AUBURN UNIVERSITY

 

Outline of President’s Remarks

August 10, 2006/Samford Hall Lobby, 2 p.m.

 

Thank you for attending this press conference.

The format of our meeting today will be as follows:

1.         Introductory statement

2.         Summary of our investigation

3.         Respond to questions

 

 

Introductory Statement

A.        The problem before us today is one of academics.  Athletics was used to provide sufficient traction to make this issue newsworthy.

            This academic issue is of great concern to the Board of Trustees, Administration, and faculty because it goes to the very heart of our existence.  Auburn University takes great pride in its academic reputation which is far more important than any athletics program.


 

B.        To set the stage for this report, I want to make sure we are using the same definitions.

                        1.         Directed reading/independent study – involves one on one teaching of a student by a faculty member.  It is intended to help a student to learn about topics that are not addressed in detail through regularly scheduled classes.

                                                a.         Faculty members who offer directed reading courses receive no credit toward a teaching load nor additional compensation.

                                                b.         Directed reading is more commonly associated with graduate programs and for junior and senior undergraduates.

                                                c.         Directed readings can be offered to accommodate a unique scheduling problem impacting on graduation.

                                                d.         There are clearly established standards for directed reading.  The content should approximate what one would receive in a traditional class.  This includes a syllabus, method of evaluation, and prior approval of the University’s Curriculum Committee.  The University’s Curriculum Committee consists of one member from each of our 12 colleges and schools plus representatives from the Provost’s Office, Graduate School and Registrar’s Office.

                        2.         Special Topics – this is also an approved option and is best defined as:

                                                a.         A class on a topic that is not covered by a Department’s current course inventory.

                                                b.         Upon Department approval, an option that permits new courses to be piloted prior to requesting approval by the University Curriculum Committee.  After the trial period the course may be dropped or referred to the Curriculum Committee for approval.

                       

 

 

3.         Background Information

                                                a.         Over the past 3 years only 1% of AU’s class enrollment have been devoted to directed reading, which is to say 99% are more traditional in nature.

                                                b.         Our investigation has demonstrated that this issue is clearly an academic problem, isolated to two academic units.  The Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work which is assigned to the College of Liberal Arts and the Adult Education Program which is in the Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Technology assigned to the College of Education.

 

In our review of the two academic programs in question, we found that only 18% of those students enrolled in directed studies were student athletes from all sports.  7.5% of the students were football players.

 

                                                c.         In addition, the investigation has not produced any evidence that the athletic program – coaches, counselors, athletic staffers – had improper communications with or pressured our faculty in any way. I am pleased with this aspect of the report and commend our athletic staff for continuing to support the academic mission of this University. 

                                                d.         We have interviewed 63 individuals, including faculty and students, but have not quite completed our interviews.  We continue in our efforts to contact individuals including students or former students associated with the issue, and until those contacts are made will make no final report.

 

                        4.         I have received a letter from SACS, our regional accrediting agency, requesting that we share our findings.   I have confirmed to SACS that AU is committed to conducting a thorough investigation and will provide the requested information.

                        5.         We have been in contact with the NCAA and assured them of our commitment to conducting a thorough investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

Administrative Decisions

            While there is more work to be done, there is sufficient information to take the following administrative action.  I do not believe that professors conducted themselves in a malicious or self-serving way but clearly very poor judgment was evidenced.

 

                        1.         The Department Head for Sociology, Anthropology, Criminology and Social Work has submitted his resignation as department head.  He maintains his status as a tenured professor.

                        2.         The duties for the current Program Coordinator for Adult Education have been assigned to the College of Education Dean’s Office.  He maintains his status as a tenured professor.

                        3.         An expanded policy relative to directed reading/independent studies has been adopted and is in effect this semester.  Copies will be made available to you after this session.         

 

I have asked Dr. John Heilman, Provost, to describe the basic aspects of this policy.

—Dr. Heilman—       

 

                        4.         In April of this year, AU adopted an academic program review plan which conveys our commitment and will serve to short-stop future problems. 

I would also add that prior to this investigation post-tenure review standards were developed and are scheduled for piloting this year.

5.         I have met with the Deans of each College and School and conveyed my expectation to take every step to further enhance AU’s academic reputation and that I hold them responsible for their respective academic programs.

 

Finally, I anticipate that the review will be completed during this month and a report made to the Board of Trustees during its September 1 meeting.

 

I repeat, we place our academic reputation at the highest level exceeding any other priority.  We do not see meeting minimal standards as acceptable but instead will use this event as a rallying point to further strengthen AU.  AU is an academically strong institution and will become even stronger.

 

 

Questions