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Academic Council approves athletics vision

The Academic Council unanimously passed the University's new vision statement for the future of Duke athletics Thursday, sending it to the Board of Trustees for final approval in May.

The Policy Statement on Intercollegiate Athletics at Duke, released to the council in November, advocates a sustained commitment to athletics. It is the first policy statement on intercollegiate athletics in nearly 20 years. It called for a more pragmatic approach to athletics - concentrating on a few key sports that Duke would try to improve with facilities, admissions and other forms of support.

The discussion continued a dialogue that began at the council's November meeting, and only one faculty member spoke Thursday. Earl Dowell, professor of mechanical engineering and material sciences, noted the statement's lack of emphasis on admissions standards in light of a mission statement released last September suggesting more admissions leeway for football players.

"In press reports, the burning question was admissions standards, and this resolution appears to be silent on the subject," Dowell said.

President Nan Keohane responded by referring Dowell to a section in the policy statement addressing that subject, adding that the University would not "lower standards."

Following the vote, George B. Keller Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry John Simon presented a plan to reorganize two faculty governance committees- the Academic Priorities Committee and the President's Advisory Committee on Resources - into the proposed University Priorities Committee and the Academic Programs Committee.

The committees had been functioning ineffectively, Simon said, due to poor communication, ill-defined responsibilities and lack of accountability.

Whereas the previous roles of the committees had been academic and budgetary- the old APC and PACOR, respectively - the proposed system would create a single committee to address both these issues- the UPC - and another to focus solely on the development of academic departments and programs- the new APC.

According to the proposal, the old APC was not effectively determining academic priorities because it spent the majority of its time on external reviews of academic departments. The new APC is designed to focus solely on these external reviews and other departmental issues, passing priorities-related issues onto the UPC.

The UPC would address the full range of intellectually-driven priorities in terms of budgets and other major issues. This new committee would report to the president, and give regular presentations to the Academic Council in the fall and spring to update the faculty on the progress of its work.

Richard Burton, a professor in the Fuqua School of Business, questioned the efficacy of separating academic programs from budgetary issues - as would be done under the proposed system - since programs frequently require consideration of the budget.

In response, Simon admitted that there was no perfect solution, but he said a provision requiring the chair of the new APC to be a member of the UPC would enable easy communication between the committees for overlapping issues. Associate Professor of Cell Biology Blanche Capel added that the UPC would have a better perspective by being able to examine the budget overall, rather than being immersed in individual departments.

IN OTHER BUSINESS: The final presentation on Thursday's agenda was a statistical report by the Faculty Compensation Committee on salary equity. Michael Lavine, associate professor of statistics, presented the report and revealed there was no statistical significance to salary variations at the University.

"The short story is, there are no big and obvious, glaring inequities by sex or race," Lavine said. He added, however, that he was "not at all" sure whether the data were valid or useful, owing to the nature of the analysis.

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