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Centers' status debated

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 31 - May 4, 1995

Following a subcommittee review, the Commission on Research has recommended to the vice provost for research that the Center for Survey Research be reauthorized for one year and that a task force be appointed to determine an appropriate funding classification for the center and reporting lines and linkage within the university structure.

It was recommended that the task force represent outreach, outcomes assessment, the Research Division, and Institutional Research, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences.

The survey center was established in 1990 to serve the research needs of the faculty, the community, and the state. For three years, the cost of the center was subsidized by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Research Division while it was to become self-supporting. According to the review committee's report, the college has continued support for the last two years, but will no longer be able to provide funds, even though the center is not fully self-supporting.

Chia-Hsiung Tze, who chaired the review and chairs the commission, pointed out that university projects are one-third to one-half of the center's activity, such as surveys for the academic-assessment office, Placement Office, foundation, provost, undergraduate admissions, registrar, and dean of students.

Most of the balance of the center's work has been in support of faculty members conducting research. The center also provides experience and employment for students.

Tze and the report point out that the 1996-98 Self Study will require surveys, the survey needs of outcomes assessment are on-going, and surveys may also be needed to determine public acceptance of the university's restructuring.

While the quality and importance of the center's work were endorsed, the report suggests and the commission members agreed that the center is not so much an interdisciplinary research center, which would fall under the purview of the commission, as it is a service center.

The point was also made that the overhead rate charged for the center's services is too low since it fails to cover the director's salary and fringe benefits.

In other business, the subcommittee reviewing the definition of centers, institutes, and councils asked for a clear charge from the vice provost for research, who requested the review. A survey of the deans regarding what centers are in the colleges resulted in a list of more than 80, including academic as well as research centers.