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Rifts in the Valley

November 19, 2013

Faculty at San Jose State University on Monday rebuked their administration’s many ventures into online education this year, voting overwhelmingly to request an outside review of the institution’s governance.

“A series of conflicts over the last year has highlighted issues related to communication and transparency, has opened serious rifts in our shared sense of community, and has contributed to extremely low morale,” the resolution reads. “A fresh look at the SJSU situation from outside the campus could help to diagnose problems and identify solutions.”

Flashpoints on Online Ed

 

The Academic Senate passed the resolution with 38 voting in favor, 2 against and 5 abstaining, a spokeswoman said, thereby urging Timothy P. White, chancellor of the California State University System, to review the governance of San Jose State.

Laurie Weidner, an assistant vice chancellor of the system, said the resolution is not binding, but added, “We would take it under advisement.”

In a statement, San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi encouraged the campus community to “do all we can to support the Chancellor’s Office in responding to this request.” Qayoumi voiced his support for the resolution, a spokeswoman said.

“Today’s Senate discussion revealed a desire for more transparency about our priorities and explored questions about some aspects of university governance,” Qayoumi said. “As I said during the meeting, communication is the basis for effective governance. I am hopeful that today’s Senate conversation, and others to come, will bring us closer together and help us exceed our individual and collective aspirations.”

A vote on a proposed policy change, which would have required administrators or faculty members to seek approval from the other group before signing a contract with a third party to deliver online courses, was postponed because of time constraints.

The senate meeting comes after a tumultuous year in online education at San Jose State. The university announced an ambitious partnership with massive open online course provider Udacity to provide low-cost, high-quality online courses in January, but pass and completion rates after two semesters -- spring in particular -- led the university to put the program on pause for the fall.

Faculty members in the philosophy department at San Jose State also refused to participate in an effort backed by edX, another MOOC provider, to expand blended courses, saying “the move to MOOCs comes at great peril to our university” and that the courses represented a “serious compromise of quality of education.”

 

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