Faculty Meeting: Professors Talk COVID, Tenure, and Turnover

On September 12, 2022, the Reed Faculty held their monthly meeting in Vollum Lecture Hall. During the meeting the faculty discussed the school’s COVID response, changes to tenure track hiring, concerning levels of staff turnover, and a substanceless non-update on the Paul Currie investigation. It was the first meeting of the 2022-2023 school year and was long by any standard, requiring a vote to extend it 10 minutes past the 80 minute limit. 

President Audrey Bilger opened the meeting with several updates. The school’s dedicated COVID-19 Response team has been disbanded and all COVID responsibilities moving forward will be absorbed by the Emergency Response Team. The COVID-19 Dashboard on Reed’s website, which previously posted detailed campus-wide COVID case data every friday, has been discontinued, though students can find information about new cases on the new COVID-19 Case Notifications page at https://www.reed.edu/coronavirus/plan/case-notifications.html.

Audrey shared that there is no news about Paul Currie and that the current investigation remains ongoing. The promise of timely updates caused a noticeable shifting of bodies in seats.

A professor from the Humanities department asked Audrey about the high number of staff members parting ways with the college and if there were any plans to combat this trend. Another faculty member voiced concerns with the turnover rate found within the Students for Education, Equity, and Direct Service (SEEDS) and Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) programs. Audrey explained how employees that are interested in advancing their careers have been taking jobs elsewhere and pointed to a general trend of lower employee retention across the United States. Faculty were advised that a key element of retaining staff is “showing appreciation.”

The Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) reiterated a report that was circulated among faculty in the spring, explaining that they are formalizing a new way of handling tenure track hires. On paper, there is a common pool of 121 tenure track lines. When a professor retires, their tenure line is supposed to return to the common pool where it will be reallocated as needed. Historically, the tenure lines have been simply returning to the department’s they originated from independent of broader considerations. The new system aims to make better use of the existing common pool and encourage more movement of tenure lines between departments. Thus, the CAPP overhaul is seeking to establish an era where short-term requests do not override long term planning goals. CAPP also announced they will be putting together an ad-hoc committee to review the current graduation requirements, which were implemented in the 2019-2020 school year. 

Dean of Institutional Diversity Dr. Phyllis Esposito presented on the Office for Institutional Diversity’s (OID) goals for the upcoming school year. Phyllis explained that her job is to operationalize the anti-racism and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements Reed College already has, a tacit acknowledgement of the rift between was is and what should be. In addition to working to open lines of communication by attending department chair meetings, OID is hoping to partner with faculty on projects which support the mission of the OID. Phyllis concluded her presentation by asking, “How do we do what we say is at our core?”

The Health and Counseling Center (HCC) has placed an order for the new bivalent COVID vaccines and is now waiting for the arrival of the shipment. Once received, there will be an announcement and students will be able to schedule appointments through the Student Health Portal. There are no immediate plans to update vaccine requirements for students and faculty. A question from the audience clarified that while surveillance testing has been discontinued, there are tests available at the HCC for symptomatic students and at-home tests for students looking to exit isolation.

A series of presentations directed at faculty also took place. Professors Jay Dickson and Ashley Hudson implored their colleagues to teach in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program, the only graduate program offered by Reed. Professor Mary Ashburn Miller reminded the faculty about the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) program, which offers teaching support and resources to faculty. Professor Tamara Metz linked to the Faculty Development Opportunity Resources document, which lists active “faculty development and funding opportunities offered through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.” Interestingly, 10 years ago, there were 113 students registered with the DAR (Disability & Accessibility Resources). Last year, the number of registered students increased to 495. 

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