Eisgruber fields questions, Dolan explains academic changes at CPUC meeting| Dec 12, 2016
University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 began the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting on Dec. 12 with a question-and-answer session. The meeting discussed faculty recruitment in American Studies, the University's operating budget, general education designations, and financial aid.
Eisgruber said that the implementation of the recommendations of the American Studies Task Force is currently underway.
“Some of the important recommendations have to do with the movement of faculty lines into American Studies,” Eisgruber said. “There are also searches underway right now in the area of Asian-American and Latin-American studies.”
He said that faculty searches may take multiple years because the University is unwilling to compromise on teaching quality.
A second question asked of Eisgruber was to clarify the opinions he expressed in an email sent on Nov. 28, in which he explicitly ensured support for University students covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“Not only did [the email] include the relatively small population of students on campus who are undocumented but not covered by DACA, it also frankly covers not only students, but faculty and staff,” he said. “This university depends on being able to draw people from all backgrounds and have them flourish here, and we want to ensure these valuable members of the community are able to continue doing that.”
Provost David Lee GS ’99 presented a report on the CPUC Priorities Committee, which is tasked with reviewing the University’s operating budget. For the 2017 fiscal year, the University reported a total revenue of $1.9 billion, 47 percent of which came from payout on the endowment.
“Half of our operating budget was supported by interest earned on that endowment. The $20 billion endowment is really the principal that, if we want to live for a really long period of time, we should not dip into,” Lee said. “It’s really important to be disciplined to balance the interest of future generations with generations today.”
Expenses for the 2017 fiscal year also totaled $1.9 billion. Academic department expenditures totaled 35 percent of expenses and 15 percent were related to student aid, Lee said.
“What I really want to highlight is the Committee’s focus on accessibility and affordability,” Lee added. “In terms of accessibility, 21 percent of the Class of 2020 was Pell-eligible.”
The Pell grant is a federal grant for economically disadvantaged or low-income students. The University has tripled its percentage of Pell-eligible students since the Class of 2008.
The Priorities Committee is also planning for expansion of the undergraduate student body by 500 students, according to is latest Strategic Plan Framework, published in Jan. 2016. This change will help the University respond to the increasing number of applications it receives.
“There is an excess demand of students, really qualified students, that we’d love to let in,” Lee said.
Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Associate Dean of the College Rebekah Massengill GS ’09, and Deputy Dean of the College Elizabeth L. Colagiuri presented highlights of the General Education Task Force’s recommendations.
“We decided a balanced tweaking [of the general education requirements] would be more useful than a complete overhaul,” Dolan said.
The committee’s recommendations included allowing courses to carry up to two general education designations, requiring all AB students to take foreign language courses, encouraging AB departments to hold ‘methods seminars’ for juniors that would fall under the Epistemology and Cognition (EC) general education requirement, and instituting three tags that students will fulfill through coursework — Intersections of Cultural, Identity, and Power and International Content are mandatory; Service Learning Courses are optional.
The committee is still deliberating on whether introductory foreign language classes could be taken under the Pass/D/Fail option. They are currently ineligible for this grading option.
The committee also recommended moving final examinations before winter break and establishing a three-week optional January term, eliminating intersession. This was in part the result of a student body survey conducted last year.
“The semester would effectively end before the December holidays,” Dean Dolan said. “All work would be turned in.”
Dolan stated that the schedule may pose financial challenges for students who must purchase flight tickets closer to Christmas than they did under the previous calendar. She added that students are still allowed to leave as soon as they have completed their final exam and that most students would not be affected by the later exam schedule.
Dolan also noted that renaming the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) requirement as Quantitative and Computational Reasoning (QCR) to stress the importance of computer science may detract from the University’s focus on engineering, but that engineering courses which fell under the QR designation still receive the QCR designation.
The total number of instructional and exam days will remain the same under the new schedule, but Dolan noted that the schedule is several steps removed from implementation.
“The faculty owns the calendar. By virtue of the institutional bylaws, the faculty decides on the calendar,” she said.
“I just want to underscore the invitation to get comments,” Eisgruber added. “At this point, this really is something that’s at a status right now where receiving those comments will allow the committees that are now taking these recommendations and moving them forward to the faculty to get the benefit of the kinds of questions that were asked here.”
Finally, a committee of staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning presented developments in online learning at the University.
“We look to technology to leverage rather than replace the powerful, life-changing interactions that form the heart of the University,” Director of the McGraw Center and Associate Dean of the College Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu said.
The committee spoke about Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), video-based lectures, and supplemental videos that incorporate live-action footage and animation into the traditional classroom.
The meeting took place on Dec. 12 at 4:30 p.m. in Friend Center 101. The next Council of the Princeton University Community meeting will be held Feb. 20, 2017.