Middle States Self Study

Subcommittee on Faulty

Notes from 9/10/08


Present: Eric Lifshin, Sandra Graff, Laura Benson-Marotta, Glyne Griffith, Lorre Smith, Hassaram Bakhru, Alison Ciesielski Olin, Bruce Szelest



Bruce Szelest joined the group to provide background on the project and to provide an overview of the Wiki space and resources.

  • Subcommittees/groups were constituted and a revision of goals and charge was completed over the summer
  • Dr. Luis Padraja, MSCHE Vice President and our campus liaison during the self-study, will visit campus on 9/25 to review the self-study design, meet with top administrators
  • April-May 2009 – will need a good first draft of the study, including a 10-15 page chapter from each subcommittee
  • Fourteen standards of accreditation need to be addressed as well as fourteen charge questions specific to faculty.


The group is asked to put issues on the table and analyze them – the good and the bad.  We should be candid and self-critical.


Several committees are considering use of a survey of different groups (faculty, staff, students).  Use of surveys should be coordinated and consolidated.  If we wish to survey we need to have the questions/materials ready by October.              


Using the “Assessment” subcommittee – Bruce demonstrated the use and functions of the Wiki, which is designed to make the self-study process as transparent as possible.

  • Document inventory (password protected)
  • Meeting notes (loaded through Bruce or with his instructions)
  • Working Documents section – includes agenda items, changes to charge questions, etc.
  • Previous studies – located on the main Wiki page in the Resource Center .  Includes the 2000 Middle States Study, 2005 Periodic Review (the beginning section details the 2000 recommendations and what we have done to address them since them), Critique, Response
  • A graduate assistant is assigned to the self-study project and will break out and match charge questions with related documents and inventory upon request to Bruce
  • Bruce’s office will take a first pass and a draft at identifying/gathering everything we want. Additions and request should be directed to him.


What is/who are the Middle States?

Among other things, national accrediting agencies serve as gatekeepers for the federal government to assure institutional quality, that institutions meet certain standards, and that they are therefore eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs.  Regional accrediting agencies delineated by geographical area.  Middle States includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several locations internationally.  The university pays an institutional membership.  In addition to Middle States accreditation, most UAlbany departments go through a program review every seven years through an internal program review process that both Middle States and SUNY have interest in, and other programs are reviewed periodically through specialized accreditors.  NY State Education Department used to conduct doctoral program reviews every 10 years, but pretty much ceased that practice.


Eric discusses the process and some of the resources available

  • Two study guides are on the Wiki – found them to be clear and useful – “Characteristics of Excellence…” (the blue book) and “Creating a Useful Process…” (the pink book)
  • In the blue book, Standard 10 focuses on faculty and will be used by the group as a guide – modifications can occur later if needed.
  • The process and study should emphasize ideas and actions, not an encyclopedia list of facts.  Identify what you like and don’t like about what you are doing – a true self-study.
  • Eric received a letter from a former faculty member who was involved in the process previously – he expressed concerns about the assessment process used previously. 
  • Eric proposes that the group be totally objective in the study process, open, and honest.  Objectivity will be recognized.  We have an impressive faculty – let’s demonstrate this AND make recommendations for improvements.


For the next meeting the group should:

Review the relevant sections of the blue (page 37-) and pink books (sample questions page 37 -, and pitfalls page 45 -) that get at the standards and charges. Keep in mind that we need to conduct analysis, not description, which was a problem in the 2000 study.  Review the faculty section of the previous self-study and subsequent materials.


The group discusses a comparison of peer institutions, both current and aspirational, for baseline and other purposes.  Bruce will supply the list of peer institutions.  Group felt that peer institutions at the national level would be most appropriate, due to the level of specialization of some schools (are peer may not be available in immediate area)

  • Tenure and promotion processes were specifically mentioned as an area that could be examined against both peer institution and internal departments/colleges.  Do we pay a price for continuing old practices/historical artifacts?  Details included in tenure cases vary, across colleges.  Uniformity vs. chaos – should not seek to go too far in either direction.
  • Faculty evaluation – how often, what’s in it, who conducts, what power does the evaluator have to change the direction of the evaluated?  UA has very little evaluation, especially after tenure.  What things are being done on campus in terms of evaluation and accomplishment/activity reports?  Do we have a master list of all the faculty awards, presentations, patents, etc?
  • Peer institutions could be compared with UA as a whole, and on the school/department level.


Some discussion occurs around faculty activity reports, according to Sandy, a requirement this year for Discretionary Salary Increase consideration.

  • CAS is now tying merit increments to the completion of FARs .  Is this a best practice?
  • The Library has had an FAR requirement for 15 years.
  • 300+ faculty completed the FAR this year through the new online prototype


Some discussion follows about the dropping numbers of faculty and low faculty-student ratios.  This is a big problem that we need to look at.

  • Data is available on this from Budget and Institutional Research – the I-Peds report.


Other issues discussed:

  • National Research Council (data coming out in October)
  • Send ideas and thoughts to the group during the next two weeks – will build them into the agenda.
  • May be sensible to condense or group some of the charges.
  • Each group member should think about the “assignment” or section of the study he/she would want to work on



Close – 4pm


Next meeting – September 24, 3 pm, same place.