Faculty Meeting 11/7: The President’s Proposal



Reed College President Audrey Bilger “gaveled us in,” in her words, to the November 9 faculty meeting with an anecdote about how she had recently dressed up as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Halloween, and wished she had thought to carry around the gavel that she so frequently uses to begin and end faculty meetings. Bilger’s short report primarily centered around recent court action with regard to affirmative action, small updates with regard to students’ responses to the Paul Currie situation, as well as an upcoming end-of-semester faculty party. Bilger also noted a few absences from the meeting, stating that Kathy Oleson, Dean of Faculty, would not be present to provide the Dean’s report, as she was at a conference.

Bilger noted the current Supreme Court case on affirmative action, and she stated that she, on behalf of Reed, signed a brief in defense of affirmative action. The brief was submitted by Amherst College, and Reed was one of 33 liberal arts colleges that signed the document. 

On Paul Currie, Bilger stated that she had yet to provide a concrete update on “the events of the Spring,” but was hopeful that she would have one before the end of the semester. Moreover, Bilger stated that the VP-Deans had begun to have conversations with various affinity groups on campus. She said, “Following that video and the protests on campus, we had a couple of large community conversations, and some of what we found was that there were some voices that we couldn’t hear because of the setting.” With this in mind, they planned smaller listening sessions, one already completed with students in the previous week and another to take place with faculty and staff in the coming weeks.

Bilger expressed extreme excitement for an in-person faculty party at her home for which faculty should have received invitations already. She noted that, since the last party in 2019, her house had accumulated more furniture, as well as a working turntable. Bilger also encouraged faculty to look forward to a ping-pong table in the basement. She said, “There will be fun, there will be music, there will be food, so, really, it will be a great delight to see you all there.” 

Tamara Metz, Associate Dean of Faculty, spoke on behalf of the Academic Success committee with regard to advising. Metz noted that there seemed to be various floating notions about what academic advising at Reed should look like, and she is planning on working toward clarifying a shared vision so that the committee can move forward and improve support. She highlighted that the timing of registration and early advising was proving problematic and would be subject to shifts according to future plans for the advising system. Metz looked ahead, stating that, over the next month or so, the committee would be spending time having conversations to assess visions of academic advising, and she encouraged faculty to spare some time to talk to them.

Mary Ashburn Miller then provided updates as the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Miller encouraged faculty to go to the advising workshop scheduled on November 15, for which the agenda will be health, mental health, and accommodations. Faculty will have the opportunity to meet with people from offices designated for student support, such as Student Life, the Health and Counseling Center (HCC), as well as Disability and Accommodations Resources (DAR). Miller also highlighted the Student-Teaching Consultant Program, and she encouraged faculty to consider it, especially if they are teaching a new course or feeling stuck in their teaching. Miller then recommended reaching out to students that might be strong consultants, as well as planning the use of consultants with CTL, so CTL could facilitate the student hiring process. Miller closed her report with advice from David Gooblar, author of The Missing Course. She stated, “We’re four weeks out from the end of the semester. […] Instead of rushing to the finish, what if we take a second to pace and review with our students what we’ve actually accomplished so far.”

Phyllis Esposito, Vice President and Dean for Institutional Diversity, then spoke about the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID). She stated, “I’ve been here five months. And in these five months, folks have been generous and kind in sharing their experiences. […] So there’s very useful anecdotal information that’s informing the work ahead.” Esposito noted ongoing OID projects, including partnerships between faculty and the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) and Students for Education, Equity, and Direct Service (SEEDS). She also stated that the Peer Mentorship Program (PMP) has been an exceptional success this year, as it has been the first year in a long time that staff has not had to change pairings, and that is a testament to the work that student leaders have been doing. Along this vein, Esposito also expressed excitement for student projects, especially as she had signed off on a disco ball and an ice sculpture of a horse for student events. The final update that Esposito provided was that OID would be administering a campus climate survey soon, with the intent of using the results to inform future plans and programming.

CAPP COURSE CHANGES AFOOT

Kara Cerveny, Professor of Biology and Chair of the Committee on Academic Policy Planning (CAPP) brought forth changes to program requirements, primarily in the language programs and within Greek, Latin, and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (GLAM).

Similar changes within the French, German, and Spanish departments were enacted, such that year-long language courses would be broken into semestral parts, and students would no longer have to enroll in these courses for a full academic year. French 110 (First-year French) would be divided into two independent sequential courses: French 111 and French 112, and the same principle would follow for French 210 (Second-year French), German 110 (First-year German), German 210 (Second-year German), and Spanish 110 (First-year Spanish). Second-year Spanish has not yet been divided into semestral courses due to placement considerations, as well as because not all members of the department were present when these changes were being put forward. French 111, French 211, German 111, German 211, and Spanish 111 are to be offered during the fall semesters, while French 112, French 212, German 112, German 212, and Spanish 112 are to be offered in the spring. 

These changes are intended to grant some nuance to placements, as students with some prior language experience, but not enough to place into a second-year language course, would not have to begin learning as beginners. Students with strong prior knowledge of grammar structures could place into a 212-level class, as second-year language courses prioritize grammar in the first semester, but shift toward reading and writing in the second. This change would also allow more students to complete the second year of language learning faster, allowing them to proceed to more advanced literature and language courses faster, as well as allowing more students to study abroad earlier.

As for changes within GLAM Programs, the History and Anthropology track of the GLAM major has added the option to take two courses in philosophy for major fulfillment, as well as expanded the anthropology option for that same requirement to include Anthropology 201. These courses were added as they were endorsed as relevant to students pursuing GLAM. The Religion-Ancient Mediterranean Studies interdisciplinary major has also shifted major requirements to allow for more flexibility. Students will no longer have to take three units of 300-level Greek or Latin, and they will instead need to fulfill one unit in 300-level Greek or Latin and one unit of Ancient Mediterranean Studies in ancient history or archaeology. The requirement of two units of ancient mediterranean studies in ancient history or archaeology was changed to two additional units from 300-level Greek or Latin, or ancient history or archaeology courses. This reduces the number of required units for the major by one unit.

CAPP DOES THINK, PAIR, SHARE

As part of the CAPP report, Cerveny brought up the issue of faculty workload, noting that there exists a de facto policy where if a faculty member carries six or more thesis students, they can request a course release. In line with this, Cerveny reached out in an effort to generate ideas to address the disparity of workload among faculty. Sarah Schaack, Professor of Biology, encouraged similar policies, noting that this would be beneficial for some faculty members, but she encouraged a move toward equitability. Schaack brought up cases where professors chronically have heavy loads, but are unable to break the threshold of six thesis students. She brought up an alternative existing policy in place in the College of Worcester, where a 0.1 unit weight is assigned for every thesis student. This concept works to acknowledge the load that thesis advising takes, and allows faculty to advance themselves toward a sabbatical. Kara Becker, Professor of Linguistics, noted that the problem was thorny because of the costs of offering benefits for thesis advising overload to so many people. Becker also noted that there should be a standard number of thesis advisees, as the definition of an overload varies across individuals.

Cerveny then went on to begin more structured discussions following the “think, pair, share” format. Faculty did so well with this structure that Cerveny stated that they were ready to take BIO101. The first of two topics was the introduction of 0.25 unit courses in disciplines, notable because there exist 0.25 unit courses in the Psychology department. A number of professors brought up that the prospect could be beneficial, as students could receive partial credit for co-taught classes, injection of allied fields into particular classes, as well as partial semester credit for performance classes. A noted drawback would be the impact of 0.25 unit classes on Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) hours and funding distribution.

Cerveny then moved on to a second prompt, and she encouraged professors to consider a double major with a single non-interdisciplinary thesis. The majority of the response was firmly against this idea, as professors aired concerns that a major in a Reed education requires the undertaking of a large capstone project, and a few professors began to call the second major that would not be connected to the thesis project a “super-minor.” Other professors considered exploring minor options over encouraging a double major with a single thesis. Luc Monnin, Professor of French, spoke on how such an option would benefit smaller departments that are “losing students to STEM.” Catherine Witt, Professor of French, noted that the single thesis could help alleviate thesis overload. Cerveny closed the conversation by highlighting that this conversation had raised questions about the value of a Reed education. She stated, “It’s really important to think about what we claim to be and who we are and what we offer to our students.”

INTRODUCING CBAS

Kara Becker, Professor of Linguistics, and Noelwah Netusil, Professor of Economics, took the floor as the two members of the CAPP Budget Advisory Subcommittee (CBAS). This subcommittee typically meets once a semester and is composed of Netusil and Becker representing CAPP, President Bilger, Associate Dean of Faculty Tamara Metz, Dean of Faculty Kathy Oleson, Vice President for College Relations Hugh Porter, Vice President Lynn Valenter, and Associate Treasurer and Controller Robert Tust. CBAS ultimately works in support of the college’s financial objective: “to allocate resources in a manner that best supports the mission of the college,” as well as “to ensure its long-term financial security.” 

Netusil and Becker explained that this year, CBAS hopes to increase transparency with the faculty in an effort to answer some of the floating questions surrounding the college’s finances. They intend to present short reports at each faculty meeting, referred to as “nuggets,” that would cover aspects of the college’s finances. CBAS has planned the topic for the December faculty meeting to be “The Endowment,” and they intend to cover what an endowment is, how it supports the college, and what the status of the endowment is. Netusil and Becker encouraged members of the faculty to reach out to them to share their input on potential future topics that should be reported on. 

CAT REPORT TACKLES EVALUATIONS

Mark Burford, Professor of Music, provided a timely report for the Committee of Advancement and Tenure (CAT) with the release of faculty and course evaluations imminent. Students are to receive two sets of evaluations, one from Class Climate with instructors and courses listed, and another set specific to courses. Burford encouraged faculty to do four things for their students: explain the email system for course evaluations, impress upon students the value and importance of evaluations, give students time in class to do their evaluations, and remind them to bring devices on which they can complete their evaluations to class. 

Burford noted that yield had been lower since they transitioned to a new online evaluation system, and the committee was hoping to maximize student data returns. Kara Cerveny, Professor of Biology, then raised concerns that emails get lost and students are less likely to complete them with the current system in place. Cerveny suggested centralizing evaluations by putting the link on Moodle, making it so evaluations are a part of the class; she also stated that she missed the paper system of the evaluation because it was simpler and yielded higher returns. Other professors echoed this difficulty, and they recognized the need to increase evaluation returns. Jolina Kwong Caputo, Associate to the Dean of Faculty, responded by noting that students receive regular reminders to complete their evaluations. Caputo also stated that faculty receive the subject for the email, so they can provide students with easy ways to search for the evaluations in their email inboxes during class. Alexandra Hrycak, Professor of Sociology, suggested that CAT compile data on data yield for different disciplines and class sizes, an idea that Burford took well.

OTHER LARGE POLICY CHANGES

Luc Monnin, Professor of French, then proposed revisions to the policy for receiving an incomplete with the intent of creating an equitable policy for students that have extenuating circumstances or emergencies to finish work after a semester’s end. The prior policy allowed students to complete incompletes for the fall semester a maximum of four weeks after the semester ended, but if a student was completing credit for the spring semester, they had fourteen weeks to complete their requirements. The proposed change was to redistribute the deadline so that students finishing incompletes would have four weeks to complete their requirements regardless of whether the incomplete was incurred for the fall or spring semester. This change also aligns grading periods for both semesters. The proposed policy change also removes the ability for a professor to input a grade of incomplete at eight weeks, as well as removed references to paper forms, both changes simply aligning policy with current de facto procedures. 

Ariadna Garcia-Bryce, Professor of Spanish, also brought forth changes, albeit minor, to the Faculty Committee on Diversity Code. The change presented was to include the Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid and the Director of Human Resources as ex officio members of the committee. Noelwah Netusil, Professor of Economics, made an eagle-eyed observation, and noted a reference to “the Dean for Institutional Diversity” which was a defunct title, so a motion to amend was put forth and the reference was changed to the current title: “Vice President and Dean for Institutional Diversity.”

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