University News

U. to reassess undergrad alcohol consumption

Faculty members also discussed online course credit, research funding and promotion rules

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Brown will undergo an external review of undergraduate alcohol consumption this spring in response to a poll conducted by the Campus Life Advisory Board, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, at a faculty meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Faculty members also discussed the approval of online transfer credit for students, the effects another federal government sequester could have on budget planning and amendments to the Faculty Rules and Regulations.

About 45 percent of undergraduate poll respondents indicated that, during the timeframe the study was conducted in, they engaged in binge drinking — defined as consuming five drinks for males or four for females within a set time frame — a figure well above the national average of 36.5 percent of undergraduates on college campuses, Klawunn said.

About 37 percent of undergraduates responded to the poll, she added.

The binge drinking rate was higher among students who are at least 21 and among students who live off-campus, she said.

“We will bring in a group of people who specialize in campus prevention efforts,” Klawunn told The Herald, adding that the review will be a broad evaluation that will include input from Residential Peer Leaders, students and other community members.

The College Curriculum Council voted unanimously to allow transfer credit for courses taken online, said Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College, at the meeting. She added that online courses are subject to the same standards as normal courses — they must have pre-approval and post-approval by a faculty member, be the equivalent of at least four credits and be as rigorous as a course offered at Brown.

Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and Professor of Engineering Iris Bahar asked about the balance between keeping students in good academic standing — which requires taking a set number of classes on campus — and students taking multiple online transfer courses per year.

Bergeron said the University prohibits students from registering for more than five classes per semester, but that standard does not apply to online courses at other universities. Beyond those rules, the University has no regulations on how many online courses students can take.

Bergeron added that this change will be particularly important for undergraduate advisers and faculty members to consider, both when advising students and in the pre-approval of online courses.

The success of the online offering of ENGL 0180: “Introduction to Creative Nonfiction,” a for-credit course for Brown students run for the first time this summer, contributed to discussions of the policy change, which brings the curriculum “up-to-date” with the current national climate, Bergeron said.

Administrators are currently soliciting nominations for additional summer online course offerings, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.

Federal research funding for the University will likely be reduced should a second federal sequester take effect next month, Schlissel said at the meeting.

A second set of sequester cuts — which will slash federal spending across the board, cutting defense spending in particular — would take place if Congress cannot reach a budget deal in time.

If the sequester takes effect, many national organizations will face budget decreases, likely cutting the federal research funding Brown could receive, Schlissel said.

That prospect “really threatens the institution,” he said, adding that federal research funding this year is roughly 20 percent lower than it was last year.

“There isn’t room in the budget for many new things,” Schlissel said, adding that the University is already operating under a $4.5 million deficit.

“We are going to be much more constrained” with budget planning for next year, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration. “We hope for some good news out of Washington.”

The faculty also passed two motions to amend the Faculty Rules and Regulations.

The first motion reworded certain portions of the document to add a rule for “procedural fairness” in the Committee for Faculty Equity and Diversity, and removes an inaccurate detail regarding CFED in the operations of the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee. The motion passed unanimously.

The second motion — which amended regulations on faculty tenure and promotions — incited longer debate. After considerable discussion, the faculty voted to require that review committees for tenure and promotions have members from other academic departments if fewer than three tenured professors within the department are able to sit on the review committee.

The motion, which addressed both tenure review and review for promotion from associate professor to professor, originally added a clause that allows faculty members from other academic departments to join the review committees in small departments. But Professor of Neuroscience Jerome Sanes called the language too tentative and proposed a motion that would change the word “may” to “shall,” requiring review committees to comprise at least three professors.

Sanes’ motion passed with only one vote of opposition.

In another section of the tenure and promotion review regulations, changes were made to set a standard for contacting references for the review process.

Because the change did not provide for the prohibition of “informal” contact with referees, which could sway the references’ opinions, Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 proposed a motion to add a concluding sentence to the two relevant sections. The sentence prohibits any informal contact with the suggested references during a formal evaluation request.

But Professor of Geological Sciences John Hermance criticized the motion, calling it “unenforceable.”

After discussion, the motion passed with 38 in favor, 11 opposed and four abstentions. The faculty then approved the entire revisions to the tenure and promotion process, with two abstentions.

A memorial minute was also read for Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Judaic Studies Ernest Frierichs ’48.


One Comment

  1. These are items on the list of things that Brown university announces. University leaders will not get them done, because they have never intended to get them done. Alumni and alumnae, please watch over this to see if it is true. If it is, would you not want to withhold your alum contribution? You should withhold it until some new university leader comes along, who show that she or he takes the rest of the university community seriously.

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