President Vincent Price has a broad task for the Trinity College Arts and Sciences Council—to facilitate the reinvention of the “glorious thing” called a research university for the 21st century.

At the council's second meeting of the year, the members heard from Price. The newly- inaugurated president shared his long-term goals for Trinity and took questions from the group. The council also also heard from representatives of the Duke Faculty Union about the details and misconceptions of their recently enacted collective bargaining agreement.

“I simply want to say that, like in my inaugural address, I think we in higher education find ourselves in a moment where we are facing considerable challenges,” Price said. “But also, [we are] looking at immense opportunity, and those opportunities will shape the way we teach, learn, feel and serve—the five critical, core things that Duke University does day-in and day-out.”

Price reiterated the point from his inaugural address about the imperative of Duke evolving to create interdisciplinary solutions to the world’s complex problems. He said that while the current model of higher education admirably served the last century’s needs, he was calling on the creativity of Trinity’s faculty to help “redefine” the role of liberal arts research institutions for the new century. 

Reeve Huston, associate professor of history, questioned Price on what he had in mind for this new model. The president said he envisioned increasing the use of material learning techniques and integrating the curiosity and problem-solving model of teaching currently reserved for Ph.D. students into undergraduate education.

“We actually have an opportunity to push the doctoral model down so that the [undergraduate] students are confronted first by problems, and not asked to sit still while we fill them up with stuff,” he said.

Price noted that the challenge of educational models for undergraduates is providing the correct amount of well-roundedness. He said that by allowing students to follow their intellectual curiosities in specific topics and developing them into a broader academic exploration, the pyramid-like structure of knowledge acquisition would be inverted. 

In response to Price’s discussion of his ideas for academic revitalization, Alexander Rosenberg, R. Taylor Cole professor of philosophy, asked if the president was hinting at overhauling the curriculum.

Price responded that the entire faculty should not be focused on curricular reinvention all the time. However, some faculty should indeed be thinking about it, he added. 

He also noted that the University holds onto a lot of its older teaching practices because they've been used in the past. But that “just doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny," he said. 

The council members also heard from their colleagues in the Duke Faculty Union. Michael Dimpfl, lecturing fellow of the Thompson Writing Program and the recently-elected union president, said that representatives of the Union were there to clear up “confusions about the ramifications of the contract” that the group signed with the University over the summer.

Larry Alcoff, the union’s representative from the Service Employees International Union, said the contract raises the pay and increases inclusion for the faculty members covered by the contract. He said there are about 275 members in the union, who collectively teach about 1,000 courses per year in Trinity. 

Key rights for the faculty that are included in the contract include minimum pay levels based on the number of years they have taught at Duke and inclusion in faculty meetings, although voting rights at those meetings are not articulated.

”We hope [the contract] pushes Duke to be the type of vanguard institution that we know it wants to be,” he said.

In other business

The council unanimously approved bylaw changes to allow the global education committee to formally report to administrators in the Pratt School of Engineering, like it does in Trinity. 

Members also discussed the creation of a new standing committee on Teaching Development and Support, which they will vote on at their November meeting. If approved, the committee will aim to be a “faculty voice in the evaluation and recognition of teaching at Duke." It will create channels for faculty-to-faculty interaction, serve as a “hub for pedagogical resources” and strengthen the faculty voice in teaching-related planning at the University.

The Arts and Sciences Council also heard a brief report on Duke’s certificate programs by Anita Layton, chair of the Council and Robert R. and Katherine B. Penn professor of mathematics. 

Layton said that a moratorium that had been placed on the creation of new certificates while the current curriculum redesign process still stands.