At its Thursday meeting, the Academic Council considered two new committees—one on faculty rank and one on student affairs.

The Executive Committee of the Academic Council recommended that the Council establish an ad-hoc committee on faculty rank distribution and reinstate a student affairs committee, which were both approved. The idea for the student affairs committee was motivated by results from an undergraduate experience survey, explained Emily Klein, ECAC member and professor of earth sciences.

“Student life affects students’ education, and it’s clear that we should have a voice in that,” she said.

Duke Student Government first approached ECAC about collaborating on student programs last year, but the Council realized it did not have the bandwidth to appropriately help, Klein noted. The committee—which would include eight members appointed by ECAC, with two-year terms each—will aim to explore matters relating to student life and formulate a faculty response to student requests or activities.

Some council members questioned if the committee would be overwhelmed with student requests. Nan Jokerst, J. A. Jones professor of electrical and computer engineering and chair of the Academic Council, explained that DSG would act as a filter.

Trina Jones, professor of law and another ECAC member, presented a proposal for the creation of a committee that would examine changes in the numbers and demographics of tenured and tenure-track faculty, as well as regular-rank, non-tenure track faculty and non-regular rank, non-tenure track faculty. The committee plans to summarize its findings on the implications of these changes and report back to the Council in Spring 2018.

Jones noted a general increasing trend in non-tenure track faculty at universities nationwide.

“No one is suggesting that anyone at Duke is trying to undermine tenure, but we have noticed an increase in non-tenure track positions at Duke,” Jones said.

According to the proposal, the number of regular rank, non-tenure track faculty at Duke increased by 67 percent between 2004 and 2013, but the number of tenure-track faculty increased by only 11 percent.

Roxanne Springer, professor of physics, noted that the committee should look at the impact of faculty rank on salary as well.

The Council also received a salary equity report presentation from Merlise Clyde, professor and chair of statistical science, and Joshua Socolar, professor of physics. The report—which is conducted every two years—examined faculty salaries for statistical evidence of discrimination based on gender and race.

The study did not find statistically significant evidence for systematic differences in the salaries of tenure-track faculty by race or gender at the ranks of assistant, associate, full and distinguished professors, Clyde explained.

The one exception was for distinguished, full professors—underrepresented minority males had higher salaries than Caucasian males. Clyde said, however, that the small sample size led to uncertainty in the estimate of the percent difference in salary for this category.

Council members noted that in future studies of salaries, they would like to see supplemental pay taken into account, as well as more longitudinal analysis.

In other business:

The Council voted to approve the request to give the Center for Population Health Sciences full department status in the School of Medicine.

They also approved a joint Ph.D. program between the Sanford School of Public Policy, the sociology department and the department of psychology and neuroscience. The proposal will now move to the Board of Trustees.

President-elect Vincent Price will join the Council for its next meeting April 6.