In a Monday faculty meeting, approximately 100 Reed professors voted on a number of CAPP measures that will affect all Reed students, but especially those studying Computer Science (CS), Mathematics, Music, Dance, Comparative Race, Ethnicity Studies (CRES), and Religion. The changes which the faculty approved will go into effect within the foreseeable future. There were also discussions surrounding supporting overloaded departments and travel restrictions on professors.
40 MINUTES OF VOTING
Members of the faculty voted on a total of eleven CAPP measures during the meeting, all of which passed.
Perhaps the most exciting change is the approval of a new CS minor, the first STEM minor to be offered by Reed. By adding the minor, the CS Department hopes to make their discipline more accessible to students who wish to apply computer programming to other areas of study. This change also offers a compromise to students who study CS due to the potential earning prospects of the degree, but whose passions lie elsewhere.
While offering a CS minor would likely increase course load for the already over-subscribed CS Department, it would also reduce the number of theses for professors to advise. According to Adam Groce, chair of the CS Department, “Part of our problem is that our workload is really skewed toward thesis advising. Something that reduces our thesis load is desirable, even if it might increase our regular course teaching load a bit.”
The faculty also approved a change to the Faculty Code which will allow departments to alter the timing of a Junior Qualifying exam with the approval of CAPP. With this change, departments can now administer a qualifying exam prior to Junior year. According to the memo outlining the change, “The proposed change emerged in discussions between CAPP and the Computer Science Department about strategies for managing their high demand. The primary rationale for moving the qual earlier would be to provide students who do not pass it with additional time to find another home department.”
Groce also noted that the CS Qual “covers a set of courses most students have taken by their sophomore fall,” and that administering it earlier would make preparation less of a hassle for CS students.
A slew of changes were approved to the requirements for Math and Math-Stats majors. Math majors are no longer required to take introductory physics, and may instead replace it with two units of any other non-mathematics group III science course. According to Angélica Osorno, Chair of the Mathematics Department, the goal of this change is to allow students to explore areas of science beyond physics where they may see applications for math. Math students may now also replace a required math elective course with a more applied/computational Mathematics course.
Math-Stats majors are now required to take data analysis classes beyond Math 141. Additionally, the requirement to take two upper-level math courses was replaced with a requirement to take one upper-level math course and one Computer Science course. According to the memo outlining the measure, “these changes are welcome by members of the Computer Science Department,” as they will not put more thesis pressure on CS professors, and most math majors take CS classes already.
In the humanities, faculty approved the creation of a CRES-Religion major to the CRES program. Professor of Sociology Marc Schneiberg noted that the major would be rooted in the Religion Department and supplemented by additional CRES courses; given the low number of CRES majors at Reed, adding this concentration does not carry any serious staffing implications. The new major will be supported by two additional CRES courses in the Religion Department, one at the 200 level titled “Religion, Ethnicity, and Race,” and another called “Religion and White Supremacy.” According to a preliminary calendar presented at the meeting, the former course is set to first run in Fall of 2022, and the latter in Fall of 2023.
In the Music Department, changes were made to how credits for private music instruction are counted. Before, students could choose to either take non-graded music instruction for 0.5 credits, or graded music instruction for 0 credits. Now, all private music instruction is graded, and graded private music instruction may be taken for 0.5 credits. Students may use these credits to fulfill group requirements. In response to concerns about the change, Music Professor Morgan Luker said that private music instruction meets both the “letter and spirit” of group requirements in terms of learning outcomes. He noted that, while private music instruction is very different from conference learning, it is highly rigorous and no less meaningful, and this change allows students to seriously study music at Reed in a way they couldn’t before.
Theatre Professor Kate Bredson added that the Theatre Department has been operating under a similar model for a long time, and encouraged her colleagues not to devalue performance and performance studies. Although the measure was supported unanimously by CAPP, this change passed among the wider faculty by the slimmest margin of all those voted on — 62% of the faculty voted in favor, with 20% voting against and 18% abstaining.
Also in the performing arts, Dance and Dance-Theater majors looking to fulfill the performance requirement on their degrees will no longer need to have a committee log hours of work. Instead, the requirement can be fulfilled by simply taking a section of Dance 100, Theatre 100, or Theatre 201.
While there were other measures approved, none were quite as significant as those listed above. See the full change log for more details.
Aside from voting on CAPP measures, faculty discussed possible ways to support overloaded departments and raised concerns about financial support for travel abroad research.
CAPP presented on a recent “Strategic Visioning” session they had which discussed ways to support over-subscribed departments and programs (specifically CS and Stats) “in an FTE-neutral landscape” — that is to say, without changing the number of tenure-track positions at the college. Proposed solutions included bringing on Professors of Practice (aka non-tenure track faculty) to teach classes, shrinking overloaded departments by instituting stricter requirements on a major (such as requiring an application or a minimum GPA to be a part of a major), and making thesis optional or only one semester for overloaded departments.
Also discussed was the ever-fraught subject of reallocating tenure-track lines to oversubscribed departments. According to the presentation, “Some reallocation seems unavoidable” when trying to support overloaded departments. One suggestion to get overloaded departments the FTE they need was to create a floating pool of tenure-track lines that could be temporarily allocated to departments as-needed.
The presentation emphasized that CAPP strives to be both sympathetic and fair to all departments as they use data, and noted that they “must clearly separate measures of output (the distribution of students […] ) from measures of input (e.g. some measure of workload).”
Physics Professor Darrell Schroeter questioned why the college is committed to maintaining FTE-neutrality, observing that it seemed to be tied to some vision of the college’s future which he didn’t share. In response, Becker said that the lack of FTE-expansion is not a vision of the college but a financial constraint that CAPP has to acknowledge and navigate. This constraint will be in place for the foreseeable future.
In response to discussions of reallocation, Kate Bredson emphasized the perils of taking tenure-track lines away from the performing arts. “There’s been real harm done,” she said, continuing, “This is personal, and it’s cruel.” She urged CAPP to look beyond data, and to remember that just because departments have low or declining enrollments, doesn’t mean that they’re not already serving their students at or above their capacity.
TRAVEL ABROAD CONFUSION
Early in the faculty meeting, Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Lynn Valenter discussed Reed’s new plans to change the way they judge the COVID-related risks of locations to which professors may wish to travel on school funds. Reed College has a travel fund from which faculty can apply to receive funding for travel. However, right now the College will not pay for travel to places that have a Level 4 CDC travel guidance — an advisory not to travel to those locations due to high COVID risks.
Faculty whose research requires them to travel abroad, mostly in the humanities, are upset by this decision, pointing to the fact that other colleges have found ways to support faculty traveling abroad. It has also been noted that the policy poses an equity problem, as it means that only professors who can afford to pay for their own research would be able to complete it. Recently, a letter was signed by one-third of Reed’s faculty in support of changing the policy. In response, the college committed to changing the policy, though there is not yet any certainty about what the new policy would look like, or when it would be put in place.
Valenter spoke at length about the challenges of developing standards to judge COVID travel risk which deviates from, and is more accurate than, those of the CDC. She emphasized that finding a one-size-fits-all solution would be difficult and that deciding on criteria to judge risk and the necessity of travel requires a lot of consideration.
Professors raised concerns about the lack of details Valenter provided in her statement. Many noted that with spring break only a month away and summer fast approaching, professors must make travel plans they aren’t sure whether or not the college will pay for. French Professor Catherine Witt also noted that professors are supposed to apply for summer funds by March 28th. Given how soon the deadline is, the lack of clarity surrounding the policy is problematic to many professors.
Said Kate Bredson, “I’m confused, and I suspect my many colleagues who signed the letter are confused” at the vagueness of Valenter’s speech. She continued that a faculty who have been unable to do their research for two and a half years need more clarity than the broad generalization that making a policy is difficult.
In response to these concerns, Valenter said, “I can’t pretend to have a full and comprehensive knowledge, and I don’t have answers to everything.”She continued that, although the administration wasn’t sure if there would be plans in time for spring, something would almost certainly be ready for summer.