Campus / News / October 7, 2010

Faculty discuss campus issues

The faculty meeting of Oct. 4 covered a variety of topics, in an order that seemed to go from least to most in need of discussion. The agenda started with approval of minutes and degrees. President Roger Taylor appended to his report that the Phonathon has been significantly more successful this year than last year; Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde added to his report praise for professor of political science Karen Kampwirth’s new book.

The first discussion came when professor of English Robin Metz questioned the process of self-assessment under the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

“I don’t come from a paradigm that reality is quantifiable,” he said, illustrating how it is difficult under these circumstances to report to an assessor.

Associate Dean of the College Lori Haslem stood by her position, saying that self-evaluation is part of the liberal arts. Breitborde reinforced this point when he said, “Regardless of HLC, what keeps us a college is that we explain ourselves to each other.”

The next point of discussion regarded the topic of shared governance, which arose from the reports of the observers to the Board of Trustees. Specifically, one of the trustees expressed interest in having a more active role in the education committee. Metz asked to make sure that this trustee’s interest was purely in being helpful, rather than controlling. Taylor’s response of “kick the can down the road,” indicated that, given the upcoming major shifts in leadership, no significant shifts in policy are likely to happen this year.

In committee reports, professor of psychology Gale Ferguson noted that many departments do not have websites, and that few of the ones that do have their site up to date. Computer center director Steve Jones offered that the college purchase software that would allow departments to design their own websites with relative ease. Assistant professor of political science Duane Oldfield raised the question of audience for the department websites. Professors Mark Holmes and Andrew Civettini expressed concerns that the current department websites are not on par with those of other institutions. Civettini proposed that new websites could be a recruiting tool. Jones asked how many would be interested in overhauling their websites, and many were in the affirmative.

SLC motioned to table the sexual assault sub-committee in favor of allowing the attempt of a student-run group.

New business had two resolutions, one concerning athletics, and the other regarding funding for external speakers. Larry Welch, professor of chemistry, representing the athletic committee, spoke on behalf of the former. The crux of the resolution is to nominally give the president control of the athletics program, in accordance with conference standards. Larry raised one negative aspect of this change: less faculty involvement with athletics. Kampwirth disagreed, and said, “We don’t have less power, we are just more open about how little we have.” The motion passed.

The second resolution sought to shed light on the sources for external funds used to bring speakers to campus. The initial resolution only asked for “information” on the sources. Shortly after the onset of the discussion, the debate turned to an amendment sponsored by professor of political science Sue Hulett, which specifically asked for the identity of the source of funding. Some faculty, among them Stephen Fineberg, feared that asking only for the identity would, “limit information, and not give the amount.” Ferguson questioned the importance of the amount and professor of mathematics Dennis Schneider asked what the motivation for the main resolution was. The given explanation was that there is a concern that lobbyists from large firms have been responsible for funding many of the speakers that have come to campus in recent years.

Hulett disagreed that her amendment would limit the flow of information, yet the amendment failed by a large margin. Speaking against the main motion, Taylor raised the objection that, “this motion is patronizing of our students.” He further raised the stakes by promising to bring the resolution under review of the board of trustees, should it pass. Michael Schneider disagreed that the resolution would fall under the category of policy, but rather “legislating an opinion,” and thus would not need to be reviewed by the board.

Kampwirth proposed a back-of-the-envelope amendment that embodied the spirit of the resolution, but specified neither the particular information required, nor enforcement. Ferguson voiced support for Kampwirth’s amendment, but implied that she might vote against anyway because of its attachment to the main motion. She therefore motioned to divide the question. Noting that the meeting barely had a quorum at this point, Civettini motioned to postpone the resolution until the next meeting.

The meeting concluded with professopr of history Michael Schneider reading a brief tribute to the career of former Director of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies Stephen Bailey.

Maxwell Galloway-Carson

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