Campus / News / November 4, 2010

Faculty committee discusses speakers, enrollment

The November faculty meeting started at 4:09 p.m. on Monday. Per usual, the meeting began its business with approving minutes, degrees, and reports. Dean of the college Lawrence Breitborde continued his “book of the month” announcements, introducing that of Assistant Professor of English Cyn Kitchen. He also was happy to report that trustees and other donors in the Knox community have pulled together to make up the thirty thousand dollar deficit in faculty travel expenses this year.

After the reports, trustee Richard Riddell ‘72 presented via teleconferencing the progress of the presidential search committee. The presentation was nearly the same as the one presented little over a week prior during homecoming. The most notable difference was that he gave an estimate of thirty to the size of the prospect pool, though he noted, “This number is dynamically changing.”

During the question and comment session, Associate Professor of Political Science Duane Oldfield said, “I don’t see anything about coming to campus, does that depend on the candidate? … I know we did it in the past.”

Riddell responded that, “The arguments are pretty well known on both sides—it builds support and gives feedback to the committee, but could create problems for the candidate…when possible, we need the meet the culture halfway—broader interviews than just the committee.”

Professor of History Penny Gold asked for clarification on that last point.

“You can imagine groups coming and meeting with the candidates,” Riddell said. “We’ll certainly not bring someone to you lightly.” Any suggestions for the next president should be directed to Riddell via search@knox.edu.

Following Riddell, VP for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Paul Steenis gave a quick presentation on recent enrollment numbers. The current enrollment is at 1350.

“We’ve seen some nice growth, and that’s planned growth,” he said.

Tangential to his array of graphs and charts, Steenis stressed the importance of faculty interaction.

“Visitors who meet with faculty are fifty percent likely to enroll, versus twenty-six percent for those who don’t,” he said.

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman noted that there has been “a lot of noise in the data for the last two years,” and asked regarding the statistic about faculty contact, whether there has been more contact in the last two years. Steenis explained the noise saying that Knox is trying to only admit students that are more serious about Knox, ending the practice of “priority applicants.” Regarding faculty contact, “We haven’t done anything to encourage visitors to meet with professors, but there have been many more visits,” Steenis said.

Professor of English Robin Metz noted that Knox is fairly low in the rankings for selectivity. Steenis explained that larger and wealthier schools can artificially augment selectivity by spending more money on recruiting, thereby increasing the applicant pool.

The meeting turned to the speaker resolution. The debate resumed with the Kampwirth amendment, which is where the October meeting left off. After no discussion, the amendment proceeded to a written vote, which succeeded.

The debate came back to the main motion, which called for event sponsors to be made known to the community, and according to the Kampwirth amendment specifically stipulated that such information be made known on event advertising. Professor of Political Science Lane Sunderland expressed concerns that the resolution would impede free speech. Associate Professor of English Natania Rosenfeld disagreed that the resolution would have the effect Sunderland predicted it would, saying, “I just want to understand how this is regulation.”

Metz echoed her sentiment, saying, “This is a resolution, and as such it is not a regulation.” He went on to say that, “I think it’s a straw man to suggest that we have no guidelines and that that would represent something new. The amendment is actually more restrictive than the paragraph we are debating. To not provide information is a restriction on free speech.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini sought to answer the fee speech question.

“The labels allow people to prejudge the events,” he said. “I would take the last part and flip it over—you are not allowed to put the sponsor. Forcing anyone to provide information is compelling speech; that is how it is violating free speech. I find compelling information is a violation of trust.”

Associate Professor of English Emily Anderson responded, “I would trust people to make reasonable decisions even if they have all the information.”

Anderson then asked the president to remind the faculty how the college has handled anonymous posters in the past. The president gave an example of the college supporting anonymous posters, where the custodians had torn them down. “The posters said F-Roger Taylor, F-Brad Middleton, F-Dean Romano.” He said that they huddled, and he ordered Dean Breitborde to put them back up.

The discussion turned to the origin of the resolution. Professor of Classics Steve Fineberg said, “This is in response to particular speakers. It’s a case of the majority trying to regulate the minority. I’m hesitant to support this regulation because it’s a targeted regulation.”

Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett said, “I don’t think we can dismiss the origin of this regulation. This is pointed, and at least it gives the appearance of being pointed.”

At this point, Instructor of Journalism and Anthropology-Sociology David Amor and professor of History Michael Schneider proposed an amendment which would combine and clarify the last two paragraphs to the resolution. Speaking not specifically on the amendment, but the legitimacy of the main motion, professor of Psychology Tim Kasser said, “I much wish we were talking about curriculum issues.”

At 5:40 p.m., Kasser noted the absence of a quorum, and meeting adjourned at this time. Some faculty expressed discontent that there have only been three meetings this year, two of which have ended for lack of quorum. Those who wish to spend no more time debating the speaker resolution might move to “call the question” at the January meeting.

The faculty meeting is generally held at 4 p.m. on the first Monday of every month in the Round Room. Those who wish to attend as observers must contact Penny Gold for permission to do so.

Maxwell Galloway-Carson


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