ACADEMIC PLANNING COUNCIL
Minutes of September 25, 2006
3 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505
Present: Alden, Bond (for Bose), Cassidy, Dowen, Hartenhoff, House, Jeris, Johnson, Levin, Olson, Prawitz, Reynolds, Seaver, Waas, Williams
Guests: Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office of the Provost; John Austin, Director, College of Law Library; Carolinda Douglass, Coordinator, Assessment Services; LeRoy Pernell, Dean, College of Law
Alden called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of August 28, 2006, as distributed, and the motion passed unanimously. Alden announced that Laurel Jeris has been appointed as the APC representative to the University Assessment Panel.
Alden introduced LeRoy Pernell, Dean of the College of Law and John Austin, Director of the College of Law Library who are attending the meeting to discuss the Doctor of Jurisprudence. Alden turned the meeting over to Waas for the presentation of the subcommittee report.
Waas thanked the members of the subcommittee for their contributions to the review. The state legislature established the College of Law in 1979. This is a young law school, but the college is well underway in terms of carving out an identity for itself; however, it does face some challenges.
Departmental strengths include the college’s contributions to the NIU mission and the Illinois Commitment by contributing to the economic growth of the region and providing an affordable and high-quality legal education to a diverse student body; the diverse faculty, which is important in recruiting and training a diverse student body; and the engagement in direct public service activities. The college has a Practice Skills Training Program, which integrates simulated and clinic-based student experiences that are designed to develop students’ applied legal skills, and this is unique. Another strength is that the college provides significant mentoring support to their students, which contributes to the successful recruitment, matriculation, and graduation of students. The college also collaborates with the University of Bordeaux in a summer program that allows NIU law students to study the European civil law system, and it has also initiated fundraising campaigns to address physical space issues.
Cassidy asked Pernell if he would provide additional information about the training program, which has multiple elements and provides progressive experiences for students. Pernell stated that when we talk about skills training, it involves the entire college. I will talk about it specifically as it relates to our best practice. We build on what students take their first year and offer lawyering skills courses like pre-litigation, lawyer relationships with clients, etc. We are not the only law school to have a course like lawyer relationships with clients, but what is unique is there is an opportunity for every student to take the course even though it is an elective. We also have a skills training simulations course, which includes things like child advocacy, and provides opportunities for students to participate in real life practice settings through externships that have an academic component and faculty involvement. Students spend a designated number of hours being supervised on site with someone who works with a college faculty member. We are very similar to other law schools, but one important difference is our clinical offerings, which are semi-new. One of the distinguishing features is that we provide in-house clinical opportunities. We have subject-specific clinics, i.e., criminal defense. This experience has a component where we spend time talking about the issue regarding a case, do simulation exercises, and explore connections between what students have learned and how to apply it to practice. This allows for the important integration of professional skills. The Zeke Georgi Legal Clinic is an in-take point for case handling, and there are two supervisors who provide supervision for the students. The supervising attorney works with a law faculty member for the seminar component of the course. By not having a distinction between clinical and non-clinical faculty our faculty are encouraged to be involved with the clinics. Clinical courses are small in enrollment (10-15 students) to maximize the amount of attention that students receive. It also allows us to provide a service component to the communities we serve. We offer four clinics per year (misdemeanor criminal defense, domestic violence, alternative dispute resolution, and elder law). These clinics plus what students obtain through other course experiences gives our students the advantage of hitting the ground running.
Williams pointed out the article in Northern Now on two law alumni and their spirit of public service. Pernell said that students are encouraged to be involved in pro bono services too. The article is about two of our alumni who have done this.
Waas said that the discussion points are the building conditions cited by the American Bar Association, the lack of available physical space for students to gather outside the classroom, and the inadequacy of the law library holdings and the current funding level for the law library. There has been progress made in dealing with the building conditions cited by the ABA accreditation reports, but the amount and quality of library, classroom, and administration space remain challenging. The ABA Accreditation Committee identified the library as a weakness in 2004, and continued to cite the library as inadequate in follow-up action letters in 2005 and 2006.
Waas noted that all of the recommendations for the future are tied to the discussion points. The ongoing building repairs need to continue to be tracked to ensure compliance with ABA accreditation requirements, a short term plan to address immediate ABA concerns regarding the law library holdings and space should be developed, and planning for the identification and acquisition of additional space should be an ongoing initiative. Pernell stated that physical plant and facilities issues over the years since the College of Law was established have come up in a lot of areas. Most of the facilities issues raised have been addressed successfully. There are some ongoing concerns that have persisted related both to the quality and quantity of the space. An ongoing area of concern is the climate conditions, particularly regarding heating and air conditioning and the water infiltration problems. There have been significant steps taken to address the water infiltration issue. The university has completed a major stone work project on the exterior of the building. How successful this will be we don’t know at this time. Over this period of time, there have been numerous attempts to take care of this by patching the roof. The long-term success of this is still unknown, but we hope that the problems have been addressed in a very substantial way. During the last ABA inspection concerns were raised regarding this issue, and we indicated things that we would do to address these concerns. These things have been done, but there may be future unresolved issues. The HVAC system has been a significant challenge for us over the years. Faculty offices have been an area of concern and three classroom areas have also been a problem. In the classrooms the students’ focus may not have been where it needs to be due to the climate issue, but our students have done well regardless of the temperature problems. HVAC issues are expensive to take care of, and we are working on these issues. Some of the HVAC issues were addressed last summer, but we need to be more aggressive in resolving these issues, which will involve significant resources. We have kept the ABA updated on our progress. The ABA wants reassurances that we are making progress. We have a follow-up report due to them on December 15, and we will report the stone work and some of the HVAC solutions that have been addressed. The ABA concerns in the past have been with the length of time that these problems have been in existence. Some improvements have taken place each year. We have also added some new classroom space; the Chessick Center and our smart classrooms. We are currently trying to finish the Francis X. Riley court room.
On the quantitative side, as a growing law school we have some important challenges. We are not as desperate for classroom space, but some of our other space areas need to be added to, like the library. We are not cited for this by the ABA. The space for student life is also at a premium in the law school right now. The Thurgood Marshall gallery is a meeting place for our students, and the space for student life has not kept pace with the growth of the student organizations. Other space challenges include offices for the Law Review and room for the moot court programs. Both of these programs do not have sufficient space. The Law Review is housed outside the College of Law in the Holmes Student Center. It is much more desirable to have the Law Review in the college, and this is not consistent with what most law schools do. We would like to bring the Law Review back into the college facilities. We have little space to grow in, and expanding the program would be difficult to do with the amount of space we have. The physical plant is also a challenge for us, and we need to continue to address these issues. Waas asked if there had been any discussions about improving the quality of the space. It seems to me that you are land locked. Pernell responded that these are certainly challenges. There is some unusable space in the short tower. In terms of current space allocation, it is very difficult to see what we would do, but I am not ready to say that it is impossible.
Dowen asked between now and the next accreditation visit where does the college see itself in terms of what you need to have and what you would like to have in order to be reaccredited. Pernell replied that there is only one issue now that needs to be addressed and that is the quality of the space in terms of water infiltration. There are no concerns with the teaching space. We need to address the issues in terms of the water issues and the library collection. Levin added that it seems that we were having this same conversation last year regarding the Stevens Building. We don’t get any money from the state to address these issues. Alden noted that this is not unique to this institution, and there has been no capitol budget authorization for the last four years.
Cassidy clarified that the library holdings issue was about having sufficient funds to keep pace with costs for the collections rather then the quality of the collections. Pernell replied that this is correct. The concern is with our ability to match the costs associated with growth. The library budget had a staffing issue that was addressed. Cassidy added that the faculty rate the quality of the holdings high for their research needs. Pernell noted that the faculty and students have rated our quality in the library high. Waas said that the ABA was concerned with the status of the library. Pernell responded that he would not agree that that was their primary concern. The library issues were raised as a concern at the show cause hearing on the facilities. We have made some significant gains on our library issues. The concern is in our collection size and the ability to keep pace with that. We have taken steps to make permanent changes in the allocation of funds associated with collection growth, but this is not enough. We had to move money around in our budget to meet expanding costs related to the library collection. Waas asked what the inflation rate for collections is at—10 percent? Pernell noted that 10 percent is consistent with what we are looking at. Waas stated that adding 2 percent to the collection budget is still falling behind, and this is a concern. Pernell responded that the 2 + 2 + 2 percent increments shows that we have a commitment to addressing this issue. It is a small step added to the cash allocations that we have continued to do. There is clearly a need to have a more satisfactory solution. The issue is one of whether or not you have a library collection to provide the minimum necessary for a quality education. We have not fallen below this point. The ABA will continue to be concerned until we reach a solution. It is a combination of building issues and this includes library collection growth. After awhile the only thing you can do with less is less.
Waas turned to the program review. The program has many strengths, and it is involved in extensive recruitment activities to ensure that high-quality and diverse students matriculate into the program. Students participate in external competitions, student organizations, and other professional activities. The Office of Career Opportunities and Development assists students in obtaining clerkships and employment. All of these efforts have paid off. Other strengths include graduation rates for underrepresented groups that are commensurate with enrollment, the graduates are well-qualified professionals and contribute to the diversity in the legal profession, the alumni surveys indicated a high level of satisfaction with training, and the program costs have moved from significantly above the statewide average to slightly below the statewide average during the review period.
Levin stated that the Women’s Studies program has benefited from employing your students as teaching assistants. The problem we have is that the students cannot complete a certificate because they can elect only nine credit hours outside the law school. Pernell replied that we encourage students to take advantage of interdisciplinary opportunities, but with the requirements of the law school and the state there is a restriction on the number of hours they can take outside the college. There are opportunities for the appropriate students to take another degree, but it does require more time to finish their degrees. Students have done this in the business and the public administration programs. It requires an extraordinary type of student to do this because it is demanding. I encourage students to get in touch with me to see if we can resolve any issues that come up. There is a limit on how many hours we will count, and sometimes the scheduling is difficult. These are activities that are worth exploring.
Waas turned to the discussion points for the J.D. program. In the assessment activities section, student learning is described mainly in terms of grades, and there is a reliance on student bar passage and job placement as the “two principal assessment metrics,” which places too much emphasis on end-of-program assessment. It is obvious that students complete many performance based projects that could be incorporated into the assessment plan. Briefs, competitions, clinic cases, simulations, and the law review are all appropriate performance based measures. He also noted that alumni have provided substantial financial support to the College of Law, but does this level of support meet your expectations? The document indicates that student grades “are not subject to appeal or formal review,” but there are procedures in which students can appeal grading, and this should be acknowledged in the review.
Waas said that three of the recommendations for the future are tied to the discussion points. The program should identify performance based outcomes to learning outcomes, and this is very doable. The document should provide an evaluative summary of alumni financial contributions. The college should study alumni contributions and develop a comprehensive plan for generating alumni contributions. Think in terms of are you doing enough. Grade appeal procedures that are consistent with Graduate School policies should be developed, and this should be documented in the review. The positive trends in program costs should be more clearly highlighted in the review. The college has the highest student/faculty ratio in the state, which might allow one to argue that your costs should be lower.
Cassidy asked what is the state student/faculty ratio. Pernell responded for tenure-track faculty he does not recall exactly what that number is. The last statistical comparison is that our ratio was more than favorable, and we were ranked in the top 20 schools. We probably are doing reasonably well in this area. We currently have better stabilization in enrollment. In the past few years we have been able to manage enrollment better. One of our bragging points is our favorable student/faculty ratio. Waas said that even when you compare NIU (18.4) to SIU (12.6) it is not favorable. Pernell stated at some of the larger law schools the ratio is 18 to 1, and this is a favorable rate. Another factor is that we have not grown in faculty size during the review period. Waas stated that he thought some of the comparisons could be stated more positively. Pernell responded that we picked these schools because there are some standards that we would like to meet.
Waas stated that the last recommendation for the future is in the benchmark comparison section. Do not highlight the small differences. I think NIU compares quite favorably. Are we picking the right measures? Pernell responded that we have talked about some of these things. With some of these there really is not much of a difference with quantitative measures. What students do in our program is quite different from these schools. We do a number of things very well, and these comparison schools aren’t there yet. In terms of resources, some of the schools do better than we do. Some of the other schools have been able to establish identities in specific areas. Overall size wise these schools are not too far off from where we are.
Alden noted that the other items on the agenda are reports for your information. Cassidy said that the 2006 Performance Report is being distributed to the APC and the University Assessment Panel. This is normally part of the APC notebook, but the report was not ready in time to be distributed in the notebook. The format is fairly consistent with what we have reported on over the last couple of years. Some of the indicators have changed, which makes report challenging. We will be coming back to this group with recommendations for targets that we have set on indicators. We will discuss the Performance Report in the spring semester. We always ask the APC to offer suggestions on activities and initiatives that might be included in next year’s report. Dowen said that he noticed on page 16 that we did not report on the CPA pass rates. Cassidy replied that we are required to report on nursing and law, but we would also have an opportunity to report on other programs in terms of their pass rates.
Alden turned to the next item on the agenda, the CHEA update. Cassidy stated that this was a very helpful document concerning the amendments to the Higher Education Act. The discussion on student achievement on page 6 talks about transparency and accountability in higher education. There continues to be focused discussions about the kinds of requirements institutions would be required to meet in reporting on outcomes.
Cassidy said that the “Measuring Up 2006: The State Report Card on Higher
Education” document is an important thing to know about. If you look at
the six performance categories, it is heavily related to how students are prepared
for college, which points to the need for continuing or expanding P-12 initiatives,
and gives an overview of how well Illinois has done. On the learning criterion
Illinois received a plus score because we had a very forward looking deputy
director for academic affairs at the IBHE during this time period, and we participated
in a Pew Charitable Trust project that looked at some of these issues.
Alden stated that the report from the Spellings Commission and the response from NASULGC/AASCU was the next item on the agenda. Over the last year, there has been focus on accountability and affordability issues, and this is similar to the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. The commission has come out with a penultimate version of their report. In response to this report, NASULGC and AASCU and other higher education organizations have tried to head them off. The commission is trying to do this through rule making without going through Congress. Cassidy added that accountability is a major piece of this, and there is continuing discussion about a student university record system. We would be required to report information on every student, and there are some major issues that surround this particular aspect. Cassidy asked House if he had heard any new information about the student record system project in Illinois. House replied that the discussion is ongoing, but it is slow.
Alden said that there are two related things. If you look at the response document on pages 4-7 and page 14 there is a summary of what the points are. They are trying to head off the commission by having universities in the country volunteer to participate. If you don’t participate you will stand out, and it sounds like the state might be looking at some of this. The first set is parent and student information. It has been suggested that this is the first thing that universities should come to the table with, and universities should have this information. The second component is student engagement tools. Originally these tools were to help universities identify problem areas. Now it has been subverted into a measurement tool. This may be standardized as well. The third area is value added; how much do students get out of their education. Throughout the document it is stated that this information will not be used for ranking purposes, but we know it could end up in the ranking process. Cassidy added that the proposed measures of learning outcomes would feed into the state report card as well.
Douglass asked if Alden had a sense of the timeframe on this initiative. Alden replied that I think they are trying to buy time right now. The urgency is because the Spellings Commission came out with an announcement, and now they are going to rule making. Douglass added that there is a hearing in Chicago on October 5. Kathy Buettner suggested that this would not be approved by Congress because they are still working on the Higher Education Act. It is an interesting time to be in higher education. After November we hope to know a little more about this.
Williams asked if anyone has looked at why Japan is doing so well in education. Alden replied that there is a misinterpretation; other countries are investing a huge amount of funds into higher education. This is an agenda that is not coming to the forefront in the U.S. China has plans for creating hundreds of new universities.
The meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m.
Carolyn A. Cradduck