Campus / News / October 28, 2010

Faculty Committee meets, discusses student stress

The meeting of the faculty Executive Committee took place Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. in the Alumni Room, with Dean of the College Lawrence Breitborde as the chair.  

The chair first reminded the committee that the previously written resolution and its amendment were still on the agenda for the November meeting, after being postponed at the previous full faculty meeting. The second order of business was a resolution to remove the director of the Language Learning Lab as an ex-officio member of the Instructional Support committee. The director had previously been consulted about this resolution and had no objection. The committee passed the resolution.

The rest of the meeting was spent on old business. Breitborde wanted to revisit the idea of academically oriented clubs requesting student money to fund speakers. The student representatives junior Greg Noth and senior David Barton agreed that Senate would hear such requests.  Noth, a member of the Senate finance committee, explained some of its general workings to the Executive Committee.  The chair said that he would also talk to Vice President for Advancement Beverly Holmes about getting more money for speakers.

The committee then turned the discussion to Professor of Psychology Tim Kasser’s proposals, on which the chair immediately moved to divide the question.  There was no objection.  The first proposal would reduce the number of credits required for graduation from 36 to 34. Speaking on the proposal, Associate Professor of Math Andrew Leahy said, “the subtext is that we have a stressful and hectic pace of life at Knox,” but he questioned the legitimacy of this claim.  

“You’ve got four years, don’t you want to reach out and grab as much as you can?” he said.

Speaking to its subtext, rather than the proposal itself, the chair said, “There’s a real question of balance.  Living on campus is recognized as part of the educational experience.”  The proposal seemed to suggest that the full course load is not conducive to co-curricular activity.

Professor of History Michael Schneider said, “The weakest part of the proposal is this connection.  If life is stressful, what does 34 to 36 have to do with it?” He added, “This is only a problem for 10 to 15 students, and it only affects them at the end.”

Schneider and Leahy questioned the source of the excessive pressure on students and would not support the proposal until this source was identified.  The case they want to avoid is students spending less time on courses, and more time on videogames.

The chair proposed lowering the requirement to 35 to create a “safety valve,” to which the committee seemed fairly receptive but wanted more time to consider.

The second of Kasser’s proposals would lower the full time teaching load for faculty. Speaking from experience in social studies and humanities, “I can’t believe the 2-2-2 load is the issue for this faculty, it has to be independent studies,” Schneider said, “but the lab time thing has to be dealt with.”  

Breitborde agreed with the first point saying, “The two most unregulated parts of faculty time are independent studies and advising.” Neither of these count towards faculty members’ official workload.  The chair went on to say that the way we assign advisees ensures an inequitable distribution and noted some alternatives.

Leahy offered skepticism of the proposal saying, “I view this as economic determinism… We’re damn-well lucky we aren’t teaching seven classes per year.” Leahy’s point was well taken by the committee.  

Though there were no formal votes, the meeting concluded with the committee seemingly in opposition to Kasser’s proposals.

Maxwell Galloway-Carson

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