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Faculty Senate » Annual Report 2005-2006

Curriculum Council

Annual Report 2005-2006

Activity report

The Curriculum Council met 12 times during the academic year, reviewed and approved:

  • 10 category I proposals, one of which included a reduction in credit hours for the BS degree for 14 academic programs
  • 366 category II proposals

Program reviews for Microbiology and Philosophy were completed, and a review for Horticulture is in the final stages, and is expected to be completed early next year.

It is important to note that the timetable of Program reviews is not being maintained.  Program reviews by the Curriculum Council apply only to those undergraduate academic programs for which there is no regularly scheduled, third party, accreditation review.  These programs are concentrated in the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Science, and the College of Agricultural Sciences.  Timely program reviews are a University Accreditation Requirement.  It must become a priority for the University to engage in the program review process in a regular and timely manner.  The Curriculum Council will not be able to be responsive to a backlog of program reviews rushed through the system in time to meet the next University accreditation deadline.

The Council reviewed and approved study abroad proposals for:

    • Deakin University, Australia (Oregon University System)
    • Univ de las Americas, Puebla Mexico (Oregon University System)
    • Pretoria, South Africa (OSU Int'l Education and Outreach)

Issues Addressed by the Council

The Curriculum Council (CC) discussed several curricular related issues over the 2005-6 academic year.  A few of those resulted in action items, some were discussed without any action and some that are still pending.

Resolved issues resulting in action

  • The CC met with the professional faculty from Services for Students with Disabilities Office (SSD) and sought to determine how students who may have disabilities are identified by teaching faculty members.   The SSD office had provided a suggested statement for addition to all class syllabi for approval of the CC.  It was reviewed and interpreted by the Council to imply a level of responsibility that the Council believed was not reasonable for faculty.  The statement was changed to reflect that faculty have an obligation to provide students with information about the availability of the SSD services, but not in attempting to identify which students may be in need of their services.
  • The CC spent considerable time in clarifying how the Category II computerized system might be modified to assist in greater efficiency and effectiveness in the process of course approval.  In particular, the justification of courses and the procedures to assure adequate liaison was discussed.  A sub-committee was appointed to study the issue and devise a list of bulleted questions for addition to the Category II course approval template.  In addition, clarification of the justification on the Academic Programs web site was also suggested.   Improving liaison when curricular changes have potential impact beyond the proposing department continues to be an area for which there is need for improvement.
  • The CC invested in seeking clarification of the curricular implementation process for the OSU-Cascades (OSU-C) campus in Bend.  Historically, the procedure involved a Memo of Understanding (MOU) which was somewhat of unknown existence among faculty and/or not consistently followed.  A sub-committee met with OSU-C campus curricular staff and developed a matrix indicating a variety of curricular activities on one axis, and the various levels of approval on the other axis.  The matrix was eventually approved by all parties, reviewed by the Council and forwarded to the Executive Council and to the OSU Corvallis administrative team.  A new flow chart for approvals of OSU-Cascades was developed and approved.

Issues Discussed Without Action

  • A discussion of a proposed plan from the College of Business (COB) to limit enrollments in the business courses for majors/minors/non-majors occurred.  The primary Curriculum Council issue in the discussion was student access to courses required for completion of a degree.  There was consensus that some liaison process is in order when one unit makes schedule of classes adjustments that will impact students from other academic units.  Currently, collegiality is the only mechanism to ensure student access.  A formal liaison process does not exist.
Issues Pending

  • The International Education Office (IEO) submitted Category I approval for several enhancements to the existing opportunities for study abroad.  The Council requested that the IEO provide better clarification about the need for more study abroad programs and to address concerns about articulation of coursework from study abroad.  The issue needs further study and it was recommended to be resumed for review during the 06-07 year.
  • A significant increase in the use of e-campus courses for on-campus students and the increase in courses offered through e-campus generated the need for attention by the Council.  The cost of taking e-campus courses was not considered since that is not within the purview of the Council, but the fee structure for e-campus courses generates much controversy on campus.  Since the courses are implemented without Category II approval, discussion relevant to whether or not e-campus/classroom courses bearing the same designator, number and description are always equivalent.  In addition, concerns about the parallel nature between live and virtual laboratories and how other hands-on components to courses translate into e-campus course mode were discussed.  The question remained that if campus courses are scrutinized for use of credit hours and content, that e-campus courses may need some level of review.   The Extended Education office would like to participate in discussions with the Council in the future.
  • Category II proposals tend to appear in a cyclical nature, with a peak of review occurring near the end of each term.  With interest in getting course approval for subsequent terms, sometimes Cat II proposals are submitted in an untimely fashion with requests that they be fast tracked through the system. The Academic Program staff suggested that we develop a set of deadlines for the submission of Cat I and Cat II approvals.  The implementation of this will be carried over to the 06-07 academic year.
  • The Baccalaureate Core (BC) Committee twice submitted a request to the Council for consideration that the course syllabus requirements on the Academic Program website include rather detailed descriptions regarding the baccalaureate core course content.  Their interest is in communicating to students the significance of baccalaureate core courses and they believe that how the course meets the BC requirements and how it develops critical thinking should be syllabus inclusions.  The Council twice decided against the implementation of the requirement, recommending that such may be more effective if placed on the BCC web site.  The BCC may choose to bring forth this request again in the 06-07 academic year.
  • The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) submitted notice of intent to submit numerous Cat II proposals for credit hour changes (from 3 to 4 hours of credit) within several departments within the college.  Negotiation with the Co-Chairs and Academic Programs resulted in an agreement for a package submission by academic unit that should result in a more efficient and better review process.  The CC was concerned about the purpose for the change and of potential impact upon other departments and students taking CLA courses as requirements for their major.  The procedure and implication of this change will be subject to further discussions in the 06-07 academic year. 
  • The Curriculum Council was asked by the Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management to intercede in a disagreement between “Range” and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Forest Resources with regard to overlap in content between an existing Range course, RNG 421 – Wildland Restoration and Ecology, and a recently established course cross-listed between “Fisheries” and “Forest Resources”, FOR 445/545 – Ecological Restoration [FW 445/545].  Both courses were either created or modified through Category II proposals within the last few years. 

 The conclusion of the Co-Chairs of the Curriculum Council was that all of the Category II proposals were approved without appropriate liaison.  The three departments were requested to meet, engage in a thorough “after the fact” liaison process, identify areas of overlap in the courses, and develop a proposal for serving student needs in all three program areas that meets the mutual satisfaction of the three departments.   The deadline for resolution of the disagreement is the end of Fall term, 2006.  It was communicated to all three Department Heads that the Curriculum Council can suspend approval of all the courses if resolution satisfactory to all three departments is not reached. 
Progress reports to the Co-Chairs indicate that progress has been made, and that a final resolution will be forthcoming by the end of Fall term, 2006.

Proposals for Change in how the Curriculum Council Functions

The combination of workload, continuity [institutional and Curriculum Council memory], and appropriate oversight of curricular proposals lead to informal discussions from which the following ideas emerged.  These ideas were developed between the staff of the Office of Academic Programs and the Co-Chairs of the Council.  It may be appropriate for the Council as a whole to review them and act on those that appear to have merit next year.

  • Approval of Category II course proposals is currently done in two stages by Council members.  First, a College representative reviews the proposal and, following any modifications that are requested, passes the proposal on to the Chair.  The Chair provides a second review that in most cases results in immediate approval, but in a modest percentage of cases involves additional clarification or modification of the proposal.  This results in a very large workload for the Chair since every proposal must pass through a Chair approval screen.  It has been proposed that Category II course proposals receive this primary and secondary review by Council members, without the Chair being involved except in an advisory role whenever a Council member wishes some additional oversight.  The primary review would be done by representative within the College from which the proposal originated, and the secondary review would be done by a Council Member from outside the College.  This would preserve the two-stage review process and significantly reduce the workload of the Chair.
  • Approval of Category II program proposals would be handled as they are now where primary review is done by the College representative, and secondary review is done by the Chair.
  • Approval of Category I proposals would be done by the full Council as is the case currently.
  • Continuity on the Council could be significantly enhanced by formalizing a Co-Chair system where the Co-chairs serve two-year overlapping terms.  The reduced workload that the above changes could bring about would probably be essential for this type of system to work, but function of the Council would likely be improved with an overlapping term Co-chair system.
  • Early in each Fall term, time should be allocated in the Curriculum Council schedule for one or more training sessions for new and continuing members.  Aspects of the web based curriculum approval system, as well as review of the function of the council and guiding curricular policies, could be addressed so that the entire Council begins their work with a common understanding of the role of the Council and the process of curriculum approval.


The Council considered the overall role of the Curriculum Council for the Senate and for the University during the academic year.  There were a variety of conversations about issues where the Council members wondered whether or not the Council had the authority and/or should exercise their authority in the process of rejecting new programs/courses as well as when deliberating about troubling campus wide curricular issues.  In that regard the Co-Chairs met with the Faculty Senate President to pursue his interpretation of the role for the Council.  The Faculty Senate President encouraged the Curriculum Council chairs to be steadfast in interpreting the Senate Standing Rules that indicate that the Council has the role of “implementing the long-range educational mission of the University”.  In that spirit, the following comments are based.

There is no clarity with which to understand how one must “implement the long-range educational mission of the University…”   The Council members were at times in disagreement about whether or not the Council should reject the curricular desires of a particular department or college when requesting approval for a curricular action that appears to be less than critical in support of the academic mission of the university.  Given the dire financial circumstances that constrict the University, departments continue to offer new programs, new courses, and hire faculty based on seemingly unclear goals.  Few seem interested in any form of curricular “belt tightening.”  Proposals are sent forth which look to be duplicative of existing coursework, result in complaints that liaison was not requested or negative liaison ignored, and sometimes appear to be generally un-collegial toward other faculty and departments.  The independent and autocratic functioning of colleges makes the Curriculum Council implementation of the curricular mission a challenge.

Therefore, there are a few considerations that we suggest in this final report.  First, clarification about the role of the Council is needed.  Should the Council act to be mechanical in processing course approvals, checking for syllabus content and accuracy prior to approvals?  Or should the Council be analytical in asking for proposal justifications that indicate how the change supports the academic mission and impacts others within the University?

Second, the curriculum system at Oregon State University needs to have a single source of information to enhance accuracy.   The current systems, particularly with multiple electronic versions, make for a chaotic collection of many sources of information about course and program requirements.  With an on-line catalog system, somewhat lacking integration and parallelism between Banner and Data Warehouse, and multiple department and college level websites, information is not consistent and there is no single, recognized final authority of which version is correct.  Students and faculty/staff need to have a single source for the most accurate information. 

Last, the Council structure needs to be considered.  Council members need to be recruited that are tenured and teaching faculty at the University, allowing the member a sense of freedom in their ability to make difficult decisions within their academic units.  The process of curricular approval is a time consuming one; members sometimes want to approve something for the sake of completing business in a timely fashion.  While unnecessary meeting and discussions are the demise of any committee, thoughtful consideration for curricular issues is important work.  A mechanism to ensure continuity on the Council with overlapping Chair positions; freeing the Chair to not make routine approval for all course proposals are a few ways to make the approval process and the work of the Council more expedient.

This has been a productive year for the Curriculum Council, and several orders of business were completed.  The activities of the Council reflect much time and commitment on the part of the Council members.  And that is the way it was at the Curriculum Council this year where voting members are hard working, the liaison representatives are tolerant of the musings of the members, and everyone is above average.

Curriculum Council

Membership – 2005-2006

Mary Cluskey '07, Co-chair
Marv Pyles '08, Co-chair
Burke Hales '06
Bob Paasch '06
Carol Brown '07
Jon Kimerling '07
Rorie Spill '07
Nicole von Germeten '07
Frank Chaplen '08
John Lee '08
Mike Quinn '08
Rich Shintaku '08

Nutrition & Food Management
Forest Engineering
Oceanic & Atmospheric Sciences
Mechanical Engineering
College of Business
Political Science
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
College of Education

Ex-officio members:
Director of Academic Programs (Mina McDaniel)
Budgets & Fiscal Planning Committee (Mike Quinn)
Extended Campus (Alfonso Bradoch)
Registrar's Office (Mary Rhodes)
University Libraries (Bonnie Allen)

Liaison members:
Academic Advising Council (John Shea)
Instructional Technology (John Greydanus)

Student Members -

Executive Committee Liaison - Bob Mason