Thursday, September 30, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 28

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Council questions distance education issues

By Michelle Norton
Daily Cougar Staff 

Undergraduate Council members called for stronger consideration of distance education in the University's mission and plan at the Council's meeting Wednesday.

"Frankly, we see this as a heavy strategic position," said Shirley Ezell, chairwoman of the University Policy and Planning Council. "(However), in many cases we don't see it as a strategic position held by the University financially (and) morally."

Members of the Undergraduate Council meet Wednesday to discuss distance education, as well as changes to the Americans with Disapilities Act.

Henri Chen/The Daily Cougar

Ezell presented to the Council a list of the UPPC's recommendations regarding distance education, including writing distance education into the UH mission and creating a centralized teaching-learning center with a faculty technical support team.

The UPPC's tactical recommendations included looking into how distance education would count toward tenure and faculty promotion. The current policy does not take such education into account in faculty tenure considerations.

Other recommendations examined how to pay for the distance education through student fees, and the potential of piloting distance-education software on an experimental basis.

Ezell and other Council members noted, however, that several policy changes would have to be made in order for the recommendations to take effect, involving copyright infringement and intellectual property issues raised when course material is placed on the Internet or on television.

Though professors' presenting copyrighted materials in class is technically copyright infringement, it is relatively harmless because a single class section is a small, specialized audience. However, posting the materials on a forum as widely available as the Internet could make it easier for copyright holders to prosecute, General Counsel Dennis Duffy told the Council.

In addition, the Council raised questions regarding University intellectual property and whether it could be posted on the Internet.

In other business, the Council discussed recent changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 25 changed its definition of what constituted a disability by beginning to consider mitigating measures in disabled people -- factors like eyeglasses that help vision-impaired people function normally.

The changes now take into account mitigating measures a person develops on his or her own -- for example, through exercise and therapy that allow people to function normally although they have disabilities. Those people are no longer considered disabled.

Duffy said the changes have had an enormous impact.

"(That change) significantly limits the population that is potentially covered by the (ADA)," he said.

The changes will force administrators to look more at individual students with disabilities rather than grouping those people into broad categories.

The Undergraduate Council will next meet at 3 p.m. Oct. 20 in Room 220, E. Cullen Building.

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