Math-Stat Department

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

  1. There is talk that Lev Gasparov, as part of his acceptance as Associate Dean of COAS, was granted approval for software that cost around $30,000 or more by Dean Rainbolt. Despite the fact that administrators do not have research programs, much less that this is an extraordinary amount to spend on one person’s request, how does the Dean justify this extraordinary expense?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I place a high value on the transparent allocation of resources. The COAS Dean’s Office is happy to answer any questions about resource allocation.

In COAS, associate deans and the Dean are expected to maintain research programs. Of course, the level of research expected of associate deans and the dean is less than expected of other faculty.

In 2007, Lev Gasparov and Jay Huebner received a grant of approximately $850,000 from the Office of Naval Research. Approximately $320,000 was used to purchase a Raman spectrometer. (In Raman spectroscopy, a sample is hit with a laser and the light that is scattered back reveals information about the sample.)           Dr. Gasparov used the spectrometer to earn two NSF grants totaling approximately $275,000. Over his career at UNF, Dr. Gasparov has secured more than $1.5M in collaborative and sole PI external funding, has published 20 articles in the leading peer reviewed journals, and has mentored many students. This led to his being designated a Presidential Professor. The Naval Research grant and the two NSF grants alone have resulted in the award of more than $110,000 in indirects to UNF.

The spectrometer is eleven years old and requires new controller. If a new controller is not purchased, the spectrometer will become useless. The cost of the new controller and the controller’s software was $20,915. It was paid for as follows: Dr. Gasparov Summer Research Grant $4000, Physics $3,410, Academic Affairs: $4,000, COAS Sweep Funds: $9,505.

Originally, the Department of Physics was going to contribute approximately $8,000 for this project. The faculty of the Department of Physics discussed and approved the allocation of $8,000. However, Karla Calliste-Edgar used her outstanding budgeting skills to transfer some of this burden to the College’s sweep funds.

Sweep funds are funds allocated to departments, but not spent by the departments. At the end of each fiscal year, the unused funds are “swept” by the College. Then a call goes out to chairs for requests for the use of sweep funds. Last year, all sweep requests submitted by departments were funded before funds were allocated to Dr. Gasparov’s spectrometer. In the past two years, sweep funds have been used to support faculty in departments such as Music, Art, Communications, and Chemistry.

The expenditures on the Raman controller were a sound investment in a piece of equipment and a faculty member with an excellent record of research productivity.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

 

2. A new position was created in the Math-Stat department for a “Lower Course Coordinator.” This person is granted a course release which will cost the university around $18K a year. There was no need for this position as faculty in the department did this work for free. How does Dean Rainbolt justify this unnecessary expense?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. Course releases are an important resource and so it is important that they be allocated fairly and transparently. The COAS Dean’s Office is happy to answer any questions about resource allocation.

When he became Chair, Dr. Richard Patterson proposed a reorganization of the service roles in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Part of this reorganization included a Lower Division Programs Coordinator. This position comes with a release of one course per year and a stipend of $1,500. The University and the College is encouraging the Department to make significant changes to its lower-level courses. I agreed with Dr. Patterson’s view that these changes merited this additional service role and a course release.

The primary duties of the Lower Division Coordinator are to provide leadership, to maintain quality and consistency, and to coordinate improvement for all lower division mathematics and statistics courses. Specific duties are:

  • To foster consistency, the director sets the course syllabus for all lower division courses.
  • In consultation with faculty teaching the courses, the director determines common textbooks to be used for these courses.
  • The director provides regular guidance and oversight for adjuncts and GTAs who are teaching standalone courses.
  • The director assists the chair in optimizing the lower division course schedule.
  • The director coordinates and compiles assessment data at the end of a semester.

The cost of a one-course release varies depending on whether the course is three hours of four hours and on whether a course is canceled, covered by an adjunct, or covered with an overload. In this case, the course was covered by an adjunct at a cost of approximately $3,000. However, in future years, an overload may be required. In that case, the cost would be $6,000 or $8,000 depending on whether the course is three hours or four hours. Therefore, for this year, the cost to the University was approximately $4,500, not $18,000.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

3. It has been proven by UNF’s own data that the ALEKS Math Placement Test and Remediation software has a positive effect on increasing math ability. It is also known that success in mathematics classes directly correlates with graduation rates. Faculty members in the Math-Stat department tried last Spring to correct severe communication problems between administrative departments as well as help them provide the correct information to students. Despite their knowledge of the issues and their ability to quickly correct the problems had they been given the chance, faculty were admonished and even retaliated against by Dean Rainbolt and Interim Chair Gasparov. These problems still exist. If the University is so interested in increasing pass rates and lowering DFW rates in math, why are these faculty not supported? Also, since these issues have not been resolved and metrics are a University priority, who is willing to listen to the ALEKS implementation issues in an effort to resolve them?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I appreciate your concern for helping our students increase their mathematical abilities. As you suggest, data from the UNF Office of Institution Research indicate that ALEKS placement test is a good predictor of the level of math course that is best for a student. For this reason, we have been using it more extensively than in the past.

I do not believe that there were any serious communications issues regarding the ALEKS test last spring. As with the roll out of any expansion of a program, there were some bumps along the way. However, overall reports that I have received were positive. I would particularly like to thank the Enrollment Services office. They graciously agreed to fund and manage the expanded ALEKS placement testing.

On October 4, when this question was asked, the Department of Math and Statistics was in the middle of reviewing how the ALEKS placement testing went this past year. They have since made some very helpful suggestions for improvement and I anticipate that many of those suggestions will be implemented for the class entering in Summer 2019.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

 

4. There is talk about changing the ALEKS Math Placement and Remediation from a proctored to an un-proctored test due to Enrollment Services not wanting to do the job. The point of having a proctored math test is to correctly identify and place students in the appropriate classes as well as provide them with 6 months of math remediation (at no cost to them). It has been shown that UNF students who spend only 5-10 hours in remediation can substantially increase their entrance scores as well as help them succeed in GE classes as it refreshes the math skills they learned in high school. This remediation positively affects departments in all colleges from accounting to nursing.

The Math Center Director resigned as the burden of testing was going to be placed solely on her shoulders. Given the concerns over DFWs, graduation rates and other metrics, and knowing how effective ALEKS is at UNF (even with its current haphazard implementation), why is the University not only not supporting full implementation of ALEKS so that it can help students (and UNF) succeed, but considering diminishing its effectiveness?

Response by: George Rainbolt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

Thank you for your question. I appreciate your concern for helping our students increase their mathematical abilities.

Data from the UNF Office of Institution Research indicate that ALEKS placement test is a good predictor of the level of math course that is best for a student. For this reason, we have been using it more extensively than in the past.

Proctoring a placement test is expensive and places a barrier to student enrollment. The UNF Writing Center has been successful using an unproctored placement test. Many other institutions use an unproctored math placement test.

The Director of the Math Center did step down because she found that the administrative burden of the Director position (including the supervision of math placement testing) was greater than she anticipated. She stepped down in a professional and helpful way. I am grateful for her service as Director of the Math Center and her help in smoothing her transition out of the Director position.

On October 4, when this question was asked, the Department of Math and Statistics was in the middle of reviewing how the ALEKS placement testing went this past year. They have since made some very helpful suggestions for improvement and I anticipate that many of those suggestions will be implemented for the class entering in Summer 2019.

Yours in peace,

George Rainbolt, Dean

College of Arts and Sciences

Hiring of Chair in Mathematics and Statistics

Questioner: Anonymous

Posted to: Pamela S. Chally, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

The new Dean of COAS came in with a budget for an outside chair search in the department of Math & Stat and formed a search committee with a chair from a different department, four Math & Stat faculty, and a couple of others. Some Math & Stat senior faculty offered to serve on the committee but were told no. The search committee identified two good prospective candidates and were favored by most in the department survey, but the COAS dean offered the position to neither one and announced an internal search for a permanent chair. An internal interim chair was not considered acceptable last year, and last August the department was assigned a faculty member from a different department as an interim chair. Can you please explain how the sources of discord in the department have disappeared when dispirited faculty feel otherwise?

Response by Provost Chally: 

I am not sure that I understand the question posed in the last sentence.  However, the decision to do an external search for the Chair of Mathematics and Statistics was made by the Interim Dean Dan Moon in consultation with Provost Earle Traynham. Dean George Rainbolt selected the interim chair. After he arrived, Dean Rainbolt met individually with each member of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and attended multiple Department meetings. The search committee, of which a majority were Mathematics and Statistics faculty, was composed to reflect the many units at UNF who have a stake in mathematics and statistics. He also met with the external candidates and reviewed their application materials. After these meetings with the faculty and this review of the external candidates, Dean Rainbolt came to the conclusion that there were multiple good internal candidates to be chair of the Department and that neither of the outside candidates was a good fit. Therefore, he closed the external search, opened an internal search, and requested that the budget for an external chair be converted to funds for an additional instructor. I agreed with Dean Rainbolt’s view of the situation and granted his request. The standard procedures for internal searches were followed and Dr. Richard Patterson was selected as chair. Although issues remain, the Department seems to be on the right path.