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Board of Trustees approves
pilot expansion of BGS
April 13, 1998

Students in the Bachelor of General Studies program may soon have more courses to choose from, in a two-year pilot continuing education expansion that was approved by the Board of Trustees at a meeting April 3..

The project involves offering a limited number of courses specifically for BGS students, with a new arrangement for compensating faculty for teaching such courses in addition to their regular workload.

Chancellor Mark Emmert says that, at present, BGS students - most of whom are mature students studying part-time - may take up vacancies in regular classes at the regional campuses. A decline in the number of faculty, however, has led to fewer courses being offered, and to classes filling up more rapidly. He said that in order to offer more classes for BGS students, the University must pay extra to existing faculty or hire adjunct faculty from elsewhere. The alternative is not to offer the courses and not receive the tuition.

Robert Baldwin, interim dean of extended and continuing education, said the pilot is likely to involve only a very limited number of faculty, perhaps 10-20 a year.

In a letter to the board, Robinson Grover, an associate professor of philosophy at the Torrington campus and president of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the AAUP executive committee has concerns about the proposal, including the possibility that it may postpone hiring of additional full-time faculty. The committee recommended that the administration evaluate the project regularly during the two-year pilot.

The board also approved a new summer school agreement with the AAUP, whereby a faculty member whose summer class is canceled due to low enrollment will receive payment for work done in preparation for the class.

The board tabled a vote on a revised role and scope statement for the Hartford, Waterbury and Torrington campuses, to allow more time to consider the proposal. The University has recommended placing the three campuses under a single coordinator and enabling the campuses to combine faculty resources to offer a limited number of four-year degree programs.

The proposal, which has been widely discussed in state and local media, would also have to be ratified by the state Board of Governors for Higher Education. A recent report by a state panel commissioned by the Board of Governors in the fall to study higher education in Connecticut suggests turning over the three campuses to either the state university system or the community-technical college system.

President Philip E. Austin expressed strong support for retaining the regional campuses as part of UConn, but added "This is a statewide public policy issue and we have to respect that and be sensitive to that." He urged the board to give favorable consideration to the University's proposal. "There's a tendency to compare to the ideal," he said. "We have to compare this with where we are now - and things could get worse."

Emmert described the recommendation for the three campuses as an effort to "offer the best academic services we can with existing resources," adding that "enrollment is at perilously low levels."

He said the University is continuing to discuss cooperative arrangements with the community-technical colleges and the state university system to implement the proposal.

In answer to questions, Emmert said that, although the proposal to offer four-year degrees at the three regional campuses would involve some commuting for students, in order for a particular major to be offered the home campus would have to offer 50 percent of upper division courses and all relevant lower division courses.

For the past four years, the University has published a common schedule of courses at the three campuses, to facilitate students taking common courses. "A lot of what we're doing here is formalizing what already exists," Emmert noted.

He said that, under the proposal, the University would continue to offer all the necessary lower division core curriculum courses at all campuses, so students could still transfer from a regional campus to Storrs.

A vote on University-wide tenure was deferred, pending further discussion on the proposal for the three campuses.

Chairman Roger A. Gelfenbien said the board will reach a conclusion on the two issues no later than July.

The board also heard presentations by Robert Smith, vice provost for research and graduate education, on the planned Connecticut Center of Excellence for Vaccine Research, a public-private partnership with Pfizer Inc., and by Malcolm Toedt, executive director of the University Computer Center, on the actions his staff have taken to ensure a smooth transition to the Year 2000 for the University's computer system. "636 days until Year 2000," proclaimed a handout that Toedt distributed.

He gave sample statistics to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. "We have 9,700 computer programs, 15,000 data files and about 5,000,000 lines of code at UConn," he said, "and they all have to be examined."

The University also could be affected by how outside agencies, such as banks and educational testing services, modify their programs for the Year 2000, he said.

Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction, gave a presentation on enrollment management and the University's goal of enrolling 5 percent more students next year.

She said strategies to boost enrollment include personalized contact with students, telecounseling, early outreach to middle schools, targeting counselors, early orientation, enhanced Weeks of Welcome, an improved advising structure, and strengthening the honors program.

She added that the University is beginning to segment its admissions market. "We have put a big push on attracting the best and the brightest," she said..

For the first time this year, the University purchased a list of students with SAT scores of 1100 and up - there are 44,000 in a five-state region. "Historically we were contacting 3,000; now we're contacting all 44,000," she said.

"This is really the first year we've had a thoughtful, targeted strategy for a variety of sectors of the population," said Emmert. "We're not just looking for 5 percent more bodies."

The board also approved naming the library at the new Stamford campus the Jeremy Richard Library, the same name that was adopted for the library at the Scofieldtown Road site in April 1991. Richard was a popular professor of English at the Stamford campus from 1980 until his death in 1990 at age 40. A Shakespeare specialist, he bequeathed his personal collection of more than 2,000 books to the Stamford campus library.

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu