Faculty Senate approves new graduate programs

Motions for masters programs, academic freedom statement face little opposition, most pass totally unopposed


Faculty Senate President Chris Holstege (above) presided over the Senate’s meeting Wednesday, Dec. 4. The Committee unanimously approved two new graduate programs.

Jenna Truong | The Cavalier Daily

The Faculty Senate approved new graduate programs Wednesday afternoon, establishing a Masters of Science in Data Science, as well as a proposal to create a masters program in European studies.

Law Prof. Kerry Abrams, chair of the Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, first presented proposals for the creation of the masters in data science, an interdisciplinary program that draws on the fields of computer science, statistics and engineering, highlighting that the program would work in tandem with the University’s recently launched Big Data Institute.

“[The masters program] would foster the sort of interdisciplinary research that the institute could produce.” Abrams said.

Since the program would not fall under any existing academic department, the State Council of Higher Education must first approve it. A temporary concentration in data science within the current Masters of Science in Statistics was approved for the meantime.

Some faculty members questioned the validity of placing the degree program by itself rather than within the Department of Statistics. The Academic Affairs committee, however, felt the interdisciplinary nature of data science warranted independence and this move would ultimately lead to better research, Abrams said.

“It seemed that this was enough of a new field and it is unclear at this point what direction that it will go in,” she said. “It should be its own discipline not a sub-discipline.”

Abrams also submitted a motion on behalf of the committee to create a masters program in European Studies. The program would be two years with course work during the first year, a semester abroad, and then a final one-semester thesis upon the student’s return.

Some professors again raised concerns about where the program would be placed administratively and objected to housing it outside of an existing department. The discussion, however, ended in the Senate passing the motion unopposed with six abstentions.

Assoc. Medicine Prof. Rasheed Balogun, chair of the Faculty Recruitment, Retention, Retirement, and Welfare Committee, also presented the Senate with a statement of academic freedom for adoption.

The statement was based on one of several models suggested by the American Association of University Professors, presented with minor alterations. Assoc. Education Prof. Walter Heinecke, who is also president of the University chapter of the AAUP, said the revisions were likely in line with AAUP standards.

The motion passed unopposed.

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