Faculty Senate Discussion

Faculty Presidential Search Questions

Filed under Faculty Presidential Search Questions by beth56 on October 25, 2012 | 74 Comments

Providing questions is a very important part of faculty input into the presidential search. Selected questions will be used by the search committee, at the faculty forum with the presidential candidates, and by your senate chair (as a member of the Board of Trustees).  Please look at the criteria list and base your questions on those areas you feel are most important to you.  A list of criteria (The Position and Responsibilities) was emailed to you by your college faculty council chair and is also hyperlinked here for your use. If you have other criteria you think is important in presidential qualification feel free to include those also. We have a very quick turn-around time on obtaining these questions from you. Please provide responses no later than 1 PM on Monday Nov. 5.  The final questions will be selected by the faculty council chairs on Nov. 6 and added to the search committee suggested questions.

Since comments are routed through the Faculty Senate office, there may be a brief delay before your comment is posted.  As a reminder,  because of state law you cannot give opinions on anyone’s questions.  If for any reason you are uncomfortable putting your questions online feel free to contact the senate office and give your questions verbally to Sue Alvers (352-392-9019).

I appreciate that you took the time to be actively involved in this part of the presidential search.  Please contact the senate office if you have any additional questions about the process.

Cheri Brodeur
Faculty Senate Chair

74 Responses to “Faculty Presidential Search Questions”

  1. barletta says:

    For several years, UF had a goal of becoming one of the top 10 US public universities. Not much has been said about that lately. Do you think that is still an achievable goal and, if so, what would you do to try to get us there?

    UF is a very diverse campus, with disciplines ranging from practical ones that prepare students for job,s to general education that prepares students for life, to aesthetic, which may or may not result in a specific job. How would you make sure that all of the disciplines are appropriately recognized and funded?

  2. Do you agree that the mission of higher education is to prepare the student to be a constructive, thoughtful, and productive citizen which requires a training in critical thinking skills, exposure to different cultures and ways of life and opinions which may differ than the individual’s, studies in history, literature, writing and the arts, as well as the sciences and math?

    If so, how do you plan to keep this high on your priorities in today’s times which seem to be viewing the role of the nation’s universities and colleges as a place to train students in marketable skills, and run the university as if it were a business, which often conflicts with the goal of preparing our youth to be good citizens?

    If you have a different view, please explain your philosophy of the role of higher education and how it should be funded.

  3. groisser says:

    1. Are there departments at UF that you don’t think the university should have? If so, which ones?

    2. Are students’ numerical evaluations of teachers, a good way to measure how good a teacher is? If not, how would you create a culture at UF in which deans and T&P committees take any other teaching-metrics seriously?

    3. In recent years, administrative compensation has gone up and up and up, while faculty salaries have remained stagnant. UF’s administrators and trustees have defended the compensation packages offered administrators by saying that we have to pay whatever is necessary to get the best people to take a job at UF instead of elsewhere. For some reason, they do not make this argument when it comes to faculty. UF has lost many good faculty by failing to make counteroffers that are as good as outside offers, even while the raise given to a single administrator could easily fund several counteroffers. Do you think that a university can remain healthy when it sends such a clear message that administrators are more highly valued than faculty?

    4. Some faculty feel that the RCM formulas UF is using do not fairly reward departments that teach a disproportionately large number of student credit-hours. As president, would you be willing to have a committee with significant representation from such faculty re-examine the RCM formulas, and act on such a committee’s recommendations?

    5. When did you last teach a (semester-long) class, write a research paper, or peer-review a grant-proposal or article in your academic field of expertise? If it has been a long time, how have you maintained a connection to the perspective of a faculty member?

    6. For decades, all UF presidents other than President Machen have lived in the President’s House at the edge of campus. Would you live in this house, renovated to whatever extent is necessary, or do you think that a university president should not be expected to immerse him/herself in university life this way?

  4. groisser says:

    1. In what ways, if any, is the corporate model a bad model for a university?

    2. R. Arum and J. Roksa’s 2011 book, “Academically Adrift”, provided convincing documentation that a large percentage of college students across the country are not acquiring adequate skills in the areas of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. This is entirely consistent with my experience in 24 years at UF. Obviously you cannot rely on one faculty member’s word that this is a problem here, but, equally obviously, you cannot rely on the contrary word of anyone with a vested interest in dismissing Arum’s and Roksa’s findings, or in saying, “That might a problem elsewhere, but not here.” If you are not yet certain whether this is a problem at UF, how will you ascertain whether it is? If you do find that this is a problem at UF, what will you do to ensure that future UF students graduate with better critical-thinking, complex-reasoning, and writing skills than those with which our current students graduate?

    3. Recent trends at UF and around the country have been towards a model of higher education that has fewer tenured faculty, more contingent faculty, more large classes, and less face-to-face contact between students and faculty. If these trends continue, then ten or twenty years from now, what rational young person, of the caliber needed for college teaching or research, will aim for a career in academia? Even if it happens that most teaching in the future is done online, who among the best and brightest will be left to create the online materials? How can the quality of education and research not decline when training for a career in academia becomes a high-risk, low-reward path?

    4. Bucking the trend, the University of Connecticut plans to create nearly 300 tenure-track positions over the next four years. President Susan Herbst has said says she feels that academic institutions are generally heading in the wrong direction during the economic downturn. “Higher education and research are not broken,” she said. “I do not think they need some fundamental and profound change.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, June 25, 2012.) Do you agree with President Herbst? If so, what will you do to increase the number of tenure-eligible faculty, decrease the student-to-faculty ratio, and decrease class sizes at UF?

    5. Applications-oriented research brings in more grant money than basic, curiosity-driven research. But applications-oriented research of today often relies on decades-old basic research that had no clear application at the time of the research. Do you think that a faculty member’s salary and pay-raises should be driven by how much grant money he or she brings into the university

    6. Will you make UF’s finances transparent enough that all faculty members, not just accountants and lawyers, can understand exactly how many dollars the university has available for discretionary spending, and to what extent the budget allocations to the colleges represent the UF president’s priorities rather than fiscal necessity?

  5. groisser says:

    1. In a 2010 address to Trinity College, Harvard University’s president Drew Gilpin Faust said: “As stewards of centuries-old traditions of higher learning, we must work to assure that the understandable effort to promote what is valuable not eclipse our support for what is invaluable. When we define higher education’s role principally as driving economic development and solving society’s most urgent problems, we risk losing sight of broader questions, of the kinds of inquiry that enable the critical stance, that build the humane perspective, that foster the restless skepticism and unbounded curiosity from which our profoundest understandings so often emerge. Too narrow a focus on the present can come at the expense of the past and future, of the long view that has always been higher learning’s special concern.” Do you agree? If so, will you be committed to preserving and strengthening traditional academic values, and to articulating the importance of these values to the public and the legislature? How will you try to convince the public and the legislature of the value of a liberal arts education? How will you try to change the minds of deans and other UF administrators who think that a college of liberal arts and sciences is an anachronism?

    2. 2. In the same address, President Faust said, “[W]ithin the domain of science, universities have a distinctive obligation to nurture and fulfill the deep human desire to understand ourselves and the world we inherit and inhabit, from the smallest elementary particle to the sweep of the galaxies—even when there is no practical application close in view and even as we rightly accelerate our efforts to harvest new technologies from knowledge in its most basic form. It is worth remembering that the most transformatively useful of scientific discoveries often trace their origins to research born of sheer curiosity about who we are and how we can fathom the most intriguing mysteries of the natural world.” Do you agree? Applications-oriented research brings in more grant money than basic, curiosity-driven research. Do you think that a faculty member’s salary and pay-raises should be driven by how much grant money he or she brings into the university, as in the so-called “Texas model”?

    3. What will you do to convince the Florida voters and legislators that public higher education is an investment worth funding through higher taxes and/or tuition, or at least through the roll-back of recent corporate tax-cuts in the state?

    4. In the debacle at the University of Virginia earlier this year, one of the trustees behind the ouster of now-reinstated President Sullivan said that what the university needed was not strategic planning, but “strategic dynamism”, i.e. making and marketing large changes quickly. Which is better for the long-term health of UF: strategic planning or “strategic dynamism”? Please try not to hedge your answer.

  6. Questions concerning 3 related topics: Computing, Internationalization, Academic freedom.

    (1)Do you concur that computing a 21st century skill that should be taught even at the K-12 level since it cuts across all disciplines? This skill should not be confused with the ability to use software. At the minimum, it includes the ability to build upon, customize and organize ones software environment; but more importantly, the ability to use of computational thinking in the sciences, economics, decision-making and the humanities.

    (2) Internationally, the US is considered a global leader in higher education and an uncontested leader in computing education and research. Most universities especially in Asia and the Middle east have a college of computing. Several US universities have (7 in the AAU) have a college of computing as well. There is a gaping labor and skills shortage in computer software engineering, information technology and computer science. Should UF start a college of computing?

    (3) Academic freedom for faculty to conduct basic research of their choice is internationally cited as the primary reason why US universities are able to attract talent to the academic profession, while Asian universities are unable to do so.
    However, in many disciplines, “bringing in money” has become the primary function of a faculty member (regardless whether the faculty member’s research requires it) — severely limiting faculty members’ freedom to choose research areas.
    Do you intend to protect the faculty’s freedom to conduct basic research of their choice? If so, how?

  7. Questions related to common reasons provided for the current “reforms” of public higher education, including Governor Scott’s Blue Ribbon Task Force.

    (1) How do you propose to address increasing costs (both for the student and the state)? How do you propose to address public misinformation about the source of this increase?

    (For instance, many including VP Joe Biden and several books on the matter have mentioned “escalating faculty salaries.”)

    (2) What measures, if any, should public universities use to meet labor and skills shortages in the economy? A frequent example cited is the shortage of STEM graduates. One suggested measure by the Blue Ribbon task force is to make student tuition lower for STEM degrees than non-STEM degrees. What do you think about this proposal?

    (3) What is your opinion of the tradeoffs between quality, access and cost of public higher education? As things stand today, will quality of public higher education be compromised as costs are cut? Or is there room for increase in efficiency?

    (4) In your opinion, are MOOCs likely to cut costs and/or increase access, while maintaining (or increasing) quality?

  8. korr@ufl.edu says:

    In light of ongoing discussions by the current Florida governor and legislature to emphasize, and possibly incentivize, the pursuit of S.T.E.M. disciplines at state universities, what commitment would you make to non-STEM disciplines, for example Fine Arts, that are comparably accomplished in attracting and graduating talented, successful students while building UF into the richly diverse, comprehensive campus it is?

  9. What would you do to improve the quality of the education at UF? In particular, since a large component of a UF education is the courses we teach, what can be done to improve the quality of individual courses? For example, if a student takes course AA at UF and a course with the same title and even texts at say an Ivy League institution, which is a better course and why.

  10. How would you help UF maintain and improve the quality of its education and research programs, in the face of inevitable financial and political pressures?

  11. At a moment when many in the Florida State Legislature have prioritized the vocational aspects of university training over the value of a more holistic liberal arts education, what do you believe is the role of the humanities? Should skills like critical thinking, the ability to write and speak well and convincingly, and the mastery of foreign languages be central to a university education? If so, how would you propose treating humanities disciplines in a time of decreased funding?

  12. What three thinkers have most influenced you in defining the purpose and structure of a great university? Why?

    How, then, do you define the purpose and structure of a great university? Given the specific challenges we face, lay out three or four strategies to bring UF into line with this definition.

  13. Computers, information technology, and large data sets play increasingly crucial roles in all research and learning activities. To make faculty and students competitive, effective, and successful, the proper infrastructure needs to be in place and needs to be maintained. What is your vision for IT support and cyber infrastructure ate a large research university like UF?

  14. “Are you aware of our UF Faculty Enhancement Opportunity (FEO) program? Would you be in favor of continuing such a program and how would you protect it?”

  15. The 4-H Development program is the signature youth program of the Cooperative Extension program and the Land Grant institution. How do you plan to utilize this program to promote the University and their connection to it?

  16. Among the criteria that I strongly suggest relative to the new President of UF is that the individual selected have a credible and proven track record with respect to campus internationalization. It will be of interest to the campus to know how the candidate defines campus internationalization, his/her perspectives on how we continue to build this as a campus value, what he/she would characterize as the desired outcomes of such an effort, and the degree to which he/she will be specifically supportive of our campus aspirations in this regard. His/her experience with campus internationalization will be of interest as well.

    An international skill set and strong commitment to the theme of campus internationalization will be of particular importance as a criterion for UF’s new leadership as we begin the implementation of our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), part of the SACS reaccreditation process, in the fall of 2014. The QEP is already well under development and will be going to SACS for review in about a year. The new President will be presiding over a campus that has selected internationalization as a critical area for further enhancement and we will need leadership that recognizes and affirms this goal as a unique campus aspiration and is committed to the effort as it unfolds.

  17. Regarding libraries, what *specifically* do you plan to do to support libraries in the face of rising subscription costs in the face of continued funding cuts from the state legislature? How do you plan to ensure that UF researchers have access to the information they need to remain at the forefront of their fields?

  18. There has been a great deal of publicity nationwide recently about the role of the liberal arts and the importance (or lack thereof) of a liberal arts education – either as or in addition to the major field of study. What is your take on this issue? How do you think the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fits into UF’s overall vision and mission? Where do you envision CLAS 5 years from now? 10 years from now? And how will they get there?

  19. The nation’s premier universities are rapidly expanding their presence abroad – often with foreign offices – with an eye towards providing international experiences for students, fundraising, and supporting novel research collaborations with foreign academics and industry. How will you act to enhance UF’s international presence, and are there specific regions or countries UF should prioritize?

  20. What part does the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences play in your overall plan for the University of Florida? How do you plan to allow for growth in this fundamental college during these difficult economic times?

    Also, more and more students are taking courses online. This requires pushing technology to more adequately engage students who now come to class online. How do you foresee the use of technology to engage students online at the University of Florida over the next ten years?

  21. 1. One hundred fifty years ago, President Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act of 1862 that created the Land Grant system of colleges. As a candidate for president of UF, do you think the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 are still relevant today? Why or why not?

    2. As President of UF, how would you lead the UF foundation to successfully raise the billions of dollars necessary to bring UF into the top twenty of endowments in the country?

    3. Why do you feel you would be able to achieve success in the critical aspects of leading UF and working effectively in the state legislature?

  22. meso@ufl.edu says:

    The University of Florida is a Land Grant University with the three-pronged mission of teaching, research and extension. What is your experience with the Extension Service at any University? What is your vision of the Extension Service in Florida?

  23. Faculty in the Health Science Center are required to secure increasing amounts of outside federal external funding to supplement their salaries and to shore up departmental budgets. Furthermore, we are being asked to only recruit faculty candidates who can bring significant amounts of grant funding to UF. Anecdotal comments from faculty seem to indicate that writing good grant applications, while maintaining an adequate teaching portfolio and continuing to engage in existing research is extremely stressful. As a result we are having difficulty retaining good faculty.

    I recognize the importance of funding, especially peer-reviewed federal support, in advancing scholarship and research. However, as I am sure you are aware, funding from NIH and AHRQ is declining and the competition for support is at an all time high.

    Here are my questions. First, do you agree with this focus on the need to increase the amount of research dollars brought in by faculty…and should all faculty, regardless of their discipline be held to the same standard? Why or why not? Second, what policies and practices would you put in place to help faculty become more competitive at receiving federal funding to support research?

  24. In my ten years as an academic I have witnessed a fairly rapid shift towards more online learning. I wonder whether large brick and mortar institutions such as UF will become obsolete as more students choose to be educated through electronic means. How can a large traditional university such as UF adapt to this changing environment? What do you see as the right mix of online and in-class learning?

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