Faculty Meeting: Faculty Has Questions About Paul Currie Response

October 10 Faculty Meeting Covers Trustees Meeting, Department Changes, CAPP Workload

Audrey Bilger, President of Reed College, marked the beginning of the October 10th faculty meeting with the single bang of a gavel. Discussions primarily centered around a recent Trustees meeting, using time as a resource in the classroom, a new data webpage, changes to the Mathematics and Theater Departments, and the Committee of Academic Policy Planning’s (CAPP’s) workload. Faculty members also used the space to bring up concerns regarding Paul Currie’s relationship with campus, as well as faculty vaccination scheduling issues.

The majority of the President’s report was spent discussing a recent Board of Trustees meeting, in which the Board expressed support for upcoming fundraising plans (Bilger did not explain these plans further). In a Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee meeting, CAPP also presented Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) allocation recommendations, which proved to be impressive to Academic Affairs Committee Chair Eduardo Ochoa, who acknowledged the difficulty of CAPP’s work. Bilger went on to note that two faculty members delivered research summaries that highlight how their research is conducted with students. She stated, “These are some of the most important investments that we make in college, so I want to note that the board is very supportive of faculty research as well.” Phyllis Esposito, Dean of Institutional Diversity, closed the discussion of the Board meeting, reporting that the very first Board of Trustees Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee meeting recently took place. She stated, “What was lovely is that, in the [Board] meetings that followed with my peers on the leadership team, was the same sort of commitment to anti-racism and diversity.” Esposito looks forward to seeing how the committee’s work shapes up.

Bilger closed her report by stating, in reference to Paul Currie, “I do not have any updates yet on the viral video from Spring, however, I remain optimistic that I should be able to report something this semester.” Later on, faculty members sought clarifications on the college’s relationship with Currie, as well as on the processes that personnel were taking toward the situation. Kate Bredeson, Professor of Theatre, opened the discussion by asking what the messaging towards students and junior colleagues regarding the situation is. She noted, “We were told at the end of August that Paul is not teaching, but we learned at a faculty committee this week that he is working with students.” Bredeson expressed confusion at this contradiction, and she acknowledged that students and junior colleagues had been feeling unsafe. She went on to clarify that the Undergraduate Research Committee had received a letter of recommendation for a student written by Paul Currie that indicated them working together in October 2022. Kathy Oleson, Dean of Faculty, responded by clarifying that Currie is not teaching any classes this semester, but a student had been working with him on a summer project, and they had been permitted to finish the project; however, Currie has not been coming to campus. 

Sameer ud Dowla Khan, Professor of Linguistics, spoke next, asking about what the current nature of the college’s relationship with Currie is. They said, “If he’s not on campus, but still behaving as though he essentially is by meeting with students on Zoom, that’s different from saying that there’s a separation.” Oleson replied by stating that the goal was to allow the student to finish the project, and she acknowledged that there are some other students working on projects that Currie was a part of. She clarified that Currie was not initiating projects or taking on new students. 

Diego Alonso, Professor of Spanish, then stressed the importance of clear and genuine communication through this process, and criticized the administration’s lack thereof. He said, “I don’t ask the administration to explain word after word exactly what is going on, […] but, in general terms, I expect more clarity.” Bilger responded by referring back to the students’ previous requests for a timeline on faculty evaluation, which she said she couldn’t do; in a similar vein, Bilger said that the communication that Alonso requested was not feasible. She stated, “We don’t have news now, so I regret that this is uncomfortable. And at the same time, I assure you that things are happening.”

The discussion was then passed on to Kristen Scheibel, Professor of Religion, who asked about whether an upcoming COVID vaccination clinic for students was available for faculty. Karnell McConnell-Black, Dean for Student Life, delivered the news that the clinic was exclusive to students due to the strict guidelines for their partnership with Safeway. Another faculty member raised the concern that though the opportunity to get flu shots was provided to faculty, the dates of the clinic overlap with Fall Break, so many professors would not be on campus and able to access the vaccines. Oleson responded by noting that Kaiser, the company that provides insurance for faculty does offer flu shots, so the on-campus vaccine clinic was merely a courtesy. Oleson reassured the faculty that she would bring the issue up with Human Resources, the department that plans the faculty vaccine clinics.

Oleson then called on Kara Cerveny, Professor of Biology, to provide updates as the Chair of CAPP. These included a few departmental changes, as well as a discussion on CAPP’s workload. Faculty voted on and approved three key changes: The Department of Mathematics will undergo a name change into the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Theatre 302 (Junior Production Studio) will no longer be a requirement for the Theatre Major, and lastly, the Theatre Minor will be revised for openness and flexibility, such that students are required to take any five units in Theatre, where at least one unit is of the 300- level or higher, and one-half unit is Theatre Laboratory (THEA 100).

Cerveny also brought up a change to the CAPP constitution to allow for more flexibility within the minute-taking for meetings. Previously, the committee had appointed a member of CAPP to be Secretary, and they were in charge of minute-taking and record-keeping. The proposed change would have an unspecified “delegated individual” take the minutes of each meeting, then have the committee records be kept by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. Sonia Sabnis, Professor of Greek, Latin, and Mediterranean Studies, questioned the wording of the change, considering the word “designated” in place of “delegated,” for clarity’s sake. Peter Ksander, Professor of Theatre, then suggested that the changes not be made to the constitution, but to the bylaws. He further said, “I propose we restore the secretary for this very reason, that there are responsibilities that we mostly don’t engage with, but, good to know we have one.” Cerveny highlighted that the proposed change would allow a non-member of CAPP to take the minutes of meetings, lightening the already-heavy loads of CAPP members, though a member would have to take minutes in the case of an Executive Session. This began a discussion of CAPP’s workload, as the memo proposing the changes also noted that members of CAPP, in addition to work done in meetings, also complete “pre-work,” which takes the form of reviewing and commenting on materials. Faculty members raised concerns about the nature and weight of CAPP and CAT’s committee work, noting that other colleges would split the work across a greater number of committees.

Mary Ashburn Miller, Professor of History and Humanities, spoke as the chair of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), highlighting time as a resource to be consciously used within the classroom setting. She pulled from the book, Not Light, but Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom by Matthew Kay, encouraging faculty to consider that students understand what their professors value through their use of class time, especially during high-volume work times. She stated, “If we think it’s really important for them to be succeeding in an upcoming exam on an upcoming paper, are we dedicating class time to actually supporting them in that endeavor?” Ashburn Miller then reminded faculty that no extra work should be assigned to students over fall break, and that faculty should remain cognisant of that boundary moving forward. 

Tamara Metz also provided updates during the faculty meeting as Associate Dean of the Faculty. She presented a new departmental and program data webpage, which has been recently released. The webpage highlights faculty assessments, as well as annual and decennial data reports. Access to this data comes as a result of an effort by CAPP, Institutional Research, and the Dean of Faculty to broaden access to departmental and program data information, with the overarching goal of gaining an institutional understanding of the distribution of students across Reed’s curriculum. 

The final updates for the meeting were given by Mark Burford, Professor of Music, on behalf of the Committee on Advancement and Tenure (CAT). Burford requested that faculty write evaluation letters for their colleagues, noting that these would not be letters of recommendation, but would entail contributions about faculty’s scholarship or service. Despite the deadline having passed, Burford stated that the letters were welcome anytime. He then went on to highlight work that is being done toward revising search processes that align with the college’s commitment to diversity, such that diversity practices get implemented at the level of hires. Upon the completion of Burford’s updates, Bilger closed the meeting and wished everyone a happy fall break!

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