Faculty Discourse Over Possible Summer Work

Correction: This article incorrectly stated that Faculty Parliamentarian Peter Ksander had interpreted faculty policy to mean that the motion passed to send a proposed policy back to ASC for reconsideration “had no binding power.” However, Ksander has since stated that this does not reflect his interpretation, and that, “the quote expresses Metz’s understanding of my reading of the governing documents, not the other way around.” Metz, meanwhile, stated in an email to a Quest reporter that, “the answer to whether the outcome of the vote on the motion is binding is, perhaps, more complicated than I understood. In any case, the important thing is that the committee cares very much about what the faculty think and want. To the extent that the motion helps us discern that, we welcome it.”

Monday’s faculty meeting included changes to academic policy, discussions of overwork and funding, and some unscheduled business in the form of a lengthy, passionate debate about a recently proposed revision of the academic calendar. The meeting had to be extended twice in order to accommodate the discussion. 


The central issue of Monday’s faculty meeting was a change to the timing of pre-matriculation advising and class registration recently proposed by the Academic Success Committee (ASC). The new proposed advising policy would see incoming student advising and registration take place during the second week of August, rather than during Orientation Week where they currently land. This change has seen backlash among members of the faculty, who feel that holding advising in August over Zoom would negatively impact the quality of advising and disrupt faculty research. 

Following a presentation given by Associate Dean of Faculty Tamara Metz, which explained ASC’s rationale for the change, Professor of Art History Dana Katz called for ASC to consider the ways the policy would hamper advising, interrupt faculty research, and redefine the scope of faculty work. Reading from a prepared statement that had been shared with the whole faculty, Katz motioned to hold a vote by “secret, electronic ballot” to send the policy back to ASC for revision and reconsideration; her motion was seconded by Professor of GLAM and Humanities Ellen Millender and, after some brief procedural confusion, passed without opposition. 

In an email with the Quest Metz said that, based on Parliamentarian Peter Ksander’s reading of faculty policy, which she agrees with, “the motion has no binding power.” That said, Metz and the rest of ASC understand the concerns of their colleagues, and will take the vote as a measure of faculty sentiment — “and we care very much about faculty sentiment.” Metz also noted that ASC was hoping to gather feedback at the meeting and in the coming weeks. The vote has yet to take place, nor is it clear when the results will be finalized. According to Matthew Packwood, Executive Administrative Coordinator to the Dean of Faculty, the “secret, electronic ballot” will be emailed out to faculty sometime in the oncoming weeks, whereupon there will be a two-week voting period.

According to the ASC memo which recommended these changes, hosting course registration during the rush of O-Week places undue stress on students, especially those who need to know their schedules before they can find work, and forces faculty to rush initial advising meetings. And when faculty only know who will be in their classes a few days before they begin, they can’t contact their students in advance or adjust their plans until the last minute, not to mention the near impossibility of getting DAR accommodations in place in time for the start of classes. In light of these issues, ASC made their proposal to move incoming advising and registration to early August.

During the faculty meeting, Metz reiterated that hosting registration during O-week is inequitable and  “lands most heavily on the backs of our most vulnerable students.” She emphasized that the proposed policy change grew out of “five years of work” by ASC and sought to make the beginning of the semester less hectic. Metz informed the Quest that it is currently unclear if or when the proposal will be partially or fully implemented. “We need – and want – faculty buy-in into whatever solution we move ahead with.”

Faculty are concerned that the new policy — which would have advising be held over Zoom when students are still in the midst of summer activities and summer work, and while their parents may hold undue influence over their decisions — will decrease the quality of advising. The new advising system would also be less flexible for professors and, alarmingly, would place advising at a time when faculty are conducting research. Furthermore, pushing the start of the academic calendar forward by two weeks raises contractual questions for faculty, who work as professors on a “nine-month salary” where three months of the year are available to them for scholarship. 

The lively discussion which followed Katz’s motion touched upon many of these issues. Professor of French Ann Delehanty opposed giving faculty work in the summer but was concerned about the ways that the current registration schedule makes it difficult to prepare DAR accommodations. Professor of Psychology Kris Anderson, who has 25 advisees, found it difficult to stomach the idea of coming in early and taking on even more work when other faculty would not have the same burden. Professor of Music Morgan Luker remarked upon the divided feedback to the staff advising proposal and encouraged anyone interested in an advising model that differs from the current one to organize and make their voice heard. 

One professor who used to be on the Academic Success Committee (ASC) stated that, while there are new needs arising for students, it has been consistent that “we are failing many of them.” The professor saw benefits to moving registration but cautioned against putting a broken system on Zoom and moving it weeks earlier. 

Professor of English and Humanities Michael Faletra wondered about the five-year process which Metz had described, remarking that other iterations of ASC had different ideas about how to address issues with advising. In response, Metz affirmed that last year’s ASC had been excited about the idea of staff advising, but had pivoted to other solutions after a strong, divided response from faculty. Professor of History and Humanities Mary Ashburn Miller elaborated that much of the five-year process was dedicated to gathering information about concerns rather than making policy proposals. 

Miller added that, even though the earlier registration date would make her life more difficult, it would benefit many other groups on campus.

In response to one question, Dean of Faculty Kathy Oleson shared that, while it’s essential that faculty have protected time during the year for research, there is little in writing which determines where that time must fall. “We’ve never articulated specific no-work months,” remarked Oleson, suggesting a few ways to shift around the academic schedule to accommodate faculty time. Oleson observed that while the summer is pretty work-light — which “seems like a good thing” — some committees do meet and conduct business during the summer months. 

Professor of Biology Derek Applewhite said that the administration’s “loosey-goosey” rhetoric regarding nine-month salaries undermined trust. Applewhite pointed out that the scientific world operates within a system of nine-month salaries, and thus it’s important for STEM faculty to have confidence in their nine-month contracts. Said Applewhite, “I’m sitting here, as someone who drinks most of the Reed Kool-Aid, feeling a little upset.”

Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies Chris Koski observed that currently, the only faculty work completed over the summer is committee work, which is fundamentally optional. In contrast, the new ASC policy would require faculty to work during the summer, infringing on a particularly productive time for research and other scholarship.

“I feel like this process is really locking out people,” said Professor of Economics Jon Rork, who was disappointed by what he saw as a failure by the ASC to properly consider professor input and feedback. 

Professor of GLAM and Humanities Ellen Millender seconded Rork and criticized the initial memo from ASC for indicating that the policy had already been finalized without input from CAPP or a faculty vote (this is not the case; the policy is still being worked on). But if the college is going to take away from faculty research time, said Millinder, “that deserves a rigorous discussion and a vote.”

“Bad advising will not be improved by moving it earlier,” Millender added. “It might even be made worse.”

Speaking for the second time, Michael Faletra echoed frustrations with a lack of transparency in the decision-making process. “I think it’s really sad,” he said, “that at this point you’re hearing from so many faculty. This should have happened before.”

In response, President Bilger remarked, “It is good to have more robustly-attended faculty meetings.”

“But this hasn’t been on the agenda,” Faletra countered. 

Once the discussion concluded, President Bilger affirmed the importance of sharing ASC’s work and emphasized that nothing would move forward without further discussion. “This is a really important topic,” said Bilger, “and I know everyone cares deeply about it.”


In other news, CAPP set forward a variety of academic policies for the faculty to vote on, and all of them passed without opposition.

Due to staffing stresses on creative writing professors, the English department will no longer freely offer a creative writing concentration. Instead, newly-enrolled students will need to apply and receive approval to write a creative thesis. 

Some new courses are being added to the catalog — mostly at the 500 level — in English, Linguistics, Art, ANME, and Liberal Studies. A new minor in Religion was approved, bringing the total number of minors up to 17. 

The Dance/Theatre and Lit/Theatre majors were tweaked to reflect changes already made to the Theatre major, removing Junior Production Studio from major requirements. In Music, Junior Seminar has been dropped from the major requirements, which have also been updated to reflect changes in course offerings; furthermore, the .5 unit per semester limit on music performance credit will be increased to a 1 unit limit, and the cap on units of the same performance class will be removed entirely. Art History majors will no longer be required to take a 400-level class.

The CS Department is tweaking the language of the CS minor to make it easier for Math and Math-Stats majors to minor in CS. In response to the proposal, Biology Professor Janis Shamplay raised her hand with a question — the only question raised about any CAPP proposal all meeting — and said, “A math major with a CS minor seems duplicative and pointless.” 

“…I think that was more of a comment than a question?” President Bilger replied uncertainly, which Shamplay confirmed. Then, speaking as a math professor, CAPP member Angélica Osorno defended the policy change against Shamplay’s accusation and asserted that math and CS are “completely different fields of study.” The policy was adopted unopposed.

As President Bilger said during her report, Reed is currently finalizing priorities for its next fundraising campaign and hopes to have specific actionable targets by August. The upcoming fundraising campaign will focus on the entire campus and has the enthusiastic support of the Board of Trustees. Based on last year’s strategic planning work, the college hopes to raise money for academic programs, faculty positions, and new academic facilities; the college also aims to generate additional endowment for need-based financial aid and to raise money for student support programs and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Professor of Linguistics Kara Becker gave a presentation on behalf of CAPP addressing faculty workload, morale, and retention. CAPP has been considering a few approaches to alleviate workloads since, as Becker noted, “Most of us feel overworked.” 

Thesis loads received special attention, as CAPP has come up with a number of ways to alleviate thesis overloads, including changing the thesis model, compensating overloaded professors, and counting thesis as a class for professors. Thesis overload is defined as a professor holding 3 thesis students in the past 5 years. An unacceptable amount would be holding 4 thesis students over the past 5 years. While faculty generally want to keep thesis, some 20 percent of Reed professors have a chronic thesis overload, and a further 10 percent have an “unacceptable” chronic thesis overload. The most thesis-overloaded professors came from a variety of departments including CS, English, Biology, Economics, Psychology, Art, and Chemistry.

Becker briefly paused the meeting so faculty could fill out a survey that asked about their experiences with thesis and opinions on how to reduce workloads. Policy changes to alleviate overwork are still in development and will be finalized by May at the earliest.

For CAT, French Professor Ann Delehanty discussed submission rates of faculty evaluations. The average response rate is between 40 and 60 percent, a decrease in the rate of submission for paper evaluations. Broken down by division, the division of Literature and Languages had the best average response rate of 64.5 percent, while the lowest went to the division of Math and Natural Sciences at 47.6 percent. Delehanty also shared that one faculty member had received the coveted 100 percent response rate, and had apparently done so by emphasizing the importance of faculty evaluations and having students fill out evaluations at the start of class. To improve response rates, CAT will test out a system of posting both faculty evaluation links together on Moodle; “Guess who gets to pilot it? The lucky people who elected to be on CAT and CAPP.” 

Delehanty also encouraged professors to submit letters for the spring review of senior faculty, noting that the submission deadline had already passed, “but we’d be happy to take them … now-ish.”

For her Dean’s Report, Dean of Faculty Kathy Oleson shared that Art Off The Clock, the annual faculty and staff art gallery, is accepting submissions until March 17. The gallery will be open from March 28 to 31 in Vollum Lounge. Oleson had Associate Dean of Faculty Tamara Metz speak about the ongoing Committee Audit, and called French Professor Catherine Witt to speak on behalf of the Fellowships & Awards Committee. Metz said that the committee audit has found few committees that can be cut, and is considering ways to make committee responsibilities more transparent and to provide further support to committee members. 

Witt encouraged faculty to speak to juniors or seniors they think are promising candidates for fellowships, remarking that a lot of students don’t know what fellowships are or how they work, and noting that CLBR can provide guidance for applying to especially competitive fellowships. Witt shared with excitement that many Reed students who applied for fellowships in the winter have made it to the finalist stage. 

Immediately following the lengthy discussion about ASC’s advising policy, Vice President and Dean for Institutional Diversity Phyllis Esposito shared some things coming down the pipeline from OID. The results of December’s campus climate survey will be available around the end of March, and plans are in progress for Hispanic History Month. OID also helped put together The Black Lives Masquerade, which will be held on February 26 in the PAB atrium at 5:00 pm. 

Mary Ashburn Miller gave a very quick update from the Center for Teaching and Learning. Miller encouraged professors to come up with policies for the use of ChatGPT and other AI tools in their classes and provided some recommendations. She also shared an article called “How to Instruct and Motivate Through Feedback: A Top 1 List.”

Bilger concluded the meeting a half-hour after its scheduled end, with the bang of a gavel and a farewell of “Happy Mardi Gras!”

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Peter Ksander
Peter Ksander
9 months ago

The statement: “in an email with the Quest Metz said that, based on Parliamentarian Peter Ksander’s reading of faculty policy, which she agrees with, ‘the motion has no binding power.’” is inaccurate and framed backwards to the conversations I’ve had. The quote expresses Metz’s understanding of my reading of the governing documents, not the other way around.


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