The faculty voted on several changes to the Alpert Medical School at their March faculty meeting Tuesday, choosing to allow the 15 chairs of the clinical departments of the Med School to become eligible for clinical tenure. The faculty also voted to change graduation requirements for the Med School by requiring students to pass a national medical examination, a test students previously were required to take, but did not need to pass.
Plans for the combined Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center and Nelson Fitness Center and Med School facilities were presented by Provost David Kertzer '69 P'95 P'98. He also discussed the large increase in applications to the University, as well as the budgetary decisions made by the Corporation at its meeting last weekend.
The decision to extend tenure to the 14 chairs of the clinical departments at the Med School was proposed in part to help attract the best candidates for the chair positions, according to Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Edward Wing. For many candidates applying for clinical chair positions at the Med School, tenure "is a significant word," Wing said. The title of tenure will not be guaranteed to all clinical department chairs and the chairs must go through the standardized tenure process of the University, according to the proposal.
"It's vital to our ability to grow and to attract the best people for leadership positions," Wing said. The importance of bringing tenure to the clinical department chairs "can't be overstated," he said.
The decision proved to be controversial among the faculty, many of whom voiced concerns that the decision would lessen the academic meaning of the title of tenure. Wing reassured the faculty that not only would tenure be granted according to the standardized University process, but also that many of the department chairs have impressive academic credentials and would in no way have difficulty passing the standards required for tenure.
Unlike department chairs at the University, the Med School's clinical department chairs often remain in their positions for "15 or 20 years," Wing said, and therefore tenure decisions are not constantly being proposed. Wing said about 115 of the approximately 125 medical schools in the country currently offer similar tenure programs.
The faculty committee also discussed a new graduation requirement for Med School students. Medical students at Brown now must not only take, but also pass, the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1. The USLME consists of three parts, all of which must be passed in order to practice medicine. The vast majority of medical schools already require their students to pass the exam in order to graduate.
The requirement to pass the exam is not expected to have a major impact on the number of graduates, according to Associate Dean of Medicine Philip Gruppuso, because the Med School currently has a first-time pass rate above 95 percent, higher than the national average. For students who must take the exam a second time, the pass rate is almost 100 percent, according to Gruppuso.
For the few students who decide not to practice medicine and instead choose to pursue a Ph.D., students could attempt to have the requirement waived. Currently, students who do not plan to practice medicine simply must take the exam, which, according to Gruppuso means these students simply must write their name on the exam and then leave, negatively affecting the University's average.
"All of our students are able to pass this exam," Gruppuso said. He also said the Med School's prior policy of not requiring students to pass the exam negatively affects the University's reputation. After some debate, the faculty voted to pass the motion.
After the committee passed the proposals, Kertzer presented his monthly report, focusing on the Corporation's recent budgetary decisions and the University's high application numbers. Kertzer said the University is currently predicting an acceptance rate of about 9 percent for the class of 2014, which would be down by about 2 percent from last year. He mentioned that other Ivy League institutions have not seen an increase in applications at the same level as Brown.
He also said the University will continue to work to cut costs in the upcoming years in part through more layoffs. Though the Campaign for Academic Enrichment is set to end in 2010, Kertzer said the University doesn't intend to stop putting effort into fundraising.
A member of the committee asked Kertzer about possible cuts to varsity sports teams, a decision that he said will not be made until the fall.
The faculty committee also heard from Russell Carey '91 MA'06, senior vice president for Corporation affairs and governance, on the topic of campus safety. He specifically spoke about pedestrian and workplace safety, in reference to the recent fatal accident on Thayer Street and the shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He said a committee is being formed to look into pedestrian safety on campus.
The faculty committee also discussed the possibility of assisting Chile after the recent earthquake.
A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that there are 14 clinical departments at Alpert Medical School. In fact, there are 15.