Senate reacts to board concerns on accountability

Dominick Ferlito

Feb. 26, 2018

The Cleveland State University Faculty Senate spent most of its Feb. 8 meeting discussing student success and tenure, a topic featured in the Cleveland Stater’s article about the January board of trustees’ meeting.

At the January meeting, several trustees said they wanted stronger language in the tenure process to ensure that faculty members were being held accountable in ensuring student success.

During that meeting, trustees emphasized the use of Starfish, a program designed to help detect when students are missing class.

William M. Bowen, Ph.D., Faculty Senate president, discussed the topic briefly during his address to the senate, but the topic overflowed to the open question portion of the meeting where several senate members voiced their thoughts.

Faculty members expressed concern that the board of trustees’ comments resulted from reliance on anecdotal information. Several faculty members indicated a desire to collect more empirical data.

During the open question period, Rosie Tighe, Ph.D., an associate professor in the College of Urban Affairs, suggested that the faculty use data mined from course evaluations and Starfish to help better inform board members that faculty are more accountable than they may perceive.

Bowen agreed with Tighe’s thoughts.

“I think we need to respond to this,” Bowen said. “We need data, we need exactly the kind of data that Dr. Tighe is talking about. I want to systematically look at ourselves and present to the board the case for ourselves.”

“In the coming days I will be working with Bill [Bowman] and Faculty Steering to come up with a responses to the board,” said Jianping Zhu, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

“But we do need to have a clear stance to encourage all faculty to really make all the efforts we can to enhance student success.”

Zhu also stated that the university does keep data regarding Starfish usage and course evaluations.

According to Zhu, only about 40 to 50 percent of faculty uses Starfish on a regular basis. But, in course evaluations, 90 percent of professors at Cleveland State are rated three or higher on the five point scale.

Marius Boboc, Ed.D., vice provost for academic planning, said that he has conducted studies over three semesters to better understand course evaluations and fluctuation among teacher evaluations.

“None of us is willing to say, ‘We don’t care about the students, I just want a paycheck,’” Boboc said. “We are here for the right reasons.”

Several other faculty members said they want to continue to be better teachers and help support students.

While faculty accountability was the main topic of the meeting, the Senate also approved changes to seven degree tracks and received information about small changes to 10 others.

During his address, Zhu stated that his office is trying to find funding to replace some incapacitated and outdated faculty computers. This will be a one-time solution, he explained, but efforts will be made to put technology updates into the budget.

Bowen also addressed the hiring of President-elect Harlan M. Sands. Both he and Mark A. Holtzblatt, Ph.D., who are the faculty representatives on the board of trustees, had input in the hiring process.

Both agreed that Sands was the prevailing choice.

“One of our big tasks as faculty members moving forward will be to educate our new president about our faculty perspectives, our aspirations, our culture, our means of governance, our politics,” Bowen said.

He added that he and board chairman Bernie Moreno, have agreed to hold four meetings for President-elect Sands to meet with the Senate ad-hoc committee, the AAUP (the professors’ union), the Faculty Senate and the faculty as a whole.

Bowen and Zhu also updated the Senate on the 2020.2 committee, which will look at both the administrative and academic sides of the budget.

The 10 members of the committee, which includes Bowen, will meet every Friday to address a successful path forward to elevate the university in future endeavors.

Zhinqiang Gao, Ph.D. delivered a eulogy for Professor Emeritus George L. Kramerich, who had worked at Cleveland State since 1970.

“His legacy will be imprinted on all of us,” Gao said of the cherished professor.

Joanne Goodell, Ph.D., reminded the group about lunches with faculty for first year students. This is an initiative to help faculty connect with students and in turn help students find a deeper connection with Cleveland State.

Current Cleveland State President Ronald M. Berkman did not attend the meeting and was unable to deliver an address to the Senate as he typically does.



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