Academic Council hears updates on 2030 Strategy Team and proposed university-wide ombudsman office

The Academic Council heard updates from the 2030 Strategy Team working groups at their February meeting. Provost Sally Kornbluth presented the results of two of the working group discussions to Council.

The Education Task Force – established in the spring of 2020 – decided that there were three main ways to develop a new vision for Duke by 2030, according to Kornbluth: include more undergraduate opportunities in the Duke’s research infrastructure, attract the best undergraduate educators and enable “flexibility and integration” in learning.

“That’s what sets Duke apart from a [Williams College]a [Amherst College]a [Wesleyan University]. We have a large research operation and we want our students to participate,” Kornbluth said.

Additional research opportunities would be added through the new undergraduate curriculum currently being developed and by expanding student-faculty connections, particularly within professional schools.

“It’s a bit difficult to encourage excellence in teaching. And some of our professional school faculty have really enjoyed teaching undergraduates, but find it fiscally and administratively difficult to teach or mentor undergraduates,” Kornbluth said.

Cultural anthropology professor Lee Baker found the proposal “interesting” but questioned whether governance of the curriculum at the two undergraduate schools would remain with their respective faculties.

“Made [the proposal] withdraw from the governance of the Faculty of Engineering and the Arts and Sciences Council? Or are they still going to be in charge of the program? Boulanger asked. “Will there be a Duke degree [as] opposed to a [Trinity College of Arts & Sciences] degree that encompasses all other schools?

Kornbluth responded that curriculum decisions should rest with undergraduate school teachers.

“We already have a lot of teachers from professional schools who participate in Bass Connections, for example, or DukeEngage, et cetera,” Kornbluth said. “They obviously want to engage in undergraduate interactions and activities, but they’ve all been decorated around the edges of the curriculum.”

Kornbluth also proposed to “reinvent contracts, compensation and promotion conditions” for professors. She said giving professors more time to research, mentor and innovate in their teaching may stem from changing teaching loads.

The education task force also discussed changing Duke’s academic calendar to “accommodate different learning experience lengths” and leveraging technology to deliver hybrid learning experiences. .

Kornbluth discussed continuing to invest in faculty who have recently been tenured.

“We know the transition to associate professor level can be an inflection point for faculty,” Kornbluth said. “Just as people are starting to feel liberated in terms of spreading their intellectual wings, there’s a lot more expectation of service, there’s often less guidance and mentorship. And you know, teachers can find it difficult at this point.

She said this new approach could help Duke “stand out, demonstrating Duke’s distinctive investment and commitment to our faculty, and to generating the kind of high-risk, high-reward research that can truly have an impact.” transformative impact”.

Shai Ginsburg, an associate professor in the Asian and Middle Eastern studies department, said the update was geared more toward science teachers. He said instead of the funding structures presented by Kornbluth, humanities professors need more time than their scientific counterparts to conduct research.

“My experience with Duke is that he’s very generous with monetary resources and very stingy with time,” Ginsburg said. “And especially in the humanities, we don’t need laboratories, we need time. And yet, Duke has a sabbatical policy for qualitative humanities and social sciences that falls short of its counterpart. [institutions].”

Kornbluth responded that the research working group’s conversations included discussions of faculty in the humanities and social sciences and that there were “strong voices in this area.”

The next steps for Strategy Team 2030 will be to find ways to fund these initiatives, Kornbluth said.

In other cases

Council also heard updates on a proposal to establish a university-wide ombudsman office. Executive Vice President Daniel Ennis said Duke plans to hire two professional mediators, one for faculty and staff and one for students. Currently, faculty members serve part-time as University Ombudsmen.

New ombudsmen, who offer “neutral and confidential advice” and help mediate disputes and direct resources, would also support staff for the first time.

Trina Jones, a prominent Jerome M. Culp law professor, worried that a single ombudsman serving both faculty and staff would be insufficient.

“We thought it would be important for faculty to have access to different people, as we learned that there was some hesitation among certain sub-groups of faculty to approach an ombudsman due to of that person’s demographics or reputation,” Jones said.

Baker echoed that sentiment, adding that he hoped Duke found a mediator who could see the situations through the eyes of faculty, students and staff.

“We need ombudsmen who really understand student life, really understand faculty life,” Baker said. “And then with the staff, there are so many different positions. A clinician and a cafeteria employee have very different problems. And I just hope we have the ability to have a mediator who has both expertise and empathy and who can see it through their eyes.


Adway S. Wadekar

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity freshman and reporter for the News Service. He also contributed to the sports section.

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