Faculty Senate discusses commencement, a potential pass/fail grading system, university leadership

The setting sun reflects off the UTA tower Jan. 19 on the corner of UTA Boulevard and Cooper Street.

Commencement ceremonies, a pass or fail grading system and university leadership were issues discussed at the Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.

The Senate met virtually for the first time since former President Vistasp Karbhari suddenly stepped down from his position on March 19. Teik Lim, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, currently serves as administrator in charge.

The Senate passed a motion recommending UTA establish a pass or fail grading system with decisions made at the college level.

Pranesh Aswath, senior vice provost for Academic Planning and Policy, said the plan for a pass or fail system was brought up at the undergraduate assembly on Tuesday. The assembly proposed an option for individual college curriculum committees to develop a pass or fail policy for each college.

The Central Enrollment Management team would then implement the pass or fail system for each college, Aswath said. Colleges would be allowed to provide the option to undergraduate students on whether they want to be graded on a pass or fail basis or with a letter grade.

The Senate said it was important to show compassion to students during a time of a pandemic, yet the issue of low performing students passing into graduate-level classes was brought up.

The graduate assembly will discuss what will occur at the graduate level during its April 2 meeting, Aswath said.

UT System Chancellor James Milliken acknowledged issues raised in an October 2019 Protiviti report investigating leadership issues related to Karbhari.

Originally set to resign on Aug. 31, Karbhari stepped down from his position suddenly on March 19. Lim was then appointed as administrator in charge, according to a previous Shorthorn article.

“At midnight one night, [Karbhari] resigned. I wanted to make sure that one minute after midnight there was a person who had our trust and confidence and was designated as the leader of the institution,” Milliken said in regards to making Lim administrator in charge.

Milliken said that while the original resignation date would have been more orderly, in light of COVID-19 the UT System felt it wasn’t right to pivot attention from the pandemic to his resignation.

While a formal designation for an interim president will be made soon, Milliken said he is appreciative of the steps Lim has taken in leading and as an advocate for UTA.

Lim said he pledges openness and transparency, calling himself a micro-collaborator, someone who is interested in what people do but does not micromanage.

The presidential search committee will include two regents, two successful UT System presidents, an executive vice chancellor, three faculty members, a dean, a student picked by Student Governance and an alumnus, Milliken said.

Milliken said during the interim period the university needs stability and support for the campus. A new president will ideally be chosen by the fall semester, he said.

While students and faculty are encouraged to stay at home and work remotely, faculty are allowed to come to campus to assist in online learning and other essential functions.

Student workers can hopefully continue to work remotely, Lim said. A plan is being developed for them to continue getting paid if they are prevented from working.

Computer labs are open and limiting use to 10 computers at a time in acknowledgment of social distancing, Lim said. The Central Library is closed except for laptop checkouts.

All students expected to graduate will receive their degrees as scheduled, Lim said. Commencement ceremonies for the spring semester will either be postponed or moved online. The details are still being worked on.

Refunds for parking, dining and on-campus housing will be given to students, Lim said. There will be no COVID-19 related refunds for tuition and fees. The May semester will still happen and registration for the fall semester begins April 6.

As of Friday, there are 203 students living on campus in residence halls and a total of 2,515 students at university apartments, Lim said in an email.



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