999-2000A
    Resolution Regarding Revision of Definition of Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Commission Chair Julia Beamish presented this resolution for first reading and shared that this resolution will require Graduate Teaching Assistants to have 18 hours of graduate-level course work in their teaching discipline to be assigned full responsibility for teaching a lower division course. GTAs lacking this training will be assigned to work under the supervision of a faculty member who will be the instructor of record for the course. This came from recommendations from the SACS review. Dr. Len Peters, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, gave background history that led to this resolution. SACS introduced the 18-hour rule in 1988-89 as a requirement for graduate teaching assistants who had substantial responsibility in a course. This requirement does not pertain to GTAs who are under the heavy direction of a regular faculty member. If they have primary responsibility for the overall conduct of that complete course, that is where they should have 18 hours in their particular area beyond the bachelors.

    In response to a question, Dr. Beamish clarified that this resolution pertains to lab instruction. Dr. Peters added that it includes laboratory instruction where it is completely separate. Dr. Peters noted that it has never been the intent for faculty to give up research to staff laboratories. Dr. Peters also commented that if the GTA has primary responsibility for a stand-alone course, he or she should have the 18 hours. If it is part of a broad course then they are under faculty direction. A question was raised as to whether graduate courses taken by an undergraduate count toward this requirement. Dr. Peters responded that probably the only way we could judge this would be on the basis of a student who had been one of our own students. The primary issue in regard to the responsibility for a course is that the student will have either completed the master's degree or is far along towards completion of the master's degree.

    In response to a question, Dr. Peters stated that this is not something to appease the accreditation, it is required for accreditation, is meant to be a meaningful criteria, and the oversight will have to be at the departmental level to make a judgement as to whether or not the graduate student is the one with primary responsibility for that particular section, which is what they do on a regular basis. Dean Sorensen stated we should have a statement consistent with the SACS interpretation and should be recorded as part of the recommendation or recorded in the minutes for future interpretation. In response to a question as to how many students would be removed from teaching, Dr. Beamish responded that exact numbers are not available. Dr. Peters commented that following discussion with associate deans the only department impacted to any extent is English. A comment was made that some departments may not offer enough courses to meet the 18-hour requirement to which Dr. Beamish responded that it is for this reason that the program of study is considered in the broadest sense.

  4. On-going Business - Second Reading

    Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Committee
    Resolution 1999-2000A
    Resolution Regarding Membership of the EOAA Committee

    Interim Director of EOAA Jennie Reilly moved this resolution for second reading. Dr. Reilly shared that the resolution requests a change in ex-officio membership in the EOAA Committee, adding the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs by virtue of the position. This resolution passed by unanimous vote.

    Council approved a packet of Commission minutes comprised of:

  5. Discussion

    Update on the Development of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Dr. Ben Dixon, Vice President for Multicultural Affairs

    Dr. Dixon gave an overview of the activities in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and a rationale for the focus on multiculturalism and diversity here at Virginia Tech. The Office of Multicultural Affairs was established in the summer of 1998. Dr. Dixon shared two quotes from the 1998 Kellogg Commission Report on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. One, "access to our institutions will become one of the defining domestic policy issues" and two, "the full force of the challenge of maintaining diversity in our institutions is yet to be felt." We need to broaden the access for economic reasons as well. Diversity at model institutions is mentioned in mission statements and is celebrated through a variety of administrative involvement, linkages with minority communities, strong and numerous student support services, involvement of academic departments, etc. Dr. Dixon shared a quote from Dr. Paul Torgersen: "If Virginia Tech is to reach its full institutional potential for the 21st century, each of us must work as partners in providing leadership for the promotion of cultural understanding at all levels of the university." There is also a focus on access and diversity through the academic agenda. The labor supply for business and industry will still have a majority of white Americans; however, the number of African Americans, Asians and Hispanics will remain on an upswing. By the year 2050 it is projected that 41% of the people in this country will be people of color. By 2030 in about 12 states in this country it will be difficult to determine who is the racial ethnic majority. With these projections it is clear that all institutions including higher education have to pay attention to these and other changes occurring in our society. The American Education Research Association reports that graduates of diverse colleges make more money than graduates from institutions with homogeneous populations.

    Dr. Dixon distributed brochures explaining the mission and goals of the office. This information can also be found on the website at: Because of activity in this office, the staff was increased to four with the addition of a graduate student. The mission is to do facilitation and not programming. The Office of Multicultural Affairs reports to the President with strong support from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Office of the Provost. Major collaborators include: Student Affairs, Admissions, Alumni Relations, and Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. Affiliate groups have been started since the initiation of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and include: Advisory Council (staff and faculty), Student Advisory Committee, and Multicultural Fellows. The Multicultural Fellows produce the Virginia Tech Conductor newsletter which is published several times throughout the year. Three major functions of the office are assessment, planning and development. The Climate Survey and The Report on the Status of Women and Minorities were initiated out of the Provost Office with the work of Dr. Pat Hyer and were done prior to the opening of the office. Without these advance efforts we would not be ready now to begin work on the strategic plan for the university.

    African American undergraduate enrollment at Virginia Tech is 4% at this time. Minority enrollment percentage has declined since 1993 and continues to do so. African American population in Virginia is about 19.8%. The number of faculty and staff statistics show African American steady, Asian increase from 4.7% to 5.8%, little increase for American Indians and Hispanics. Virginia Tech shows the least number of women and minorities compared to other universities in Virginia.

    Data to be used for strategic planning is taken from the Assessment of Campus Climate survey of 1997-98. Results from the staff and student survey are still being analyzed. Dr. Dixon shared the perceptions of those who responded to the faculty survey. Between males and females, there is a difference in positive perceptions regarding sexism, while some will not commit to the climate being positive or negative. There are also discrepancies among those who see sexism as positive. African Americans (65%) feel racism is at a high level on the campus. We need to understand these differences in order to construct strategies and activities for improvement.

    Faculty data regarding attitudes show: 40% agree that Virginia Tech is placing too much emphasis on diversity; 56% agree that diversity may lead to admission of under-prepared students; and 44% agree that affirmative action leads to hiring less qualified faculty and staff. White males hold these opinions in significantly higher proportions than women and faculty of color. Again, it is important for us to be aware of and to understand these views if we are to move the institution forward.

    In regard to unfair treatment: 59% of women report they receive unfair treatment occasionally, 7% report frequently; 52% occasionally and 18% frequently for African Americans; 29% occasionally and 17% frequently for Asians. Data for white males was not available at this meeting. This information can be found in the Data Book, which can be obtained from Dr. Pat Hyer.

    Work regarding these issues is beginning with the strategic plan for Virginia Tech. The development process entails working with the Advisory Council on Diversity and Multicultural Affairs to frame five major goals and to work with a variety of groups to identify tasks, activities, measures and responsibility. A student forum has already been held, and staff and faculty forums will be held before the holidays. The five major goals are:

    1) increase and enhance student, faculty and staff diversity, 2) activities and programs designed to improve campus climate, 3) comprehensive curriculum of education and training, 4) system of responsibility, accountability and recognition, 5) internal and external collaborations and partnerships.

    A formal draft of the strategic plan will be available by February. A final report will be available when major units on campus have major stakes in the plan. The plan will cover three years, during which time planning for the final two years will take place. Diversity planning will be in alignment with the academic agenda.

    In response to a question regarding the admission of under-prepared students, Dr. Dixon stated that this is a perception and not backed by data. In regard to a question about the admission of minority students, Dr. Dixon's responded that minority students who are offered admission often do not accept. He is working with the Admissions Office to determine why they are declining admission. We need to know what is happening overall on a factual basis so research can be done.

    Carole Nickerson commented that anecdotal reports from several years ago link the low yield to our reputation in minority communities as a campus that is not very welcoming or inclusive. Nickerson added that she had been told the minority student cohort is competitive with majority applicants, but may not do as well after the initial stage, some believe because of these climate issues.

    Ms. Nickerson added that Dr. Dixon recently made a presentation to the Board which was very well received; the Rector and Vice Rector have expressed particular interest in Dr. Dixon's initiatives and concern for the university's progress in these areas.

Dr. Meszaros adjourned the meeting at 4:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Carole Nickerson
Executive Assistant to the President


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