Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

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September 6, 2006

Dr. B. Joseph White
President, University of Illinois
364 Henry Administration Building
Urbana-Champaign           MC-346

Dr. Chester S. Gardner
Special Assistant to the President
377 Henry Administration Building
Urbana-Champaign           MC-348

Re: “Global Campus” Proposal

Dear Joe and Chet:

As you know, the University Senates Conference (USC) has closely followed the development of a plan for a “Global Campus” of this University, the latest version of which is set forth in the May 2006 OVPAA document “The University of Illinois Global Campus Initiative: Final Report.”  We thank you for listening to our comments on the various drafts for the past several months.  We write now to express our present sense of the initiative, and to provide our advice with respect to it. 

In brief: we are strongly supportive of online education, and of the idea that the University of Illinois can and should be a leader in its development and provision.  We are also strongly supportive of your goal of providing affordable, broadly accessible, high quality undergraduate and graduate education via the Global Campus initiative.  Nevertheless, we have serious reservations with respect to the proposal under consideration.  The assumptions made in the business plan set forth in the “Final Report” seem to us to be very optimistic, and we are concerned about the financial consequences for the rest of the University if commitments are made to the Global Campus that cannot be met out of its separate funding and revenues.  Even if the business plan is sound, however, other aspects of the proposal as it stands give us pause. 

In particular, we are concerned about the absence of an academic plan – for both the graduate and the undergraduate programs contemplated.  Such an academic plan should provide structurally for the kinds of faculty guidance and academic-administrative oversight that are part of the fabric of the three existing campuses of this University, and that have played a central role in ensuring the University’s reputation for quality and integrity to date.  It seems evident to us that this guidance and oversight can only come from the faculty and academic affairs offices of the three existing campuses. 

The “Final Report” does envision meaningful roles during the research and development or “start-up” phase for UI tenured and tenure-track (or “partner”) faculty and academic affairs offices at the three on-ground campuses, but those roles are severely restricted if not eliminated in the “formative” and “mature” phases of the Global Campus.  Much like any new business, during the start-up phase of experimentation and development, quality is guaranteed by the people actually doing the work – in this case, the UI faculty.  But according to the “Final Report,” as the Global Campus scales up, moves into the formative and mature phases, and perhaps seeks NCA accreditation, it will increasingly be the LLC itself that oversees development, delivery, assessment, and review of courses and programs.  Who, then, guarantees the academic quality of our online UI certificates and degrees?  As defined in the “Final Report,” the Global Campus Instructors and Core Faculty will possess neither strong institutional connections nor the customary protections afforded by academic freedom and academic governance structures.  Consequently, it is difficult to see how the current business plan guarantees academic quality in the formative and mature phases of development. 

In our view, it is clearly the University’s tenured or tenure-track faculty who are best qualified to guide, oversee, and guarantee the continued educational quality of the Global Campus.  Therefore, we recommend that the Academic Council as described on pages 25-27 of the “Final Report” be re-envisioned as a campus senate with more fully developed links to the other three senates and the University Senates Conference, and that a more dynamic, engaged role for UI “partner faculty” be developed for the formative and mature phases.  We also recommend that there be three faculty members on the Board of Managers, one from each campus, and each with full voting rights, rather than just one non-voting faculty member from the entire University.       

If the Global Campus initiative is to receive significant faculty support, the development and articulation of a sound academic model that promotes and sustains the educational quality traditionally associated with the University of Illinois will be essential.  If the Global Campus can be developed in an academically responsible manner, without diminishing our quality and mission-related activity in other respects, the USC is supportive of it.  In the absence of provision for adequate structural safeguards of the academic integrity and staffing quality of the course and degree offerings of the proposed campus, however, as well as of strong and clear assurance that it will not be allowed to become a financial and staffing burden for the rest of the university, we question the wisdom and appropriateness of its approval and establishment.  Specific items of concern are detailed below.

Academic Principles
The Conference believes that any UI “Global Campus” of the sort described in the “Final Report” should be developed in accordance with widely-accepted academic principles such as those defined by Dr. James Perley, the former president of the American Association of University Professors, and drafter of the AAUP’s statement of the Special Committee on Distance Education and Intellectual Property Issues of 1999.  These include:   

“higher education is something more than career preparation and/or a
                 collection of courses;

teaching is something other than the ‘delivery’ of a prescribed set of
                  course materials;

learning is something more than the absorption of material;

teaching includes a three-way interaction among students, teachers, and
                  course material;

learning includes generating the capacity to pursue and create new
                  knowledge; and

the most valuable courses are those that are designed and taught by faculty
           so that the courses can change with the pace, interests, and understanding
                       of students and can expand as faculty and students develop new insights.”

“Back to the Future of Education: Real Teaching, Real Learning,” James E. Perley
(Originally published in The Technology Source (http://technologysource.org/), September/October 1999. http://technologysource.org/article/back_to_the_future_of_education/)

Marginalization of the Faculty
The USC is deeply concerned about the fundamental absence of a real faculty – meaning full-time, tenure-track faculty with the protection of academic freedom – in the proposed Global Campus, especially in the formative and mature phases.  The intended involvement of regular UI faculty in the initial planning and supervision of courses and degree programs notwithstanding, we see a campus staffed mainly by non-faculty staff who are given the responsibilities of delivering courses to students.  We have serious concerns about the educational responsibility and probable resulting quality of this approach.    

Decoupling Course Development from Teaching
The proposal contemplates courses that would be created and developed by UI faculty, but taught by non-faculty.  Decoupling course development from teaching is deeply problematic.  Teaching is an iterative process, a complex multidimensional activity that involves interaction between the faculty, the students, and the materials over time.  It should be a continuous and unbroken loop.  Separating course development from teaching is a hallmark of training, rather than education.    

Contingent Instructors
The proposal contemplates hiring a large number of instructors whose pay and benefits will be modest at best, without the possibility of tenure and with no assurance of academic freedom.  We think these circumstances, besides being exploitive, will negatively affect the quality of courses at all levels.

We are well aware of the trend of rapid growth in the number of non-tenure-track, part-time faculty in higher education.  This is a trend, however, that we lament, and believe to be profoundly detrimental to the quality of higher education in our state and nation.  We also note that the  increased usage of part time and full time contingent faculty “is associated with a decline in graduation rates at four year institutions, with the largest impact being felt at the public Masters’ institutions,” according to research from the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.  “Trends and Issues, Assessing Public higher Education at the Start of the 21st Century.”  Ronald G. Ehrenberg, July 2005.  http://www.tiacrefinstitute.org/research/trends/docs/tr_070105b.pdf

We are told that the hiring practices of the Global Campus will be no different from our current practice of making extensive use of Teaching Assistants and contingent faculty to teach students.  While this may be the case at UIC and UIUC for lower division students, most upper level undergraduates are taught by program faculty, and master’s and doctoral students are nearly always taught by full time tenure-track faculty.  Being taught by TAs and contingent faculty is not the whole or even the greater part of a typical student’s educational experience at any of our three campuses, especially in the major and at the graduate level. 

Value of the UI Degree
We are concerned that, with no differentiation between a degree from the “Global Campus” and the traditional degree from our three existing campuses, the value of the traditional UI degrees at our (other) three campuses may be diluted and diminished by association, and by the indistinguishability of academic credentials.

Competition with Existing Online Programs
We are proud of the successful online education programs (including UI on-line) at the three campuses; and we support the appropriate expansion of such programs as a component of a comprehensive University experience.  Created and taught mainly by the full time faculty, these online degree programs are indistinguishable from their on-the-ground traditional counterparts.  We question the wisdom and efficiency of establishing a separate structure that will undoubtedly compete with existing programs.

Problems of Online Ventures
Online ventures have a significant history of difficulties.  The March 2006 closing of AllLearn, the joint not-for-profit online venture of Oxford, Yale and Stanford Universities is the “…latest in a series of failed online learning university ventures…”  according to “What Went Wrong with AllLearn?” in University Business, The Magazine for College and University Administrators.  The article notes that a “large proportion of the collapsed online ventures … have had explicitly for-profit motives…,” including NYU Online, Columbia University Fathom, and Virtual Temple.  The article lists some of the risks in   “…creating a spin-off for-profit online venture separate from the university… include tension with the parent institution over straying away from traditional values and institutional identity, lack of faculty involvement, and concerns over assuring the quality of provision.”
http://www2.universitybusiness.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=57&p=1#0 

We appreciate that the business plan envisions a self-supporting and even revenue-generating enterprise, but we are concerned about possible negative impact on our current operation, especially in light of our continuing budget problems.  We also wonder about contingency plans in case revenue projections do not meet expectations.

Lack of Shared Governance and Structural Linkage   
In the proposed Global Campus, as a for-profit corporation with a board of business managers, the customary faculty and academic-administrative roles articulated in the Statutes and embedded in long-standing institutional practices are absent.  This structure bypasses shared governance and oversight at every level, including the USC.  The proposed board includes only one non-voting faculty member.  We wonder where the academic expertise to make sound academic decisions resides in this business model.  We consider it imperative that an explicit structural role be given to the faculty and the provosts or vice chancellors for academic affairs on our existing campuses in the approval and oversight of any Global Campus programs involving colleges or departments on their campuses.

Statutory Concerns
We recognize that this “Global Campus” may not be intended to be a full-fledged “campus” in the sense in which this term is used in the Statutes.  The Statutesstate:

e. Campuses.  The formation of a new campus may be proposed by the president, by a senate, or by the University Senates Conference.  The president shall submit the proposal for the new campus together with the advice of the senates and chancellors and the University Senates Conference to the Board of Trustees for action.  If the proposal is adopted, the University Senates Conference shall serve as an advisory body to the president in developing procedures to implement the action of the board.  (Article VIII, Section 1)

If the proposed “Campus” is not actually to be a “campus” as this term is used in the Statutes, this section and others relating to “campuses” of this University may be deemed inapplicable in regards to the Global Campus.  If that is indeed the case, though, we question the appropriateness of the University itself using the term “campus” to name and characterize the entity.  Even in that event, however, we expect that the spirit of this section of the Statutes will be respected, and that the “advice” of the senates, the chancellors and the USC be sought, welcomed, and given due consideration by the board before it acts upon the proposal to establish the “Campus” described in the “Final Report.”

Conclusion
The University Senates Conference embraces and endorses the general educational aims and aspirations as expressed in the “Final Report.”  The USC considers the implementation of the proposed “Global Campus Initiative” to be appropriate, however, only to the extent that this can be done in a manner which guarantees long-term academic and educational quality, and with due regard for its impact on the character and quality of the rest of this institution.

We are pleased by your willingness to fully engage the USC in discussion of the Global Campus business plan over the course of this past year.  We are also pleased by your clear commitment to developing and delivering a high-quality, broadly accessible online education to students within and beyond the borders of Illinois.  As the Statutes make clear, the maintenance of academic quality is the faculty’s expertise and responsibility, and ultimately, our reputation is the source of public trust in the quality of our courses, certificates, and degrees.  We look forward now to working with you to develop a complementary academic plan that guarantees the long-term quality of our online educational programs. 
 

                                                                                    Sincerely,
                                                                                   
Terry Bodenhorn, Associate Professor and Chair, University Senates Conference

 

cc:     Richard Herman, Chancellor, UIUC
         Sylvia Manning, Chancellor, UIC
         Richard Ringeisen, Chancellor, UIS

         Vernon Burton, Chair, UIUC Senate Executive Committee
         Elliot Kaufman, Chair, UIC Senate Executive Committee
         Pat Langley, Chair, UIS Campus Senate

         University Senates Conference Members:
                  Conwell Anderson, UIC
                  Terry Bodenhorn, UIS
                  Vernon Burton, UIUC
                  Donald Chambers, UIC
                  Karen-Chapman Novakofski, UIUC
                  Lynn Fisher, UIS
                  Nancy Ford, UIS
                  Robert Fossum, UIUC
                  Michael Grossman, UIUC
                  William Jones, UIC
                  Al Kagan, UIUC
                  Elliot Kaufman, UIC
                  Mary Mallory, UIUC
                  Richard Schacht, UIUC
                  Peter Scheff, UIC
                  Gerald Strom, UIC
                  Joyce Tolliver, UIUC
                  Ann Weller, UIC
                  Matthew Wheeler, UIUC
                  John Wood, UIC