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Arts & Sciences Council approves health policy certificate, discusses bylaws in final meeting of academic year

The Arts & Sciences Council discussed its bylaws and approved a new certificate program at their Thursday meeting.

The Council started their last meeting of the academic year by voting to approve the new health policy certificate proposal, which will be a joint venture between the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. Despite faculty raising concerns about the proposal in the Council’s previous meeting, the vote to approve it passed with an overwhelming majority.

Joshua Socolar, professor of physics and chair of the Council, directed the discussion on bylaws and will be drafting the new version of them this summer. Socolar wanted to hear the Council’s thoughts in three key areas: the role of the Council as pertaining to graduate student education, the Council’s structure and the Council’s committees. 

“There's not a word in [the bylaws] about graduate education and we now have a new office in the dean's office [in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences] for graduate education,” Socolar said, referring to Professor of Biology Justin Wright. “And so perhaps we want to modify our statement of purpose to acknowledge the role we might play there and define what it should be.”

Owen Astrachan, professor of the practice of computer science, proposed a committee which would “try to understand the issues involved as a first step.”

“I think it would be problematic to all of a sudden decide that the Arts & Sciences Council is going to address issues related to graduate education that it's never been done before,” Astrachan said. “We want to have a committee try to understand how that would work before we decide that our bylaws are going to change.”

Leslie Digby, associate professor of the practice of evolutionary anthropology, wondered what the role of the Council would be in facilitating course evaluations for graduate-level courses. The Council currently has a Committee on Assessment which has been revamping the course evaluation system for undergraduate classes.

Valerie Ashby, dean of Duke's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, responded by saying that a pilot for graduate course evaluations was already in the works, but that the Arts & Sciences Council wasn’t aware because “[its] world doesn’t intersect intentionally with that.”

She encouraged the Council to maintain transparent communication between the graduate and undergraduate side of Trinity.

Socolar wanted to hear the Council’s thoughts on two issues related to its structure before drafting the new bylaws.

“Who gets a seat on the Council and who is eligible to act as a Council representative? And how do we distribute the votes that we have?” he said, referring to the fact that some departments have hundreds of students pursuing majors within them while others only have dozens. 

He added that the current bylaws state that each department within Trinity gets a representative, but for schools that offer majors within the Trinity curriculum, such as the Nicholas School, the bylaws allot representation for each major.  

“What seems unworkable about proportional representation and potentially unfair is that there are departments that are service departments,” said Professor of Classical Studies Micaela Janan. “They may not have a lot of majors among the Duke undergraduate population, but teach a lot of courses to those undergraduate students, and therefore should have equal representation in matters concerning the curriculum.”

Astrachan agreed with Janan. Even though his department offers the most popular major among undergraduates, he wouldn’t want it to have more representation than other people, he said.

Socolar also wanted to hear what faculty thought the role of non-regular rank faculty should be on the Council.

Miranda Welsh, lecturing fellow in the Thompson Writing Program, expressed her support for direct representation within the Council and for a discussion for how that would work. Astrachan agreed, saying that he supported non-regular rank faculty members holding positions on the Council “to the extent that the departments want them to be.”

With respect to bylaws on committees, Socolar had two concerns: whether the Council had the right committees and to what extent the duties of a committee should be spelled out in the bylaws. 

“There's a sort of general philosophical question here about whether the committees are there to do the bidding of the Council… or whether they are there more to inform the Council about what they think is important,” Socolar said.

Astrachan suggested that Socolar directly ask the chairs of each committee how they would have their charges revised as he drafts the new bylaws. 

David Malone, professor of the practice of education, asked if the next version of the bylaws would clarify whether the Executive Committee of the Council was a “committee among committees” or an overseeing body of the Council. 

Malone compared the Executive Committee of the Arts & Sciences Council to the Executive Committee of the Academic Council. The ECAC has the ability to act on behalf of the Academic Council but ECASC can’t do the same for the Arts & Sciences Council, he said.

Socolar said that filling this gap would be useful if there is “some emergency situation this summer that requires a faculty response.”

In other business

The Council heard an update from the Curriculum Development Committee presented by Scott Huettel, professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience. 

The Committee has been focusing on understanding “the landscape, both of ideas and expertise” of Duke before it makes curriculum changes, Huettel said.

“[The Committee’s] goal is to begin a learning tour over the course of the fall,” Huettel said. 

Ashby, who will leave Duke at the end of June to become the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, reflected on her time as dean of Trinity and what faculty governance meant to her.

“One of the things my mentor told me when I took this job is, if you miss the pastoral part of this job, you will fail,” Ashby said. “And what he meant was if you don't stop and care for your people, as human beings in every way—it has nothing to do necessarily with their jobs or their professions—you will not have served your people well.”

She also thanked members of the Council for serving in faculty governance.

“It's not a job everybody wants,” Ashby said. “And so I am grateful to each one of you who stepped up year after year after year to be of service to your colleagues and also to the students and to the staff.”


Adway S. Wadekar | University News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.

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