February 3, 2004 | Homewood Campus
[Minutes pending approval on 04.08.04.]
The meeting was called to order by Professor Jerrold Cooper, chair of the steering committee, at 3:33 PM. Minutes from the previous meeting were not available for approval; they will be submitted at the next meeting of the Assembly.
Provost Steven Knapp spoke first, addressing an issue he had raised at the December meeting of the Assembly: the University's engagement with research related to homeland security, and the threats to intellectual freedom on the Homewood campus potentially created by the federal government's proposed category of "sensitive but unclassified" research. A handout was circulated containing the University's policy on classified research; this policy was drafted and approved in the Vietnam War era.
Knapp remarked that, on a handful of occasions over the past few years, government agencies funding or seeking to fund research at Johns Hopkins have sought to restrict the publication of the results, or (in one case, at the School of Public Health) to destroy data following the end of the research program. This strikes against the very principle of open, unclassified research, and deprives researchers of their right to publish freely the products of their research. The so- called "bright line" between classified and unclassified research, drawn in the 1980s by government and universities, has become dimmer and blurrier in the past ten years, especially in regard to certain kinds of biological research, and the category of "sensitive but unclassified" research represents a new incursion against the "bright line." Universities are continuing to discuss with the federal government ways to (re) clarify these blurrings.
Knapp mentioned that he recently organized a faculty panel on the question of research in areas now falling under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. He has learned that certain provisions in the University's policy on classified research have not been systematically applied (e.g., a provision requiring that each school create a committee to oversee its classified research policy). A university-wide committee is currently being assembled, to report to the Academic Council and Trustees, whose charge is to evaluate this policy.
The Department of Homeland Security is slowly gearing up to sponsor university- based research; initially these projects look likely to be in the social sciences. Such sponsorship entails both opportunities and risks, and will further sharpen the question of how the University should handle "sensitive but unclassified" research. The committee being constituted will also be trying to figure out how to deal with these issues.
Prof. Julian Stanley commented that the federal government seems to be embarking on a "fishing expedition," to see what research programs it can slap restrictions onto after the fact. Knapp concurred that this has happened once or twice: federal agencies granting funds for research and then saying, after having signed all the papers, "Now we want you to destroy all the data. " But more commonly, he said, agencies are attempting to put such conditions into grants upfront. For instance, the government has created the category of "deemed export," meaning that if a researcher in his/her own lab uses restricted instruments or materials in the presence of a foreign national, the researcher is "deemed" to have exported these materials to that foreign national's home country, and all restrictions relating to exportation apply.
An unidentified faculty member asked whether a doctoral student might be restricted from thesis work, after having already begun it, by an after-the-fact slapping-on of restrictions. Knapp said nothing of the sort has happened so far.
Prof. Jane Guyer asked whether the old practice whereby universities refused to accept any "classified" clause in research contracts has been suspended. Knapp said that the University has always required that such clauses be removed, but more and more these kinds of clauses are appearing, requiring negotiations each time. There is great concern about the breadth and crudeness of some of these restrictions, dropped into grants by bureaucrats; research universities are now mobilizing to fend off this sort of interference.
Next on the agenda was Interim Dean Andrew Douglass of the Whiting School of Engineering, offering comments on issues of concern to the Whiting School. He said that a task force has been constituted involving members of the Whiting School and the Applied Physics Laboratory, to see how the two entities can collaborate better. An external review of the Whiting school is also in progress; its aim is to find opportunities for going forward and to identify strengths and weaknesses. The proposed changes in tenure and promotion policy have been consuming much energy within the school; many complexities remain to be resolved. For example, Biomedical Engineering has both Whiting School and medical school faculty. The latter have no up-or-out tenure clock, but do have to generate 66% of their own salaries. The Whiting School has to figure out how to manage such differences equitably, in light of the new policy.
Professor Gerald Masson of Computer Science asked for an explanation of the process being used in the search for a new Dean for the Whiting School. Provost Knapp said that a first round of searching had concluded unsuccessfully, and a second round (now with the help of a consulting firm) has resulted in a list of 15 finalists. So the process is heading toward conclusion.
Next, Dean Daniel Weiss reported on the state of the Krieger School. Again, the tenure reforms are one of the bigger issues before the Deans at the moment; but there are other areas of action as well. Interdisciplinary programs are being assembled apace: Africana Studies has been constituted, kicking off with an address by Toni Morrison. East Asian Studies have also been constituted, and three new faculty are coming on line in the next year in this program (all endowed by donors): one in Political Science, another in History of Science, and the third in Sociology. There are hopes to build upon and make good use of the existing center in Nanjing. Moving on: the Dean's office is spearheading a systematic examination of all the undergraduate major programs in the school, and also of advising for undergraduates. Regarding facilities campus wide, Weiss remarked that Hodson Hall has raised the standard for classroom facilities, and efforts are underway to upgrade other teaching spaces elsewhere on campus. The endlessly inceptive plans for renovating Gilman Hall are still on the Deans' agenda; they are hoping to make an announcement on this matter in the course of the spring. Dining: over the past 18 months there has been a systematic effort to evaluate and improve dining across campus. A salad bar is to be installed in Levering Food Court in the next few weeks; in Gilman the coffee stand is to remain. Weiss announced the hiring of a Director of Food Service — someone from Washington University in St. Louis, which has famously good campus food.
Professor Joe Katz of Mechanical Engineering lamented the hard surfaces of the Levering food court, which make conversation difficult. Every renovation in recent years, he argued, has made the surfaces harder, making conversation difficult. Weiss agreed that the faculty have lost several things they valued in the current instantiation of the Levering dining room. But he urged faculty to consider dining in other venues (e.g., Terrace Caf‚, which has hot food la pre- renovation Levering, if one wants such food.)
Next on the agenda was Professor Toby Ditz, member of the Academic Council, to report on issues currently before the Council. This has been a busy year for them. The main issue has been to work out how to implement the contemplated change in tenure procedures. The Council agreed to forward to the President their recommendation of the Connolly committee's "version two", contingent upon working out implementation procedures. Provisional proposals for implementation procedures were forwarded to chairs of departments last Fall, seeking comment; the Council's assumption is that these proposals might change/evolve significantly in response to these comments. Council called a meeting two weeks ago with department chairs to discuss these issues. Two reforms are at the heart of the proposed changes: First, departments will be encouraged to solicit some external letters to accompany interdepartmental deliberations, before putting a candidate's case up to the Council. Second: the departmental representative is to be removed from the ad hoc committee, but one member of the committee will be appointed to serve as departmental liaison. These are not "done deals," but remain serious proposals under consideration. Other, smaller reforms also under discussion.
The Council has had other business this year as well. It has approved a reform previously accepted by the Graduate Board, whereby departments may appoint Graduate Board oral committees with 3 members from inside the department and two from outside. The Council is also continuing this year its recent practice of meeting with untenured faculty over lunch at the Club. Finally, the Council has committed itself to discussing the question of its own representativeness (i.e., making sure all divisions at Homewood are properly represented); but this won't be taken up until the work on tenure reform is completed.
Dean Adam Falk encouraged everyone to send him comments on the proposed reforms to tenure and promotion procedures; he will pass these along to the Academic Council.
Professor Kaliat Ramesh of Mechanical Engineering asked about the proposal to promote assistant professors to tenured associate rank in the 7th year, rather than in the 6th as at other universities. Was there any dissent on this point among the faculty? Professor Ditz replied that she had heard no particular objections to this provision, noting that it was always possible to bring people up earlier if departments felt this was desirable. Julian Stanley asked whether the "extra year" for those who were turned down would continue. Ditz said that this would not change — the "time in rank" clock would be altered to 8 years for assistant professors, i.e. the promotion case would normally take place in the 7th year and then the extra year would remain for those who were tuned down. Professor Steven David of Political Science asked what is supposed to happen to current untenured faculty who are either now going up for associate rank, or are currently (untenured) associate professors. Ditz said that these "grandfathering" questions are not yet fully answered, but one possibility would be to return to same letter writers who had written for the promotion to associate rank, to ask whether they would say tenure is warranted. But she cautioned that junior faculty currently going through the system should continue to think in terms of the current/old system until there is, in fact, officially a new one. Professor Carl Christ of Economics questioned the idea of eliminating the departmental member of the ad hoc committee. He observed that Council is trying to avoid having the departmental representative "stack the deck" in favor of candidate by careful selection of names of referees; the risk, however, is that an ad hoc committee with no departmental representative might be ignorant of what is going on in the field in which the candidate works. Ditz said this is precisely the conundrum. But Council's working idea is that the liaison would meet with the department early in the process, and be available for clearing up other issues as the process goes forward. Council's hope is, indeed, to make the ad hoc committee's judgment more independent of department. Is there a tradeoff, whereby "more independence" means "less knowledge?" Bill Sharpe of Mechanical Engineering asked whether the proposed reforms will be put forward to the Trustees by the end of this academic year. Dean Weiss said that a presentation will be made to the trustees in March, but he can't be certain whether the finalized proposal will be ready to take to them by the end of the year. Ditz stressed the need to act deliberately on issues of such consequence, but also not to dither.
Last on the agenda was John Latting, director of Undergraduate Admissions, reporting on current directions and initiatives in undergraduate admissions. He noted first that he has two jobs: one, to select the students to be admitted, and to encourage them to attend; the other, to manage the process whereby this takes place. Coming here from Cal Tech in 2001, he feels he had a certain advantage in seeing problems.
Latting remarked that the character, strengths, and weaknesses of students are a striking evaluation of the work an admissions director does. In his three years at Hopkins, several kinds of diversity have increased: there is a better balance between men and women (up to 45% women now); and strides have been made in increasing racial/ethnic diversity. He remarked that he works hard to understand what applicants are like — not just as academic performers (SATs, GPAs) but also in how they serve their communities, and in other respects as well. He has seen the applicant pool develop productively, as well, giving better options to choose from. The top 5 states from which Hopkins undergraduates come now include Washington, California, and Texas; a growing number of applicants are non-US citizens; and there are modest increases in applicants with interests other than natural sciences.
He noted that, at Cal Tech, faculty were extremely involved in undergraduate admissions. This is not the case at Hopkins. However, he is now seeing some important moves toward more faculty involvement, including the recent constitution of a faculty committee dedicated to admissions.
He sees his biggest challenge in trying to change the image that exists "out there" about what Hopkins does, where its excellences reside. He said that the admissions office per se can do only so much about changing these perception; it is the institution as a whole that makes the difference for applicants. The excellence of a given humanities department is not hugely important to high school students. They are more interested in the community of students (their intellectual and emotional character), in the physical character of the campus and its facilities, and in overall excellence. The issue of developing a more diverse student body is entangled with overall perceptions of the institution.
Regarding "legacy admissions," Latting noted that every few years Congress has the chance to "think politically" about education and admissions. This is such a year, hence the discussion — not just of "legacies," but also of rising tuitions.
Professor Darrell Strobel of Earth and Planetary Sciences asked what fraction of incoming class consists of legacies, athletes, or some other kind of "special category". Latting said that athletes are not a big category: about 100 out of any 1000 who enroll are "of interest" to coaches, and then maybe another 100 also "of interest" in other, not strictly academic aspects. About 4% are children of alumni. He stressed that athletes as a whole are not inferior to other students in their admissions criteria or their outcomes.
Professor Dalrymple of Civil Engineering asked if the 4% legacy number isn't rather low, and whether this implied discontent among alumni. Latting said that the growth of the undergraduate body since the 1970s — almost a doubling of the number of students — means that there are fewer alumni parents out there to send their children to our current applicant pool.
Julian Stanley asked whether legacies or underrepresented minorities are the stronger academic group. Latting replied that legacies are probably better overall, and their admission rates are higher. He stressed that with minorities one must take risks, though not undue ones.
Toby Ditz asked how Undergraduate Admissions had increased the quality of the applicant pool so significantly, as well as the number and academic preparation of admitted, underrepresented minorities. Latting replied that waiving the application fee in the right way has made a difference, as has using a special budget to give subventions to such students to come visit, and some other things. He noted that within 10 years, 20% of all high school graduates will be Hispanic; it is necessary to the future of the institution to begin positioning itself well in this regard. Dean Weiss praised Latting not only for meeting a stiff set of expectations, but for exceeding them at every turn in his three years at the helm of Undergraduate Admissions.
Professor Cooper asked whether there was any new business; hearing none, he adjourned the meeting at 4:52.
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