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The Weekly Blab 1.7

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 1, Number 7—October 6, 2006


Dear Colleagues,


Here we go with the seventh issue of the Weekly Blab. Some of the items that may appear here are preliminary, and may later disappear without a trace upon further consideration!



Rant for the week (an occasional feature of the BLAB):


Getting Grades In

I know that it’s a pain in the psheprasha to teach one’s classes, advise students, do scholarly work, and still be bugged by the VPAA to get early warning, mid-term or final grades in, depending on the time of year.  Still, getting the grades in is important for lots of reasons—to keep students informed of their progress in an “official” way, to identify those who need help, for various reasons associated with financial aid, and as if those weren’t enough, because it is a basic part of one’s job responsibilities.  Most people get them in right away, but there are always some who don’t.  Then I have to chase them down, and bug the chairs and deans.  To those who get their grades in on time—my apologies for bugging you.  To those who don’t—this rant is for you!



Now, some follow-ups on previous items:



The department chairs have met and discussed potential structures for reorganization, and made two recommendations, each of which received an equal number of “votes”.  The first structure is essentially the current one, with Business split out of ETM into its own school.  The second structure is more radical—all departments would report directly to the VPAA or an assistant VPAA, and there would be a dean of graduate studies and a dean of undergraduate studies.  The recommendation letter from the chairs can be found at the following link:

(new link = Reorganization Memo)


We discussed the matter at the ALC meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 4.  The main points were:

  • Most chairs were basically happy with the current structure.
  • We need to appoint a chair/director for engineering to help prepare the way for our new engineering programs in terms of curriculum, commonality, ABET, etc.
  • Business wants to be a separate school.  We need to discuss how we will decide whether or not this should happen.
  • CSE wants to remain a separate school.
  • We will discuss what the “trigger points” are in terms of what the student numbers/program complexity should be to determine whether Business and CSE should have a chair, a director or a dean as administration.  In any event, the school would be represented on the Dean’s Council.
  • We will continue to discuss and define the differences in roles and job requirements between a dean, director and chair.



The mechatronics engineering proposal is on the Board of Regents Agenda for October 10 in Fort Valley, so Dave Caudill, Glenn Allen, John Sweigart and I will be doing a road trip down there.


Lab Fees

The lab fee process is up and running, and the first round of monies have been distributed.  Departments charging a lab fee ($40/lab, $75 for architecture studio, capped at $80 maximum/term) get those funds to buy equipment, etc. to improve their labs.  We collected a total of $77,678 in lab fees for the fall semester.  Assuming the spring is similar, this would mean a total of about $160,000 for the full year, which will allow us to do some good things in the labs.  The biggest recipients are, of course, those departments with the largest labs charging fees, which are BCP ($24,500) and Architecture ($28,950). 



The university system will be looking at all university budgets from the point of view of “are we spending our money effectively compared to comparable universities”.  This will help them to make decisions on how to distribute USG money obtained from the state to the campuses.  Separate processes govern (1) how state funds are allocated to the Board of Regents and (2) how we determine our internal University budget.  Please recall that State funds are one of six sources of funds in our overall budget, representing just over half of our total budget.


This makes the list of comparable institutions mighty important.  There are two comparators being looked at—one is the so-called Delaware Study, which collected data on all colleges and universities program by program, and calculated a “cost per credit” for each program.  These numbers range from a low of $103-$117 for the Social Sciences to $127 for Math, $175 for computer science, $193 for Physics, $243 for Engineering Technology, $254 for Architecture and $393 for Systems Engineering.  Using this model, SPSU should be spending some $18 million on instruction. 


The alternative model is the IPEDS, which compares SPSU with a small group of supposedly similar institutions.  Our group includes Alcorn State, Arizona State, Central Missouri State, Chadron State, Colorado School of Mines, Delta State, Florida Gulf Coast, Grand Valley State, Minnesota State (Mankato and Moorhead), Montana State, Montana Tech, Northern Michigan U, Northwest Missouri State, Oregon Inst. Of Technology, Saginaw Valley State, St. Cloud State, South Dakota School of Mines, SE Missouri State, SW Missouri State, Truman State, U Minnesota-Duluth, U Nebraska-Kearney, U Nebraska-Omaha, Vermont Tech, Wayne State and Winona State.  Other than most of them being in states that start with the letter “M” or “N”, this is a group that’s not much like us at all—almost none of them are focused on science/technology/ engineering, and thus almost none have a similar cost structure.  We will be proposing an alternative list, composed of other polytechnics and places that have two or more ABET accredited ET programs. 


Compared to other US of G universities, we spend $4,589 per FTE student, whereas others spend such amounts as Georgia Tech--$8,057, Georgia State--$4,772, UGA--$5,105, Georgia Southern--$3,750, Albany State--$4,343, Augusta State--$3,522, North Georgia--$4,241 and Kennesaw--$3,589.  Of course, our costs are higher since we are so heavily lab-based, and don’t have the lower cost liberal arts programs to spread our costs over.  The process should be interesting, and I’ll keep you informed as we go forward.



And now, some new items


Outcomes Assessment

Yes, it’s that time again.  We’re gearing up for outcomes assessment, because it’s a useful thing to do in and of itself, but also because it is part of our strategic planning process and because SACS and accrediting bodies increasingly require it. 


I’ve distributed a model that we’ll be following (it’s the same one as last year—the new document is just streamlined a bit to make it easier to do) to the chairs.  A copy of the document can be found at the following link:

(new link = Outcomes Assessment)


Each department needs to assign a faculty member to be the “Outcomes Assessment Czar”, whose responsibility it will be to see that the outcomes assessment documents are prepared and that the requisite measurements are carried out in a timely fashion.  SACS actually requires that we have gone through a few iterations of outcomes assessment, so we really don’t have any time to lose.


The Deans Council and I will be discussing how to coordinate this process, so that we can move forward at more or less the same pace, and so that there can be some cross-departmental (and cross-school) integration.  This is really important stuff, so your help will definitely be needed to make it work.



The advising taskforce met on Friday, October 6 and has focused in on the following developmental model.  We’ll be proposing a series of mini-“courses” for faculty (and appropriate staff) that deal with larger advising issues.  Each “course” will be around 1 hour in length, be available both live and online in some format, and have some assessment instrument associated with it.  A more detailed description and list of topics for your comments will be distributed soon.


SPSU 1001

We have 4 live sections, 2 online and 2 honors sections this term, for a total of 129 students at last count—an all time high.  Of course “all time” means in the three terms we’ve offered it, but we’ll gloss over that.


That’s it for this week.  Your comments, as always, are welcomed!