Faculty Senate discusses spring semester, presidential search and future construction

Then-Provost Teik Lim discusses official matters Sept. 4, 2019, at the Faculty Senate meeting in the Student Congress Chambers in the University Center.

The Faculty Senate discussed details about the pass/fail grading policy, plans for the spring 2021 semester, UTA’s strategic plan and the presidential search during its last virtual meeting of the fall semester.

Pass/fail grading policy

The fall 2020 temporary pass/fail grading option was launched Tuesday and includes 3,500 eligible courses.

The grading policy enables students to request that an earned letter grade for a selected course be replaced by a pass/fail grade, according to a universitywide email.

Students will have 24 hours to select a pass/fail option once it's available at 1 p.m. Dec. 21.

Students are encouraged to consult their academic advisers and the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships before choosing the pass/fail option, said Pranesh Aswath, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

An informational session about the policy will be hosted via Microsoft Teams at 3 p.m. Dec. 17. Questions can be sent in advance here.

Spring 2021

Interim President Teik Lim said the spring 2021 operation plans will be similar to the fall semester. There is no change to the semester’s start and end dates, and a normal spring break will occur.

Should the COVID-19 pandemic worsen, UTA has included the ability to pivot to fully online operations in its reopening plan, Lim said.

“We will be keeping an eye on this situation, and if necessary, we will pivot fully online,” he said. “But, at this point in time, we would like to stay on course.”

Strategic Plan

The university is on track to refresh the 2025 strategic plan this month. The guiding principles for the supporting projects include student success, research and creative work, being a community of scholars, strengthening engagement, being a global university and inclusive excellence.

Lim said the 2025 strategic plan is being refreshed instead of changed to encourage support within the university during a time of leadership transition.

Presidential search

Since UTA’s presidential search was paused due to the pandemic, there have been no updates from the UT System Office of the Chancellor, Senate chairperson Bill Carroll said.

Former president Vistasp Karbhari stepped down from his position March 19. Lim has served as interim president since May 2.

By comparison, former UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves announced he was stepping down in early April. Jay Hartzell was named UT-Austin’s president Sept. 23.

In September, a group of Faculty Senate members met virtually with UT System Chancellor James Milliken and other UT System administration members to discuss the search. Carroll said no specific information was available at the time.

The Faculty Senate plans to send a letter to Milliken expressing their concerns regarding the search’s delay and encouraging the UT System to move forward with the search.

“We’re not criticizing the current leadership at all,” Carroll said. “We’re just encouraging a search to start.”

School of Social Work and Smart Hospital Building

Design plans for the School of Social Work and Smart Hospital Building were approved by the UT System Board of Regents on Nov. 19.

The $76 million project will be located in proximity to the Science and Engineering Innovation and Research Building, Life Science Building and Pickard Hall to form a “health sciences quad.”

Construction will start in January or February of 2021, Lim said.

The UT System will fund $60 million of the project’s cost while UTA will fund $11 million, and $5 million will be funded by gifts and reserves, he said.

UTA is expected to raise at least $3.8 million for the project. The rest will be taken from the university’s reserves, he said.

“The more we raise, the less we have to put out our reserves to support the building,” Lim said.



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