Discipline Councils

Long advocated by the University Faculty Senate and other University-wide faculty groups, discipline-based faculty councils were given a formal status by the Resolution of the Board of Trustees on Academic Program Planning (June 28, 1993), which urged "the faculties of the University to work together within disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and professional groupings to identify ways in which each field can be strengthened across the University in areas such as curriculum, program development, faculty hiring and mentoring, and faculty development."

Jointly sponsored by the University Faculty Senate and the Office of Academic Affairs, discipline-based councils function as forums for collegial discussion and debate and undertake activities aimed at enhancing particular disciplines on a University-wide basis. As an initial step toward fulfilling the goals of the Board's Resolution, English Departments and Mathematics Departments were invited to form Councils in Spring 1994. During the Fall 1994 semester, the CUNY Council on Foreign Language Study, an existing University-wide body, was designated as the discipline-based council for foreign language departments.

Chairpersons of the respective departments in a discipline serve as members of a Council or name a departmental colleague to serve in their place. Councils organize themselves, decide on suitable structures, designate officers and select meeting dates as members deem appropriate. Each Council formulates its own goals, organizes and plans its own activities and selects the issues it wishes to address.

In their letters of invitation to the Chairs of the English Departments and to the Chairs of the Mathematics Departments, the Chair of the University Faculty Senate and the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs suggested that Councils might wish to consider such questions as: the alignment of introductory curricula with expectations for skills and competencies formulated by joint CUNY/BOE faculty committees for the College Preparatory Initiative; articulation between two-year and four-year programs; cooperation among departments across campuses in both pedagogical and research activities; initiatives to strengthen and diversify program offerings; faculty recruitment and faculty development.

During the past year, the three disciplined-based Councils now in existence have taken up a wide variety of matters in addition to issues listed above, including for English, questions of optimal class size, the teaching of composition, and the deployment of adjuncts; for mathematics, selection of instructional software for broad use within the CUNY system; and for foreign languages, questions related to assessments and placement. In addition, the Council on Foreign Language Study sponsored a highly successful University-wide conference on language pedagogy. In coming months, with the discussion of various funding formulas arising from the Report of the Council of Presidents' Committee on Base-Level Equity, the views of discipline-based councils on staffing levels could be particularly important, as the University considers possible changes in the current Instructional Staff Model.

The Office of Academic Affairs provides coordination and staff support for discipline-based councils in consultation with the University Faculty Senate.

Although discipline councils and University-wide task forces may at times address similar issues, the two differ in a number of ways. Unlike the discipline councils, a task force has predetermined goals and a specified time period in which to reach them. Its membership is nominated by the college presidents and the University Faculty Senate, includes representation from both faculty and administration, and typically has non-CUNY participants. A council may be the logical result of a task force's work. For example, in the case of the Health Professions Task Force, it is likely that once it completes its final report and disbands, an interdisciplinary council in health sciences will be formed to oversee implementation of the recommendations. On the other hand, in the case of the Task Force on Languages Other Than English, now being formed, it is expected that the Council on Foreign Language Study will play a active role in defining the issues it will address and the way it will go about its work.