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Five language, literature and culture depts. merge

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The Faculty Senate took on a diverse range of discussions Thursday to clear its slate in advance of the trio of important meetings that will conclude its business for this academic year.

A full meeting of the Academic Council is set for May 13, followed by Senate meetings with formal presentations from Provost John Etchemendy and President John Hennessy on May 27 and June 10, respectively. Hennessy’s address, entitled “Challenges in Higher Education,” will close the year for the Senate.

DLCL Consolidated

Etchemendy announced that the Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL), an administrative unit that includes comparative literature, French and Italian, German studies, Iberian and Latin American cultures and Slavic languages and literatures, will be “reconstituted” into one department effective in the fall.

The five departments will still be called “departments,” he said, but they will now be treated as one entity by University administration. No professorial titles will change.

The most significant consequence of the move is that the budgets between the different sections will now be shared, and control of faculty billets will be centralized.

Etchemendy described the move as keeping with an increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary research, citing opportunities for “innovative” research and academic activity.

Ex Officio

The Senate voted to establish a firm rationale for determining “ex officio” membership in the body — that is, membership based on holding a particular University position, rather than due to election by the faculty. Ex officio members, under Senate rules, “have all perquisites of membership,” including speaking privileges, but are not entitled to vote under normal circumstances.     Previously, ex officio members had been selected on an ad hoc basis, and had typically included key campus administrators. The proposed revision alters that arrangement to make ex officio membership of the Senate simply include the Academic Secretary and all of the members of the Executive Cabinet, the “academic leadership” of the University — the president, the provost, the deans of the seven schools, the vice provost and dean of research, the vice provost for undergraduate education, the vice provost for graduate education, the director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the director of the Hoover Institution.

The Senate passed the revision by a razor-thin margin, 16-15, prompting some laughter over a potential recount.

The practical effect of this revision for the 2010-11 academic year — assuming that no posts see a change of administrators — will be the removal of membership for Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman and University Librarian Michael Keller, and the addition of Hoover Institution Director John Raisian.

The Senate retained the option to invite Boardman and Keller, among others, as “standing guests” with restricted speaking privileges.

Faculty Retirements

The provost also spoke Thursday about faculty retirement. Owing to the combined effects of tenure and a profession where the “incentive to retire is unusually low,” colleges and universities have dealt for decades with the challenge of ensuring a rate of faculty retirement that allows for the hiring of younger scholars emerging from their graduate study. Institutions had attempted for decades to ensure faculty members retired in their late 60s, Etchemendy said.

The advent of legislation in the 1980s and 1990s to check age discrimination in the workplace, however, meant universities could no longer enforce mandatory retirement ages.

Etchemendy said that move contributed to a noticeable aging of the academic workforce, with a greater proportion of professors now older than 65, and a reduced percentage younger than 35. This has exacerbated the difficulty, he added, in hiring younger faculty members, a concern across the entire higher education system, which is already struggling to make room for students earning their doctoral degrees in a difficult job market.

The most recent effort to encourage retirements was the third iteration of the Faculty Retirement Incentive Program (FRIP), known as “FRIP III,” which concluded in August 2009. Etchemendy reported that about 20 percent of eligible faculty — 83 out of 423 — participated in FRIP III.

In total, 11 percent of Stanford’s faculty are older than 65.

Graduate Education

Vice Provost of Graduate Education Patricia Gumport also issued a report on issues affecting graduate students and the broader state of graduate work at Stanford.

Stanford’s graduate schools are more decentralized than its undergraduate programs, with funding and administration centered in individual departments. Gumport therefore focused on universal concerns among graduates, particularly student diversity.     Gumport pointed to 1995 as a high-water mark for diversity among the graduate population, and provided data indicating that in recent years both the percentage and absolute numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in the population of doctoral students was almost back to that point.

She also emphasized the need for continued discussion among the graduate community about issues affecting students, and an increased dialogue between students and their professors about issues relating to their work and research.

Other Business

Etchemendy also noted that a search committee to find a replacement for outgoing Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education John Bravman ‘79 M.S. ‘81 Ph.D. ’85 has been formed. Electrical engineering professor Brad Osgood will chair the committee.